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Sugar is Slowly Killing You: 4 Clever and Healthy Ways to Replace Sugar

Sugar is Slowly Killing You: 4 Clever and Healthy Ways to Replace Sugar

Sugar is the cocaine of the food world.

How’s that for an opening?

When you look at the detrimental effects that sugar has on our bodies and the terrible impact it has on our health, it’s not hard to look at it as similar to another white, purified extraction.

If there was an absolute number one nutrition tip I could give you, and a lot of others would agree, it would be to remove or drastically reduce refined sugar consumption.

Why is sugar so bad?

When consumed, refined sugar leads to spikes in blood sugar and releases of insulin by the pancreas. Unless there is some physical activity coming up, the sugar needs to be stored somewhere as a backup energy source.

That is essentially what fat is; it is a reserve fuel tank. Insulin is known as the fat producing and storing hormone. The sugar that is consumed ends up being stored as fat and, over time, can lead to obesity.

Consistent sugar intake creates insulin resistance in the body. The pancreas gets used to pumping out so much insulin that it becomes resistant to insulin, and now you’re looking at developing type 2 diabetes.

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Side note: Type 2 diabetes was always known as adult onset diabetes, but with it showing up so much in teens and even pre-teens, it is now classified as type 2 diabetes.

High fructose corn syrup

When people discuss sugar, we usually associate it with white table sugar which is derived from sugar cane and sugar beets. As bad is that is there is another champ as far as sugar and its negative effects on the body: high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

For those unfamiliar with HFCS, it is exactly what it sounds like, a refined sweet syrup that is extracted from corn. The majority of corn that is reserved for human consumption is turned into HFCS.

HFCS was developed as a cheaper alternative to higher sugar trade tariffs, and it gave products a longer shelf life. It became a top choice for use in products during the low fat craze, as it was able to give products a texture and flavor to food with the absence of fat and allowed for browning characteristics.

This is another reason that soft drinks grew from the smaller eight ounce servings to 20 ounce (and further giant sizes) without any real change in cost to manufacturers.

Fructose in its natural fruit form is more mild on the body, as it is packaged with things like fiber and natural roughage so your body doesn’t get a straight show of sugar. In the form of fructose, and especially HFCS, it is absorbed even faster but straight into the liver where it triggers lipogenesis (the production of fats like triglycerides and cholesterol).

It is one of the major causes of liver damage, and why 70 million Americans suffer from a condition called “fatty liver“.

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Here are four great ways to replace sugar in your diet:

1. Avoid artificial sweeteners

This might seem weird, since drinks with artificial sweeteners have zero calories and zero sugar right? Technically, yes, but artificial sweeteners trick your body into believing that it is about to receive sugar. Since no sugar is consumed it can lead to actual sugar cravings, causing you to constantly be wanting the very thing a zero calorie beverage was helping you avoid.

There is also research from the Washington School of Medicine that shows that sucralose causes a 20% rise in blood glucose. This means it is acting very similar to sugar without containing any sugar whatsoever.

2. Consume dark chocolate

When sugar cravings hit turn to the dark master–the cocoa bean.

Instead of turning to sugary milk chocolate, dark chocolate that is made up of at least 70% cacao solids, ideally 90%, is shown to better help manage and lower blood sugar while helping stave off that sweet tooth. Dark chocolate is loaded with antioxidants and polyphenyls which help in glucose control.

How does dark chocolate do this and is able to be recommended for diabetic patients? Because it is mostly made up of fat and allows it to rank very low on the glycemic index. This fat is the good fat, in the form of medium chain triglycerides which provide tremendous health benefits like helping prevent cardiovascular disease and lowering blood pressure.

A square or two a day will help for that sugar craving while also providing tremendous health benefits

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3. Eating protein with sugars

If you’re going to eat something that has refined sugar, or if you have issues like hypoglycemia, having something with some protein and fat before you consume sugar is going to help slow the release of blood sugar.

When you consume something that is a majority of sugar, even fruit on its own, there will be a spike in blood sugar. Consuming a handful of nuts, like almonds or walnuts, before you have fruit or another food high in sugar will help stave off that blood sugar spike a little better.

4. Stevia

Stevia is showing some real promise as a sugar alternative. If you are unfamiliar with stevia but watched the last season of Breaking Bad, you are very familiar with it already.

Don’t worry, no spoilers.

Stevia is a plant that has been used for thousands of years as a way to sweeten things medicinally. It appears to not have the same negative effects as artificial sweeteners and provides some health benefits such as possibly reducing blood pressure and helping to lower blood sugar levels.

Ideally you want to choose raw stevia leaf powder, which has a brighter green color to it. One option to give you a more natural version of stevia is to find it in liquid form. This is easy to find on Amazon.

Stevia is also available in packets in the form of a white powder. It comes from the extraction of the glycosides in the plant, but some find this to have a bit of an aftertaste. Still, this appears to be a better choice than reaching for a sugar packet or artificial sweetener.

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When in doubt with your food, try to keep it real!

Wrapping it up

It is hard to avoid sugar; it is everywhere. Even in places you wouldn’t expect to find it:

  • ketchup
  • pasta sauce
  • salad dressing
  • cereal bars
  • bread
  • crackers
  • sushi
  • cough medicine
  • soy milk
  • frozen dinners

Turning to foods in the purest form and avoiding processed and packaged “food” will be a big step in avoiding unnecessary sugar intake over the day. Additionally, looking to replace refined sugar with new alternatives like stevia, or reaching for some dark chocolate, will help you in your quest to remove or drastically reduce sugar all together.

Your health will thank you for it.

Featured photo credit: Sugar Lips/Jeanny via flickr.com

More by this author

Jamie Logie

Jamie is a personal trainer and health coach with a degree in Kinesiology and Food and Nutrition.

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Last Updated on November 20, 2020

Kickstart Your Morning Workout With These 10 Simple Habits

Kickstart Your Morning Workout With These 10 Simple Habits

Benjamin Franklin said it like this: “Early to bed, early to rise, will make a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” He knew from his own experiences and watching others that the ones who got up early were healthier and more successful. That’s why a morning workout can be so important.

One 2017 study found that:[1]

“after controlling for such factors as age, sex, smoking habits, and others…night owls, were found to have a 10 percent greater risk of dying from any cause compared to morning types.”

This is a great reason to tap into some morning motivation and get your morning workout done.

Circadian Rhythm for morning workout

    As you can see in the above graph, your blood pressure begins to rise between 6 and 7 in the morning[2]. That means this is a great time to get your body moving and your heart pumping, even if it’s just for 20 minutes of exercise in the morning. 

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    Here are some tips on how to find the motivation for a morning workout.

    1. Remember Your Why

    It starts with remembering why you want to get up for a morning workout. If you don’t set a goal and establish your reasons for accomplishing a health and fitness goal, then you definitely won’t get up early.

    Getting up early isn’t easy. If it were, everyone would do it, right? Your goal for your health and fitness must be so strong, and the WHY behind it must be so powerful, that nothing will stop you from accomplishing that goal.

    2. Go to Bed Early

    If you want to get up early for a morning workout, it’s going to be important to get to bed earlier. Falling asleep at midnight and trying to get up at six just won’t work in your favor.

    This will likely be very difficult for a few days while you adjust your sleeping habits. However, as you get into an exercise routine in the morning, this will naturally make it easier to fall asleep earlier and faster at night.

    3. Make a Commitment

    I sometimes tell my Facebook community of my plans to work out, and we all keep each other motivated by posting our runs, our workouts, etc. This is a way to develop accountability. By publicly announcing your intentions, you increase your chances of actually carrying out your plans.

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    Another way to do this is to find an accountability partner who has similar goals for morning workouts. You can check in with each other to make sure you’re sticking to your plans. If that doesn’t work, hire a personal trainer for a few weeks to get you started.  

    You can learn how to find a good accountability partner here.

    4. Find a Friend

    If you can find a friend that is motivated like you are, and you can hold each other accountable daily to working out, then you will accomplish your fitness goals. Many people prefer working out with friends to working out alone. Whether it’s a chat while hitting the treadmill at the gym, or having someone to spot you while weightlifting, working out with friends is sometimes just more enjoyable.

    Texting each other the night before with a simple statement is best. Don’t ask: “Are we still working out in the morning?” With this kind of question, if they were thinking about not working out, you just gave them an opt out.

    Make a statement instead: “Can’t wait to see you in the morning!” This implies that they will be there, and they will feel more obligated to show up.

    5. Treat Yourself

    We all have to treat ourselves every now and then. After a morning workout, plan to treat yourself with a colorful, healthy breakfast or a delicious morning smoothie. This will help you look forward to something and push through to the end of your workout.

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    You can learn more on rewards and punishments here.

    6. Change your Mindset

    Many people throw away the idea of a morning workout by simply saying, “I’m not a morning person.”  Instead of using this excuse, decide to try to become a morning person by shifting your mindset.

    When you look into the benefits of waking up early and getting some exercise in before your day starts, you’ll feel more positive about your life overall.

    7. Plan Your Day

    You know you’re going to be busy. Try time blocking to plan all the things you need to do on a given day, and make sure you add in your morning workout[3]. If you have a plan laid out, you’ll be more likely to follow it and get done everything on your list done.

    Time blocking

      8. Reflect on How You’ll Feel After

      Starting a morning workout is hard, but visualizing how you’ll feel after can help you find motivation. Think about the extra energy you’ll have and how proud you’ll feel knowing that you were already so productive. No matter what you do the rest of the day, at least you squeezed in your exercise!

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      For me, I live in an area where there are a lot of runners. When I am heading home in the evening or sitting out on the patio at one of my favorite restaurants, and I see the runners go by, it makes me feel so accomplished that I got mine in that morning and I can enjoy the evening.

      9. Lay out Your Workout Clothes

      Setting out your workout clothes the night before makes it impossible for you to start to run late because you couldn’t find something to wear. Tap into the determination you have before bed in order to convince your less-than-motivated morning self that you need to get up and get your morning workout in. When you wake up and see your outfit laid out next to you, it’ll push you to get up and get moving.

      10.  Set Multiple Alarms

      Many people miss their morning workout simply because they hit the snooze button so many times. In order to make this more difficult for yourself, set a series of alarms. That way, if you keep hitting snooze, you’ll have three or four alarms going off every ten minutes, which will be annoying enough to get you out of bed.

      Also, put one alarm at least a few feet from your bed so that you’re forced to get up to turn it off.

      Final Thoughts

      About three years ago I went from being the person that says I will never be an early riser to a person that loves to get the day started as soon as possible. Without the distractions that begin to come around 8 or 9 in the morning, you’ll find that you’re more productive and more likely to squeeze in that morning workout.

      Take some of the actions above and find the best morning workout routine to start your day and feel good.

      More Tips on Morning Exercises

      Featured photo credit: Tomasz Woźniak via unsplash.com

      Reference

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