There's a growing body of research citing that sugar is as addictive as illegal drugs and could be having a similar effect on our brain chemistry. According to Alan Greene, MD a children's health and wellness expert says “In medicine we use ‘addiction’ to describe a tragic situation where someone’s brain chemistry has been altered to compel them to repeat a substance or activity despite harmful consequences. This is very different than the casual use of ‘addiction’ (‘I’m addicted to “Game of Thrones!”’).” “So, I’m serious when I say that evidence is mounting that too much added sugar could lead to true addiction,” says Greene.
Not to mention the impact that sugar can have on our microbiome. According to Christiane Northrup "when your gut microbiome is out of balance, you are setting yourself up for a host of health issues, including weight gain, diabetes, brain fog, and cancer." She goes on to say that you should "remove the sugar and processed foods from your diet. Refined carbohydrates, sugar and processed foods get absorbed quickly into your small intestine without any help from your microbes. That means your gut microbes stay hungry so they begin snacking on the cells that line your intestines, causing what we call Leaky Gut...When your intestinal wall becomes leaky, particles of food enter your bloodstream, causing your immune system to attack them, and ultimately your own tissues...Sugar also feeds organisms like Candida Albican, which also attacks your intestinal wall and can lead to a systemic Candida infection."
There's also a new body of research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine Journal pointing to the fact that they found no evidence linking eating saturated fat with the risk of heart disease rather the study suggests it's linked to high carbohydrate diets“It’s the high carbohydrate or sugary diet that should be the focus of dietary guidelines. If anything is driving your LDL in a more adverse way, it’s carbohydrates.“ Read more here.
So, what can we do about it?
1. Remove all packaged foods to start: Most pre-packaged snacks, bars and meals are loaded with sugar to make up for lack of taste in other areas. Start by eliminating snacks, candy and anything that comes in a package.
2. Replace sugar with fruit: The sugar found in fruit, or fructose, is a great source of carbohydrates. Our bodies are able to healthfully metabolise 1-2 small pieces of fruit per day.
3. Keep your fruit low glycemic: When we say 2 small pieces of fruit, we mean low glycemic fruit like raspberries, blackberries, and even pears with the skin on. Stay away from high GI fruits like grapes, bananas and mangoes.
4. Eat fruit along with fats and proteins: Eating fruit alongside healthy fats (like avocado & nuts) and proteins slows the absorption of sugar and prevents any blood sugar spikes.
5. Steer clear of dried fruits: Dried fruits are concentrated sugar bombs. All the water is removed leaving you with concentrated doses of sugar. And many brands add sugar on top of that.
6. Avoid sugar-free options: In my journey to clean eating and a sugar-free lifestyle, I heavily leaned on sugar substitutes like stevia. It was in my tea, my baking and I even used to carry it around in my purse. And though it's zero calories and contains no sugar, it can actually be very taxing on the adrenals. "Stevia is “sweet” on the palate, so the body assumes it is receiving sugar and primes itself to do so. Glucose is cleared from the bloodstream and blood sugars drop, but no real sugar/glucose is provided to the body to compensate. When this happens, adrenaline and cortisol surge to mobilize sugar from other sources (liver and muscle glycogen, or protein, or body tissue) to bring blood glucose back up" explains Kate from Nutrition By Nature (Source).
7. Be careful with sugar substitutes: Even coconut sugar, which is low glycemic (ranked at a 35), can be a tricky option. Though it's ratio of fructose to sucrose is more favorable than regular sugar (it's about 70-79% sucrose and between 3 and 9% fructose and glucose) all of these sugar substitutes such as maple syrup, honey, coconut sugar and molasses, are all the same to the body. They are all sugar to be converted to glucose for metabolic fuel.