I was addicted to the stuff. It came in so many forms! It was so easy to find and consume and it made me feel so happy and satisfied… until the inevitable crash. But I couldn’t stop; it had a hold on me. Just one little taste left me wanting more and more. I would do anything to get another fix!
But it finally got to be too much. I felt sick and imprisoned, so I gave in and got help and I slowly recovered. There are days though that I see it and smell it, and nearly fall off the wagon again. With a lot of support and education I have been able to manage my addiction. Still, I will always battle with this powerful substance. At least now I have some tools, some alternatives to go to, before turning back to it.
Crack? Cocaine? Nope, though it may have well been. Sugar is just as addicting as either substance. And I was hooked. I began to learn just how toxic and powerful this every day ingredient was.
Neurotransmitters in the brain, like dopamine and serotonin, are actually impacted the same way from sugar consumption as they are when using cocaine! In fact, with continued use, tolerance to sugar grows and actual consumption must increase in order to function normally. I learned that sugar lurks in the sneakiest of places: peanut butter, mayonnaise, ketchup, salad dressings, tomato sauce, and even breads! This is a strategy used by many companies; sneaking in some sugar guarantees you will always come back for more. Although I was hooked, learning all that I could about sugar opened my eyes to the power it had in my body, and I slowly took back control of what was going into my body.
Your body can crave sugar for many reasons. Low hormones, Candida overgrowth, and adrenal fatigue are just a few of the issues that may cause sugar cravings. Or perhaps you just have an inherent sweet tooth. Whatever the reason, sugar has been implicated in the alarmingly high rates of heart disease, obesity, diabetes and of course, tooth decay. Just as distressing, but not as recognized, is sugar’s contribution to anxiety, depression, exhaustion, aggressive behavior, and insomnia. The USDA recommends no more than 10 teaspoons of sugar per day. Unfortunately Americans are eating an average of 23 teaspoons every single day!
Ideally we would all learn to eat foods with no added sugar, something that can be accomplished by sticking to whole foods. But sugary treats are a big part of our culture, especially during times of celebration. And believe me, I can always find a reason to celebrate with a chocolate cupcake! Cutting out sugar completely can be quite the feat then. One way to be successful at pulling back on your intake is to switch to natural sweeteners. By greatly reducing or all together eliminating refined sugars from your diet you will most certainly benefit from a higher quality of life and lower risk of disease.
First, let’s quickly examine the difference between refined sugar and natural sugar. (And this will indeed be a very basic examination as the world of sugar is very complex and scientific.) In short, refined sugars are those sugars that supply calories with no nutritional benefits. They have been extracted from various sources through processes involving heat and evaporation, and then often bleached before reaching the shelves. Refined sugars include evaporated cane juice, high fructose corn syrup, dextrose (sugar derived from corn, wheat or rice), and sucrose (table sugar). Because our bodies are not biologically designed to process these man made compounds, refined sugar acts like poison in the body.
Natural sugars are those that occur, well, naturally. They still contain most of their nutrients, and many have health benefits! Natural sweeteners can take the place sugar in any meal or snack, plus they are versatile enough to bake and cook with. Some favorites include pure maple syrup, honey, molasses, coconut nectar, stevia and dried fruits. It is important to note that agave nectar, despite enjoying tremendous popularity as a natural sweetener, is extremely refined and carries a very high fructose content.
I have battled sugar for a long time, I still do. This is one of the hardest substances to overcome so don’t be hard on yourself!! Just take it one day at a time.
Try out these naturally sweet recipes, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Blend everything very well in a food processor. Then begin rolling the mixture into truffle balls. Optional: roll them in a coating of your choice such as coconut shreds, cacao powder or sesame seeds. Once you are finished rolling you can refrigerate the truffles, or promptly gobble them up.
BEE NUTS FOR CHOCOLATE (a smoothie!)
Ingredients: 1 banana, 1 1/2 cups ice, 1 cup milk (or non-dairy beverage), 2 Tbs almond butter, 1 heaping Tbs of raw cacao, a serving of protein powder, 1-2 tsp raw honey
Blend banana, ice, milk and almond butter together. Add cacao and protein powder. While blender is on pour in honey (this will help avoid it clumping at the bottom). Experiment with adding some spinach or kale leaves!!
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