Today marks the start of week two of my eight week challenge to give up sugar. And all I can say is never have I craved a sliced banana on top of a whole wheat slice of bread with honey roasted peanut butter and cinnamon on top. The plus side, my typical cravings for frozen yogurt and cheesecake have gone down and I have become educated on the different sources of sugar and their effects on the body. I also was really creative in what the ingredients I substituted for fruit and sugar in my meals since I initially felt very limited. In addition to this, I was able to cut my sugar intake by nearly two thirds. The negative side, I’ve found my energy levels have dropped, my attention span has diminished, and my attitude and mood have just been plain sour!
Now I’m typically an upbeat person with a go getter attitude. If someone bumps their shopping cart into me while waiting in line at Trader Joe’s, I’m not one to respond with more than a polite smile that says “I know you did that on accident, so if you could kindly not do that again I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you!”. However, this past week the sugar free tyrant took over and instead of that sweet little smile coming out I found myself giving a look of “I swear if you bump into me one more time with your shopping cart I am going to take those bananas in your cart that I am craving oh so badly and will mash them over your head like the angry ape I feel like!”…YIKES! Who am I and what happened to the sweet little potato from Idaho?
I compared notes with my coworker who had encouraged me to do the challenge with her. Her week had been very similar and we found ourselves asking the same question. Is giving up all forms of sugar really worth it and is it even necessary? I decided to research the different main types of sugar before deciding where to go from here.
There are three main forms of sugar. Glucose, fructose, and sucrose which come from different sources but are all classified as carbohydrates which account for 4 calories per a gram. This doesn’t mean they are all absorbed the same way in the body nor does it mean a food has only one type of sugar in it. Here’s a breakdown in the most simplistic way possible as each type of sugar can be broken down into several other types.
Source: Encompassing Health
Sucrose is a disaccharide which means it is comprised of two units, fructose and glucose. This is the sugar found in the tissues of sugar cane and beet stems and when broken down in your body it causes your blood sugar level to spike. Because of this, diabetics should refrain from consuming foods with sucrose in them.
Found in: Powdered sugar, table sugar, raw sugar, as well as others and is more commonly found in processed and packaged foods.
Glucose, also referred to as dextrose, is the most common of all the sugars as it is found in fruits and vegetables. The sugar in this carbohydrate is absorbed into the bloodstream and then used as energy by the body. The absorption of this is regulated by insulin which is why diabetics may have a high blood sugar level after meals.
Found in: Fruits, vegetables, dairy, grains, meats, and beverages.
Fructose is the sweetest of all the sugars, even sweeter than table sugar, though table sugar can taste sweeter to the senses. This is the sugar that makes fruit so sweet and is added to other foods to improve texture and taste. It is also found in corn syrup.
Unlike sucrose, the absorption of fructose does not cause blood sugar levels to rise as the process of absorption is slowed down when paired with fiber and healthy fats that is often found in most foods containing fructose. That’s why the fructose found in fruit is actually good for you, in moderation, and can be utilized as energy. Where as the fructose found from the sugars in processed foods is absorbed quickly by the body and is stored in the liver as fat. This can be associated with high triglycerides which increases the risk of heart disease.
Found in: Fruits and table sugar
Breakdown: To eat fruit, or not to eat fruit? That is the question.
Source: Green Baby Guide
I’ve heard both, which has left me incredibly perplexed. When I was training for the physical fitness area of competition, as I got closer to show time I was highly advised to not consume fruit since I was trying to get to a lower body fat. However, if you’re looking to simply live a healthy lifestyle and be the best you that you can be, taking in the natural occurring sugar that comes from fruits isn’t a bad thing. (In my humble opinion based upon the research I have found.) As long as you’re consuming fruit in its natural form that has not had any added sweeteners.
Here are the tips I would advise if you are trying to maintain a healthy weight but still want to enjoy the benefits of fresh fruit that comes with the warm summer weather.
1. Still practice portion control. Too much of anything (no matter how healthy it is) isn’t good for you.
2. Eat fruits high in fiber and paired with protein or good fats to slow down the absorption of fructose.
3. Don’t eat fruit after every meal (I was guilty of this!) as this can trick your mind into thinking that it needs something sweet after every meal therefore making it easier to convince ourselves it’s okay to splurge on dessert.
4. Limit the amount of times you consume fruit throughout the day. It can still raise your blood sugar levels enough to the point where it convinces your brain that you need more carbs later on in the day making it more difficult to practice your will power against simple carbs later in the evening.
5. Look for fruits that have a lower percentage of sugar per ounce therefore having a low glycemic index. Some great examples are berries and melons. Tropical fruits tend to have more sugar so eat these in moderation.
6. In regards to dried fruit, refrain from ones with added sugar or try making your own dried fruit. Also remember that because the dried fruit has shriveled up, the serving size is going to be different because it’s smaller. I know, you’d think common sense but it can be so easy to eat this by the handfuls and not realize you’re taking in more calories!
So where to go from here in my eight week challenge?
I thought about going another week without fruit, just because it has really made me appreciate the sweetness from other foods. However, I don’t think I can take another day of being another sour grape on the crowded subway. Someone has to spread a bit of energy and cheer to Mr. Grouch and Miss Grumpo! So this week I will start to slowly add in fruits with lower amounts of sugar while still keeping track of my sugar intake. I will still refrain from added sugars though, even natural ones, as I will incorporate those back in a week or two so I can fully appreciate them.
My new goal in this challenge will be to walk out of this being more educated on the different forms of sugar, what to look for on ingredient labels when grocery shopping, and refraining from consuming anything with refined sugar.
Looks like I’m headed back for round two at Trader Joe’s to grab some blueberries and strawberries to get my day off to the right start tomorrow morning!
For those of you who are participating in this eight week challenge, how did you find your first week to be? What did you cut out and how did this effect you? What steps are you taking this week?