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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 January 21, 2020

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

    Why You Need a Vision

    Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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    How to Create Your Life Vision

    Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

    What Do You Want?

    The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

    It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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    Some tips to guide you:

    • Remember to ask why you want certain things
    • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
    • Give yourself permission to dream.
    • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
    • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

    Some questions to start your exploration:

    • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
    • What would you like to have more of in your life?
    • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
    • What are your secret passions and dreams?
    • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
    • What do you want your relationships to be like?
    • What qualities would you like to develop?
    • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
    • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
    • What would you most like to accomplish?
    • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

    It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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    What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

    Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

    A few prompts to get you started:

    • What will you have accomplished already?
    • How will you feel about yourself?
    • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
    • What does your ideal day look like?
    • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
    • What would you be doing?
    • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
    • How are you dressed?
    • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
    • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
    • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

    It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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    Plan Backwards

    It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

    • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
    • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
    • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
    • What important actions would you have had to take?
    • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
    • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
    • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
    • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
    • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

    Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

    It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

    Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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