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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 July 8, 2020

18 Benefits of Journaling That Will Change Your Life

18 Benefits of Journaling That Will Change Your Life

The act of writing in a journal often seems daunting or unnecessary to many people. Even authors who work on novels might shun the idea of daily diaries. What purpose does jotting down words on a regular basis do if not contributing to the next novel, play or song? I know from experience many benefits of journaling that I wish to share.

1. Understand Yourself Better

Though many people and even writers avoid keeping journals, I vow to do it more often. Not only do I desire to take up daily journaling but also I plan to do it with pen to paper.

Some of the benefits I’ve found from my more active days include finding myself in the sense of understanding what matters to me and what I want out of life. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to find a spouse who is my best friend and advocate in raising children. I attribute this and much more to what I learned about myself in keeping journals for years.

2. Keep Track of Small Changes

I’ll admit that I never got very far with my guitar lessons, but in writing in a journal, I have seen the ability to track small changes like those that come when you practice anything.

Those learning a musical instrument often fail to see the small improvements that come with regular practice. Writing won’t help you switch chords any faster, but it will help you to develop a better sense for language and grammar just by doing it.

3. Become Aware of What Matters

As you continue to write in a journal, following a stream-of-consciousness feel, you can look back on the topics that you chose to write about. Those issues and emotions that poured out of you will provide insight on to what matters most to you.

You may not even realize that you’re job is depressing you or that you want to spend more time with your kids until you look over your thoughts that you weren’t really thinking about.

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4. Boost Creativity

The idea that the brain and its neural activity across hemispheres encourages learning also shows up in increased creativity. Just like with learning an instrument, your increased activity will inspire your thoughts to connect and reconnect in different ways.

When I wrote in a journal, I often wrote poetry as well as just my thoughts as they came out. I started to hear poems more in my mind; so much so that I took to scrawling lines on napkins and finding metaphors in mundane activities.

You really are what you do, so writing helps grow more than being a writer. Writing boosts the way you communicate and structure language, which really is a creative process.

5. Represents Your Emotions in a Safe Environment

A journal is as private as it gets. You can lock it in a safe or tuck it under a pillow and no one will accidentally share it on social media or have an opportunity to “leave a comment.”

Write about your sorrow as much as your happiness and frustration and know that you don’t have to keep your emotions inside your body. You can put them on paper.

6. Process Life Experiences

When you take the time to look back over what you’ve written, be it a week or a year later, you will have the distance you need to more objectively interpret your raw feelings.

Everything from losing a job to losing a loved one can emerge in a new light for a fresh perspective. Figuring out how the benefits of journaling affect your perspective on life will create connection and increase creativity.

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7. Stress Relief

In combining the exercise inherent in fine motor coordination that comes from the act of writing with the emotional release of self expression, those who maintain a journal relieve stress.

Try it out. Go home and write about your day. Write about the traffic. Write about the coffee order the barista got wrong but you didn’t have time to change. See how you can physically purge some of that pent-up stress by putting it on paper.

8. Provide Direction

Though journaling is often conducted as an activity without much direction, it often provides direction.

One of the biggest benefits of journaling is that your chaotic thoughts merge to show a direction in which to head. Asking the right questions is the only way to achieve the best solutions, so look to your journal to find your way toward your next goal.

9. Solve Problems

Just as in practicing math problems, we all get better at finding hidden solutions through the act of processing.

Think of your next goal as X and solve your life problems by reading your journals as word problems. The benefit of journaling here is that you write, explore and process to recognize and then solve problems.

When life is too in-your-face, you have to step back to see reality. Living in the moment allows us to write in the moment and use that expression to solve problems.

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10. Find Relief From Fighting

Solving your problems only comes after time to process, recognize and strategize. Just as in the benefit of journaling where relief comes from the act of writing, relief from fighting comes when you decide to “sit this one out” and communicate one-way.

Fighting is only productive when the fighters care to communicate and find common ground. When the emotions are as high as the stress levels, writing will function as the best time out.

11. Find Meaning in Life

Journaling will show you why you are living, whether you are wallowing in things you wish to change or striving to make the changes. Your life will begin to take on new meaning and your own words will reveal the actions that got you where you are so that you can assess and pave a new path for your future.

12. Allow Yourself to Focus

Taking even a small amount of time out of every day will provide you with not only peace of mind but also increased focus. Taking a break to meditate in writing and journaling will sharpen your mental faculties.

13. Sharpen Your Spirituality

When we write, we allow all the energy and experiences to flow through us, which often provides further insight into our own spirituality. Even if your parents didn’t raise you to follow a specific religion, your thoughts will start to show you what you believe about the universe and your place in it.

14. Let the Past Go

I’ve mentioned a few examples where going back over your writing offers advice and direction, but the simply truth is that writing down our feelings can be the best way to let them go. We can choose to literally throw these pages away when they’re filled with negativity and hate.

15. Allow Freedom

Journaling is the perfect way to not only express yourself but to also experience the freedom of being who you are. Your books can stay private or you can publish them. Your freedom stems from your sense of self and your perception of your thoughts.

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16. Enhance Your Career

Again, the private act of pen-to-paper processing provides the benefits of journaling mentioned above, but you can also enhance your career when you take similar ideas and categorize, edit and publish them in an online blog.

Your thoughts will often be personal and express emotions, but another benefit of journaling is uncovering fresh ideas about your work.

17. Literally Explore Your Dreams

All the benefits I’ve mentioned explore ideas, thoughts and emotions, which is also what our dreams and nightmares do. Through writing down your dreams from the previous night, you can enhance your creativity as well as connect some of the metaphorical dots from the rest of your journal.

18. Catalog Your Life for Others

No one wants to think about dying, but we all die. Leaving a journal will act as a way to reconnect with family and friends left behind. The ideas you wish to keep personal while you process the life you’re living will serve to rekindle and inspire those who loved you through the process.

We consider our partners our life witnesses, but writing provides a tangible mark on the world.

Now that you’ve learned all the benefits of journaling, it’s time to start writing a journal:

Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

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