My daughter calls refined sugar white ants! Health Purists call it White Poison!
As someone who looks into her diet quite well, I vouch that white refined sugar does immense harm to the body. Google maybe no doctor but there are great quality researches to prove its harmful effects.! Yes, my body needs sugar, but how much and what type are really the questions. I dig good quality jaggery, dark chocolates, dates, honey but white sugar is lesser and lesser on my list now! I won’t get into the theory of it.
In-sync with me is a very young charming runner, I met recently. She found a middle path because going completely off-sugar is not an everlasting dietary change. Prerna gave up sugar for in 2012 for general and fitness reasons. She has done what most of us would like to but cringe at the thought of being able to sustain it! She went off-sugar first and then gradually less on sugar. She’s done it for years and here she shares with us some of her Sugar-Less Learnings! And FYI She doesn’t order cakes on her Bday, anymore !
Can going sugar-free be a lifelong habit?
Prerna : Yes, it can be, as long as you’re not sucking the joy out of your life. And by that I don’t mean that it will not be hard – struggle is important (runner talking, obviously!). There is an element of changing habits, and I think that is important. It can be done even if you are a foodie or have a sweet tooth (both are true for me) – the first few months will be hard, but after that, NOT having sugar will become a part of you. Then, even if you have sugar or indulge in your favorite dessert once in a while, it’ll be a one-off thing. It’s all a question of learning to say no, and not giving into every craving or impulsive desire (as runners, I think we’re good at doing that). Once you reach that stage, it can be a lifelong habit.
Following are the changes, impacts and benefits Prerna felt from making this big dietary change!
- I don’t feel stuffed/ bloated after eating anymore. That habit of eating something sweet after a meal was not doing me good because I was eating dessert even if I wasn’t hungry.
- I have discovered a lot of great food for myself. Sugar free or honey based granola and unsweetened soy milk, homemade energy bars with oats and honey!
- White Sugar is not even on my mind anymore. I feel clean and healthy. Cream Cheese Cake at Big Chill is still my favorite dessert, and so I will have it the next time I’m at Big Chill. And then, I might not touch desserts for another few months.
- I recommend a middle path : Going 100% sugar free is not possible! Though I’d lean more on the side of eating lesser sugar than the middle path might suggest. I think the default should be no, with occasional exceptions. One way of doing that is nearly eliminating the largest source of processed sugar in your life, but letting some of the more indirect sources stay (always being conscious of the nutrition information and ingredients can get tiring – I’ve done it). Everyone’s got to figure out their own path and equilibrium.
- I don’t agree that it can be painful to eat out! I eat out quite a lot and don’t find it painful. I don’t like fast food/junk food, and I normally don’t eat dessert after a meal when I go out, but otherwise I’m absolutely fine at a restaurant that has real food.
- I really feel proud of my decision of dumping refined sugar. So I continued and it’s been 4 years living with clean, healthy eating habits. It’s not that I don’t have my weak moments, but I have learnt to say No without killing myself. Because it’s a choice I made.
- There was weight loss in the beginning when I cut off sugar, but that was because I started running, cut down drinking, and started eating healthier in general. I don’t care. I feel healthy.
In the end, meeting and talking to Prerna about going sugar-less was a great and not as horrible an idea! I did a 40 day sugar free fast myself (last year) and it took me 2 weeks of mood swings and brain fog clearing before I started feeling lighter and making better choices! The truth however is I couldn’t stick to it, but I do bake my own muffins, cupcakes using honey and no sugar!
Feed your body sweet spices and flavorings instead – cinnamon, vanilla, cardamom and nutmeg! Use good quality raw honey if you really need more of the sweetness while you are trying to cut back.
Want some really simple and doable sugar-free fun recipes? Here’s Prerna’s list!
- Overnight soaked steel cut oats/daliya with banana, crushed almonds and chia seeds
- Regular oats with banana and almonds
- Fruit smoothies with oats
- Eggs and bread (in the US I used to get a freshly baked bread that didn’t have sugar, but I’m not so anal anymore)
- Occasional treat for the Punjabi in me – pyaaz ka parantha
Great article. I need to work on my sweet tooth…
Thanks Neel Banerjee – the idea, as you would understand from this article, is to gradually decrease it – so like you said work on it! Not take it out completely! Thanks!
Read your article and threw my sugar laden tea.
Pooja Sharma – You are sweet enough to have a sugar less tea! 🙂 Glad you made the choice!
Great Read! It encourages me to continue my “no sugar” phase. But I hv to work on my mithai intake and make it a rarity. Thanks for this! Will push myself 🙂
Hi Maya, I am a complete chocoholic! Thankfully only the darker variety impresses my tastes. I do love jaggery. and Indian mithai. But somehow with the self-control, it is truly possible! All the best!
A very thought provoking article, thanks Tanya.
Thanks Dinesh! So making the dietary change?
Where do you buy your jaggery and other sugar free items?
Hi Amrita, I but natural jaggery (which is actually extremely economical, from stores like Le Marche and Spenser. ) I will soon be doing an article on various types of jaggery one could buy from the market.
Very nice article, one question here is, how to completely avoid sugar beacuae I daily consume one cup of coffee and occasionally sweets. Is this fine for a runner ?
Yes, it is ‘fine’ for a runner, unless you want to cut out sugar for more holistic health reasons. Coffee is easy – reduce the amount of sugar slowly over a period of 1-2 weeks, maybe a quarter of a spoon every few days. If you absolutely do need sugar, keep it to less than half a teaspoon and try using unprocessed sugar. I know people who add honey, but my research says that the chemical composition of honey doesn’t make it well suited for heating, so I don’t use honey in anything that is above lukewarm temperature.
As for sweets, what does occasional sweets mean? That’s something that you will need to determine for yourself. Is it one cheat day a week, only on special occasions, or would you rather not deprive yourself and eat a small, controlled quantity of a sweet a day? It really is up to how much you are willing to sacrifice. Also consider replacing sweets you’d normally have with healthier sweets. I tend to eat a few raisins or a small piece of jaggery after a meal sometimes if I really feel like ending on a sweet note. You don’t need to eliminate sweets entirely, just choose healthier ones. I call it a less-sugar diet :-).