Despite the growing opposition to sugar and all the research about its effects, I think I speak for a lot of us when I say that many people are still finding it hard to let go of it completely. To find out more about the best way to quit sugar, I asked Sarah Wilson all about how we, and our kids, can avoid it in everyday life.
As much as I try to live a healthy lifestyle by eating well and exercising as much as I can, sugar is just one of those things I can't quite seem to escape completely. I'm pretty good with taking my supplements every day, but I find it really hard to pass up a piece of chocolate or a slice of birthday cake when it's on offer. It's even harder when it comes to the kids! They are exposed to so much sugar in advertisements, at birthdays and during the holiday season. To understand why we should our limit sugar intake and find out some practical ways to avoid it, I sat down with Sarah Wilson, author and founder of I Quit Sugar, and the I Quit Sugar team to ask everything you wanted to know about how to quit sugar.
What does sugar do to our bodies?
Put simply, sugar is addictive and it can wreak havoc on our health. Sugar (namely fructose) increases our risk of a multitude of conditions including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and metabolic syndrome (which is a cluster of conditions including obesity, high blood pressure, high triglycerides and low levels of HDL (good) cholesterol. It also increases our risk of developing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, some types of cancer, it ages us faster, is terrible for our teeth and, it makes us fat.
What are the top three things people notice when they quit sugar for the first time?
The great thing about quitting sugar is that you can literally feel the benefits within a few days. People describe ditching the sweet stuff like a fog lifting. They don't feel as fuzzy, their skin clears, their energy levels increase and they become more aware of their natural hunger cues.
How long does the I Quit Sugar program take, and what happens afterwards?
Over the course of our 8-Week Program, we essentially hold your hand and teach you everything you need to know to live a low-sugar life for good. We share the latest sugar science, teach you how to cook, inspire you with delicious sugar-free recipes and ensure that by the end of the Program, you're well-equipped to deal with sugary lapses in your daily life – because let's be honest, they happen to us all!
How is the program different to quitting sugar on your own?
What sets our 8-Week Program apart is that we are literally there with you every step of the way! You receive constant email support, we have community forums set up where you can chat with other sugar-quitters on the same journey as you, and you also have access to our pool of over 50 industry experts – which includes nutritionists, dietitians, yoga instructors, naturopaths, physios, integrative GP's... to name just a few! We're also unique in the sense that we're not a "diet", there is no restriction. The Program teaches you to just JERF (just eat real food) so you can eat in abundance!
How hard is it to cut out sugar from our daily lives?
Unfortunately, sugar is everywhere – even in the places you least expect it! Think tomato sauce, mayo, dried fruit snacks, crackers, kids' lunchbox snacks... But, once you know what to look for and the many (many!) different aliases for sugar, you quickly develop the knowledge and confidence to steer clear of it. We always say: you can't unlearn this stuff! Once you know just how detrimental sugar can be to your health, you simply stay away. And, more importantly, once you quit sugar, you don't crave it anymore either!
Does sugar consumption link to our mental health?
The short answer is yes, more and more research continues to link sugar consumption to our mental health and wellbeing. This is mainly due to our better understanding of the gut-brain connection. Essentially, our gut health and microbiome affects more than just our metabolism, directly influencing our nervous system as well. An imbalance of "bad" bacteria in our gut has been linked to autoimmune issues, depression and behavioural issues like ADHD. For our founder and director, Sarah, she found that ditching sugar helped to "turn down the volume" on her anxiety too.
Sugar is everywhere - how can kids possibly avoid sugar at school or birthday parties?
When it comes to kids and sugar, our best advice is to lead by example. If you don't keep sugar in your house, being sugar-free will simply become normal. It's also key to educate your kids about sugar, but don't demonise it. Let them know that eating too much of it can make us sick, but also, let them judge for themselves how it makes them feel. That way when it comes to parties, you can let them do their thing! You'll likely find that either, your kids will naturally steer clear because it's normal for them to do so... Or, they'll have a few sips of sugary soda and quickly realise they don't feel so flash and will reach for the water instead.
What are the differences between glucose, fructose and sucrose?
When we talk about quitting sugar, we're referring to fructose specifically. Sucrose (AKA your ordinary white table sugar) is 50 per cent glucose and 50 per cent fructose. But, the key difference lies in how your body breaks these down. Glucose is broken down by every cell in the body and used for energy. Fructose, on the other hand, is broken down exclusively by the liver. So, when we eat foods high in fructose, our liver becomes overloaded and is unable to cope. As a result, the liver then has to store any excess fructose that it can't break down as fat. And usually, this is dumped around the liver itself which can lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and insulin resistance. The other key difference is that fructose has no "off" switch. So when we eat it, our satiety hormone, leptin, isn't switched on and worse still, it also increases levels of ghrelin (our hunger hormone) causing us to eat more, and more, and more!
What are the long-term benefits we would hope to see from quitting sugar?
The health benefits of ditching the sweet stuff are endless! Many of our sugar-quitters report weight loss, improved energy levels, clear skin, better moods, better sleep and even increased fertility and improvements in their autoimmune conditions. One of the greatest benefits however, is that you find food freedom! No longer will you be a slave to sugar and cravings as you'll be nourishing your body with nutrient-dense whole foods.
If we are going to occasionally treat ourselves to something sweet, say when eating out with friends, what's the least offensive dessert we can opt for?
We are by no means suggesting you need to say farewell to your favourite treats for good! Life is for living, so indulge – but do it mindfully. If you're out for dinner and everyone's eating dessert, order a cheese plate if you don't fancy something sugary. But if you do, enjoy the moment and simply get back on track the next day.
If the I Quit Sugar 8-Week Program sounds like something you would be interested in, head to the I Quit Sugar Website and enter the code NL15 to receive a $15 discount on your selected program!
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