There is always an uproar around sugar, it is present in many day-to-day diets however it is constantly confused by changing opinions especially within the media. Read on as we tackle whether sugar is really that bad, and whether it can form part of a healthy diet.
Sugar is in fact a broad term which holds an array of natural and refined foods under its category. Here at Natural Balance Foods we are crazy about “natural food” always looking to gain our nutrients through foods of natural sources in equal, necessary amounts. So, where do we find natural forms of sugar?
Natural sugar – sweet!
Sugar is naturally present in foods such as vegetables, grain, fruits and legumes…actually mostly the whole plant kingdom in a molecular form! It doesn’t exist in its own entity, or in terms which could be constituted as unbound or “free”. It’s this element which sprouts the confusion among many wondering if sugar is actually healthy.
In its natural presence, sugar is integrated with a wide amount of plant nutrients and fibres which give it incredible nourishing and energising qualities. On the other hand, sugars which have been refined and extracted from natural “base foods” to be placed in man-made foods like biscuits, sweets and cakes has the potential to be harmful.
Refined and modern-day sugars – not so much
Refined sugars and carbohydrates in excessive proportions are a major contributing factor to weight gain and development of blood sugar disorders such as diabetes and insulin sensitivity.
These sugars and carbohydrates present in refined and packaged foods are regarded as a significant cause for disease epidemics in the modern day such as heart disease, diabetes and obesity. This is a view agreed between doctors, scientists and health practitioners alike. Opposing this, research has shown that fresh fruit consumption is not connected to amplified risks of disease, instead finding its qualities to be protective and helpful in regulating blood sugar levels.
“Fruit sugar” is often likened to the same ‘bad’ sugar present in processed foods, where in fact they are pumped full of slow releasing fibrous structures which are released into the bloodstream steadily rather than sugars which cause peppered spikes in blood sugar. This means excluding fruit from you diet is incredibly unnecessary and not recommended by nutritionists – what a relief!
What about those cravings?
Sugar is consistently gaining attention from the media and in science, especially in the past few years. It has the capability to be a dangerous ingredient in its refined existence, however it’s important to bear in mind that humans have the capability to withstand and enjoy the sweetness of sugar in their diet. We even have taste buds to identify sweet tastes so sugar is a perfectly normal and expected part of the diet. However, craving sugar is considered incredibly abnormal and is usually triggered as a response to consuming too much of the ‘wrong’ and ‘bad’ sugars.
The extracted and refined form is an addictive substance which can stir and change chemicals in the brain, not too dissimilar to people who develop more dangerous addictions. Sugar withholds the ability to trigger opioid chemicals in the brain bringing on a euphoric rush, the desire to revisit this rush is what causes cravings.
Huge consumptions scatters balance in the blood sugar with a mixture of ‘hits’ developing ‘highs’ followed by ‘lows’ as a reaction. Simply put - avoid sugar to dispel any chances of cravings developing.
Quick-fire tips to avoid unwanted sugar cravings…
- Top hint is to avoid any refined sugar no matter what form or guise! This means detaching yourself from the main sources which are found in cakes, biscuits, canned drinks, cereals, pastries and sweets. Always scan over the ingredients to identify any refined sugars.
- If you do have sugar, make sure it’s consumed from its natural form in fruits and vegetables. You have to teach yourself how to taste the natural sweetness in fruits and vegetables, you’ll find it works best for the likes of sugar snap peas, baked squash, raw carrots, ripe red peppers and ripened tomatoes.
- Start implementing natural fat-based or protein-based food in your diet such as nuts, avocado or hummus which make for perfect snacking material.
- The start to your day is incredibly important, spruce it up with a bowl of fresh fruits topped with nuts, berries or even try out chia porridge which is created with almond milk.
Snacks and meal ideas that are free of added sugar…
- Mange tout, cherry tomatoes, and cucumber batons
- Hummus dip and raw vegetable crudités, or carrot sticks
- A handful of raw almonds with a pear
- Thin rice cakes topped with mashed avocado, almond butter, and sliced tomato
- Vegetable soup, mixed bean soups and salads
- A mix of sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds