Last month I was unable to eat any sugar (even fruit and grains) and no alcohol at all, due to taking some medication prescribed by my doctor. I don’t eat a lot of sugar normally, so I stupidly thought it’d be easy. However, what I failed to take into account was that one of the side effects of the tablets was severe nausea. Trying to force down veg, salad, eggs and the like when my stomach was turning isn’t an experience I’m in a hurry to repeat.
On a more positive note I did find it was a useful exercise in really understanding a little more about the pros and cons of going sugar free (for me at least).
There has been lots of bad press about the white stuff and an never ending list of books, blogs and celebrities extolling the benefits of going free from the white stuff. Sugar is categorised in two ways ‘free sugar’, which is the sugar that is added to foods by us or the manufacturer and ‘natural sugar’ which naturally occurs in food when in it’s natural state. There is an every extending list of ingredients added to food which are sugar in some form or other, so becoming a label hawk can be necessary to avoid it.
- It removed empty calories: sugar in itself isn’t a necessary part of our diet. Removing it demonstrated how easy it is to eat more sugar than you realise. There is sugar ‘hidden’ in so many more things than we realise.
- Less cravings: keeping your blood sugar more stable leads to less cravings
- Eating more veg: By focusing on all of the things I could eat I was naturally eating more foods which are packed with nutritional goodies. Lots of veg, some nuts, eggs, fish etc.
- It’s boring (and a bit lonely): Whilst not necessary for our physical health eating treats does have a psychological benefit. Preparing food, dining out and eating food are all a huge part of our culture. Being on such a restrictive diet made it harder to eat out and took some of the enjoyment out of food.
- Going wild!: The idea of a detox can seem very appealing. A set amount of time feels more achievable and there is also a sense of satisfaction from hitting a goal, however having a time limit on removing sugar risks a ‘free for all’ binge at the end.
- No fruit: Whilst fruit can be relatively high in sugar it also comes along with many beneficial nutrients. I’m not sure I’d want to cut it out of my diet on an ongoing basis.
What’s the verdict?
You knew I’d say that didn’t you? However, I do believe that the best thing for me (and probably lots of people) is moderation. Completely cutting out sugar seems extreme and probably unnecessary, especially the sugars which occur naturally in food.
However, the experience did make me even more conscious of how even natural sugars can add up over the day. I love fruit, but eating tons of it probably isn’t ideal and nor is replacing lots of sugar with lots of sugar alternatives. Honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar etc may be a better option for occasional use, but at the end of the day are still sugars.
For me I think the ideal is to:
- avoid added sugar where possible
- consciously and consistently making positive swaps for healthier options
- being mindful of how much fruit I eat over a day
- eating lots of veg, but making it interesting to eat.
- focus more on increasing the nutritious food in my diet rather than banning the ‘bad’ entirely
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