Refined sugar is one of the most addictive subtances. According to some research it has been shown to be as addictive as cocaine and heroin. So what is it about getting that sugar fix? And what can you do to ween yourself off of this gateway drug?
Rarely do we ever hear anything about the benefits of sugar, but that's not to say there aren't any. Whole cane sugar (a.k.a. jaggery, sucanat, rapadura) is actually very rich in minerals, particularly iron. It's the refining process, where all of the molasses is removed to turn this natural substance into white granules, that removes all of the benefit.
According to whole foods expert Paul Pitchford, “Refined sugar passes quickly into the bloodstream in large amounts, giving the stomach and pancreas a shock. An acid condition forms which consumes the body's minerals quickly. Thus calcium is lost from the system, causing bone problems. The digestive system is weakened and food cannot be digested or assimilated properly. This leads to blood-sugar imbalance and to further craving for sugar.” So, in effect, and increasingly over time, refined sugar depletes your body of the very minerals that occur naturally in whole sugar cane.
So here are three things you can do to reverse this process of depletion from consuming white table sugar:
- Stop eating refined sugar! This includes the sugar in any pre-packaged, processed foods. Read the ingredients...sugar means refined sugar (and also, avoid corn syrup, which is in almost all processed food). When you eat out at restaurants, they generally use refined sugar. If you don't know, ask. And make requests!
- When a recipe calls for sugar, use whole sugar, which also may be called jaggery, sucanat, or rapadura. In many recipes, the amount of sugar can be reduced by as much as half and still taste great. Alternatively, xylitol is a naturally occurring low-glycemic sweetener that comes from trees, or stevia is a zero-calorie sweet leaf that can often be substituted for sugar, especially in coffee.
- Integrate blackstrap molasses to your diet. Blackstrap molasses is the byproduct of making sugar...so it is a concentrate of the minerals found in sugar. It is a rich source of calcium, magnesium, potassium, and iron. One tablespoon provides up to 20% of the daily value of each of those nutrients. Adding small amounts of it into your diet helps to replenish the minerals that are depleted throughout years of eating refined sugar (I like to add it to homemade salad dressing—equal parts olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and a few tablespoons of the blackstrap).
The best thing you can do to re-balance your blood sugar levels is to eat a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Chew your food thoroughly at each meal in order to stimulate your digestive enzymes. And use sweeteners—even the good ones—sparingly!
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