I was doing some baking this weekend and thinking about my love/hate relationship with sugar. It is such a fun activity to bake with my family, and my husband especially appreciates when there are fresh goodies on the counter! Yet I am painfully aware of the negative impact of sugar – inflammation, brain fog, weight gain, mood swings, blood sugar imbalance…the list goes on and on.
Naturally occurring, whole foods based sweeteners
I have played with the gamut of sugars and their alternatives. It seems like each one has their downside. So I have come full circle to using naturally occurring, whole foods based sweeteners like raw honey, maple syrup, and coconut palm sugar. Each of these sweeteners has the micronutrients our body needs to process sugar more effectively (like B vitamins and selenium) and they have lower glycemic index (which means they don’t tend to spike blood sugars). Refined sugars (think anything white including “organic” or “alternative” sweeteners) have been stripped of all their nutrition, leaving us with the double whammy of not receiving nutrients and then having to rob the body of certain vitamins and minerals in order to effectively process the sugar.
Commit to creating your own sweet treats
Making a commitment to creating your own sweet treats is one way to have more control over what you’re putting in your body. When you know what the ingredients are, you can choose if you want to use that recipe or try to find an upgraded, more nutritious version. I love to think about my favorite indulgences and then search online for a “paleo” version of that recipe – it will have the same flavor, just without the refined ingredients. You can also decide to add less sugar than is called for, use a different type of sweetener, or use more nutritious oils. By making the foods yourself you know exactly what’s being included. And once you learn a few tricks, you’ll find yourself adding nutrient dense ingredients to all your favorites!
Choose recipes that have other nutritious ingredients
The other change that feels sustainable is to choose recipes that have other nutritious ingredients and add those into my sweet treats. Think foods like avocado, real cacao powder, sweet potato, flax or chia seeds, etc. These foods provide fiber which can help to moderate the uptake of sugar into the bloodstream. They provide essential fatty acids which also balance blood sugar and are anti-inflammatory. They offer anti-oxidants which protect us from inflammatory and free radical damage. Sneaking nutrient dense foods into decadent treats can keep everyone happy and provide snack options you can feel good about indulging in.
Sometimes we need help getting off the sugar train. The new year is a great time to think about letting go of sugar and seeing what your life is like without it. If you want some support getting started, joining a sugar free challenge is always a good option!
Why are you interested in letting go of sugar?
If you are interested in letting go of sugar, spend some time thinking about your bigger “why.” Having a deeper, intrinsic motivation will be much more effective than simply because “I know it’s good for me” or “I want to lose weight.” Understanding WHY you want to have more energy (so I can play with my kids) or why you want to be healthier (because I have a lot more to contribute to this world!) will go a long way in helping you stay on track.
Dr Nicola Dehlinger, ND, graduated from SCNM in 2004. Dr Nicola sees clients from around the world in her naturopathic medical practice, Pura Vida Natural Healthcare, in Durango, CO. She is an expert in the treatment of anxiety, depression, and insomnia. She is able to minimize supplements and medications as her patients become empowered to heal themselves. In addition to seeing clients, Dr Nicola leads group and private retreats. She also teaches a variety of online and in-person classes. In her free time, you can find Dr Nicola in the mountains or the kitchen, enjoying time with her husband, son, and their dogs. Website: www.puravidahealthcare.com