Sugar has been sitting pretty for a long time, with fat getting the brunt of the backlash from the media. We all know that too much of anything is a bad thing, and yet we are putting more sugar into our bodies than ever before. Why? Because, while we’ve been concentrating on lowering our fat intake, we haven’t noticed the extra sugar that has been going into our foods to compensate for the lack of taste. Fat free? Low fat? All this means is extra sugar.
While researching this subject I asked a lot of people how much sugar they consume in a day, and was surprised to hear a fairly low figure. Most said “No more than two or three spoonfuls.”
The truth however, is far different, as very few people ever consider the added sugar that we unwittingly ingest in our meals every day. We notice the amount we add to our tea or coffee but what we don’t see is the sugar hidden in much of the food we have come to know and love. And many of these foods are falsely advertised as ‘healthy’ meals.
So what’s the problem with sugar?
The effects of sugar on the brain are similar to that of drugs and alcohol, simply because the body becomes easily dependent on it. Once you get used to this ‘high’ your body finds it very difficult to distinguish between something that it needs and something that it wants. And, unfortunately, it’s getting worse, with people getting more and more addicted and consuming more and more sugar each day.
Researchers at Princeton University conducted a study where the addictive nature of sugar was tested on rats. The rats were given sugar on a daily basis and were allowed to indulge in it, and then, after a significant period of time, the sugar was taken away. The rats began to shake uncontrollably and observers noted a definite change in their brain chemistry. The rats experienced ‘withdrawal,’ comparable to that of an alcoholic or drug user.
It is important to note that when sugar enters the bloodstream it is broken down into glucose and fructose. Glucose is a naturally occurring source of energy, and the body is capable of producing it if needed. It can also be broken down and absorbed easily. Fructose, on the other hand, is neither needed nor produced by the body, and when we ingest too much of it, the negative effect on our livers can be profound.
Here are some other ways in which too much sugar is affecting you:
- Too much sugar promotes tooth decay.
- Too much sugar promotes weight gain, as you add empty calories to your diet and consequently remain hungry.
- Too much sugar damages your liver and spikes insulin levels, raising the risk factors for diabetes, kidney disease and heart failure.
What about natural sugars?
Are natural sugars better than refined or artificial sugars? Again, moderation is key. The most important thing about the detox is that you stay clear of all sugars in order to fully cleanse your system. After the detox, you may begin to introduce natural sugars slowly.
Sugar is not always obvious in our food and can be quite cleverly disguised in many of our favorite dishes. Some of these might include fruit flavored yoghurt, low-fat or fat-free yoghurts, pasta sauce, soda, dried fruit (look at the packaging, many companies add sugar to this naturally sweet product), most ready-made meals and sauces, white bread, white rice and pasta.
The importance of a detox
The length of time that you decide to detox is up to you however; a period of at least ten days is required in order to fully reap the benefits. The detox process is not easy, but it is important, and once you are over the withdrawal symptoms, you’ll be left with more energy than ever before – without the extreme highs and lows that occur with regular sugar consumption.
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