(A version of this was posted on EcoHustler.co.uk)
So it turns out it’s not just those struggling with diabetes, the scales or the dentist who should avoid sugar, it’s every single one of us. Recently a senior health official in Amsterdam (where weed and prostitution are legal), declared sugar a “dangerous” and “addictive” drug.
Sugar makes your brain release dopamine (the feel-good stuff) and ‘light up’ like it would on cocaine or heroine. “Yay”, I hear you say, but “nay” because not only is the sugar high quickly followed by the sugar low, making us crave more of it, It can also create leptin resistance (the hormone secreted by our fat cells that tells the brain we’re full). Then there’s the insulin resistance and risk of type II diabetes, fatigue, inflammation, bloating, Alzheimer’s, cancer, digestive diseases such as Crohn’s, increased bad cholesterol, heart disease, speeding up of the ageing process in our skin, brain fogginess and yoga bunnies will be alarmed to hear, some say sugar consumption also blocks spiritual development.
The weight gain and obesity links are well known but in America, where there’s an “obesity epidemic” cane sugar has been added to 80% of the 600,000 food items available (in the guise of sucrose, dextrose, maltose, sorbitol, turbinado, corn syrup etc) and without labelling, people don’t even realise how much sugar they’re consuming.
As well as pushing for labelling legislation, a growing number of experts, believe sugar should be regulated. Perhaps packaging should include hideously off-putting images like you get on cigarette packets (perhaps a picture of a really fat person with an insulin needle in their arm would do it?)
However, like smoking cigarettes, burning fossil fuels, drinking alcohol and lots of other things that are bad for us – as well as being so accepted and considered the norm, enforcing regulations is a challenge because sugar is a lucrative business. The same profit factor that’s behind oil barons and those they fund, not wanting us to have our own renewable energy and big pharma wanting us to get sick and tobacco lobbyists wanting hemp to stay forbidden like it’s cannabis cousin.
Artwork by James Ostrer
The seemingly harmless whiter than white stuff, is far more damaging than Silver Spoon and co. would have us believe. Millions of us are said to be addicted to the stuff and sugar-related illness is also costing us billions of pounds in healthcare.
So what can we do to avoid this crack for the sweet-toothed?
If like me you can’t bear unsweetened coffee and you count chemicals not calories, you’ll be avoiding artificial sweeteners and will probably have heard about Stevia. This plant has 150 times the sweetness of sugar and has no effect on your blood sugar levels.
Watch out for greenwash though because the mega food/drinks brands and investors have already clocked the profit potential in it. Seen the green-labelled Coca-cola bottles for example?
At first I was putting spoonfuls of Truvia in my coffee, thinking it was a natural and harmless sugar alternative. Then I read a post on Eluxe Magazine that explained that Truvia (and various others like it) is actually full of chemicals and only has a small percentage of stevia extract.
Second only to buying 100% pure stevia from kind-hearted South American farmers who grow it without pesticides, here are the most natural and genuinely sweet stevia-based products I’ve tried:
- Inspiral: granulated, looks/tastes just like sugar and produced in UK
- Natvia: – specially ‘crafted (in Australia) to compliment coffee’ and comes in handy little sachets for your handbag
- Sweetleaf: their chemical free production has helped to keep farmers away from growing crops related to the drug trade in Latin America
Health experts will tell you that, tricking your body with a sweet taste that doesn’t deliver any sugar also has a negative effect on the body so stevia products combined with fruit sugar may be considered the best option or switching to something like agave nectar or organic honey. However, they will obviously still have an impact on your blood sugar levels, so it’s all sugary swings and roundabouts.The best option of course is to consciously shift your tastes away from added sweetness; apparently after a week of not putting sugar in their coffee most people don’t miss it? However, I’m reminded of the words of my diabetic dad’s doctor – something along the lines of, ‘abstinence won’t make you live longer it will just make you feel like you are’.
*Natural beauty nerd alert* There is one thing that sugar comes in useful for and that’s as an external exfoliator. Mix any that’s being rejected from your kitchen with natural oils to create a homemade scrub. Alternatively, rinse your hands in water, cover your palms in sugar and apply direct for DIY microdermabrasion. Cheap, effective and more eco-friendly than chemical-based salon treatments. You are welcome.