Naomi did it, Gwyneth is doing it, and now Aussies all around are getting on the no-sugar train and reporting huge benefits in their health and wellbeing. But what’s the big deal about quitting sugar? Why is it only coming to our attention now? And does everybody need to be casting aside the nasty white stuff?
Is Quitting Sugar Better For Your Health?
Sugars in the levels they’re found in nature are, generally speaking, not harmful. They’re usually packaged up with fibre, protein, and fat to slow their release and deliver more rounded nutrition. But with Western palates favouring the sickly sweet, we’ve discovered ways to isolate the sugar and pump it in to every part of the food chain. It’s the levels in which we now consume sugar that is harming our health, causing bacterial overgrowth in the gut, promoting fat gain around the midsection, and making us overeat by flooding us with insulin.
So what is a sugar, really?
Simple: it’s just a building block for a longer carbohydrate. Starch – like in potatoes – is just a bunch of sugars stuck together in a chain. But when they’re in a chain, they need to be broken down; when they’re in their simple form, they don’t need that step, and instead rush in to the bloodstream and spike blood sugar levels. We get a rush, and like any other drug addiction, this rush demands that we eat more. Quit sugar for a few weeks, increase your green veggies and healthy fats, and watch the insulin see-saw grind to a halt. Mental clarity, decreased food cravings, and a happier tummy are just a few of the benefits you may see.
Some sugars, like lactose and fructose, have additional problems (see my article on fructose malabsorption and the FODMAP diet) but they are separate issues again. As a general rule, everybody would benefit from keeping their sugar intake down. But should you quit sugar altogether? Maybe. A short-term sugar fast can help you get back on track, but long term it’s not necessarily for everyone. Unless you have a specific intolerance, an apple here or a handful of berries there isn’t going to hurt you. Keep it in the way nature delivered it, and you’ll find your body knows what to do with it.
Image credit: Gloria García