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Why You Should Quit Sugar

Updated: Apr 9

The Bittersweet Truth

I used to binge on chocolate bars and I consumed sweets like my life depended on it. In fact, my Primary School would even give us Haribo and call them ‘brain food’... It wasn't uncommon for me to head out to a friend’s house in the evenings and take with me a bag full of various chocolates and sugary snacks. I rarely drank anything that wasn't fruit juice or fizzy drink.

Fast forward to my mid-twenties and I stopped eating sugar entirely and still don’t go anywhere near it. To clarify, I'm talking about refined sugar added to food to make it sweeter, not naturally sweet foods like fruits. My appetite for sugar completely vanished, seemingly forever, and temptation was replaced with aversion. My sweet tooth became savoury and I’ve never looked back.

savoury sweet food meme


In this article


What is Sugar?

Sugar refers to simple carbohydrates, specifically monosaccharides (glucose, fructose, galactose) and disaccharides (sucrose, lactose, maltose). These are just 6 examples and we can already see that sugar is a broad term, before we even get started on sugar alcohols (xylitol, sorbitol, erythritol) and artificial sweeteners (aspartame, sodium saccharine, Sucralose). With over 60 different sugars, it’s not so simple to just claim ‘sugar is bad’ and move on with our lives.

A Brief History of Sugar

This is especially true as our relationship with sugar goes back a very long way and we likely wouldn’t be here without it. Fruits are full of sugar in the form of fructose and this is no accident - plants want animals like us to eat their fruits so we can disperse their seeds once they’ve passed through our bodies. To further this goal, they’re often bright colours to attract our eyes and sweetly flavoured to keep us coming back for more. The fruit provides lots of nutrition and energy for the eaters, and everybody thrives.

The Dangers of Sugar

Too much sugar is most commonly associated with tooth decay, diabetes, and weight gain. However, it’s been linked to a wide range of other serious health problems too, including colon cancer, heart disease, and nerve damage. Cutting out added and refined sugar from one’s diet is perhaps one of the simplest ways to immediately improve one’s health. We’ve known since 1931 that sugar feeds cancer and with ever rising rates of cancer, perhaps it’s time we paid attention to this fact.

Do We Still Need Sugar?

Having said all that, we simply can’t avoid sugar if we want to eat healthily. Cutting out fruits entirely from our diets seems like a terrible idea that not even the most hardcore carnivore among us would agree to. Luckily, fruits come with a whole host of nutrients to offset the sugar, alongside providing plenty of fibre, which slows down digestion of sugars and prevents spikes in blood glucose and insulin. So, we need fruits and vegetables, and therefore we still need to eat the sugar in them.

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

The Good Sugars

There are many who say ‘sugar is sugar’ and on a very simple level, they’re right. The different sugars you ingest may very well all eventually end up as the same compound in your body, but it’s how they get there that’s important. Just as eating Vitamin C in the form of an orange is different to eating pure ascorbic acid powder.

The ‘good sugars’ are those naturally present in fruits and vegetables. We’ve evolved alongside them for many thousands of years and we can’t and shouldn’t avoid them. Unfortunately, fruits and vegetables today contain fewer nutrients than they used to, whilst becoming sweeter than ever. This is thanks to modern farming practices demanding ever greater yields at the expense of soil health, and cross breeding to create sweeter, more desirable products. A great reason to grow your own or support independent farmers!

The Bad Sugars

These are the refined sugars added to foods to make them artificially sweeter. They provide no discernible health benefit and are often added to foods which don’t buffer the sugar in the way fruits do through nutritional content and fibre. These are the sugars I was addicted to and brought me nothing but bad teeth and poor health.

The Ugly Sugars

The health risks of artificial sweeteners were once the domain of conspiracy theorists, but now we’re seeing the real impact of these ‘zero sugar’ alternatives. Unsurprisingly, tricking the body into thinking it’s eating sugar isn’t much better than actually feeding it sugar. Furthermore, they’re 100's of times sweeter than sugar and you can imagine the kind of effect that can have on a body that’s evolved to respond to sweetness.

My parents drilled a phrase into me which I remember to this day; “you can brush your teeth, but you can’t brush your brain” in reference to natural/artificial sugars. We're still discovering all of the negative health effects of artificial sweeteners and it seems prudent to go with what’s naturally found in our food, rather than what’s cooked up in a chemical lab somewhere.

Natural Sugar Alternatives

Dates are one of the best sugar alternatives I’ve come across. Unsurprising really, as you’re essentially adding a whole food source of sugar, complete with a great amount of fibre. Honey is another good solution, though the source is important, as the health benefits associated with it are so numerous it deserves an article of its own. Maple syrup is a wonderful vegan alternative to honey, but again, you’ll need to be mindful of the source.

How I Quit Sugar

Looking back, I remember waking up one morning and my appetite for sugar had vanished - there’s a simple feedback loop that needs to be broken before the cravings disappear. By cutting it out for a week or more, your body begins to no longer yearn for that sugary white powder. I’m more than happy to help you conquer this addiction if you need some help and guidance!

freedom from addiction


Bad Advice & Hidden Sugars

As with everything, there’s a ton of information out there and much of it is wrong!

WHO recommendation of maximum refined sugar intake of 5-10 tsp per day - by allowing a quantity of sugar, especially this amount, it just means there’s going to be continued addiction and desire for more sugar

Including fruit juice in the recommended 5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day - fruit juice doesn’t contain any of the fibre which helps to make fruit such a healthy option in spite of the sugar content. Someone consuming a glass of orange juice instead of an actual orange is going to be getting more of the bad and less of the good.

More people want to avoid sugar these days, but companies know that sweetness sells, so they hide it in the ingredients under various names. Here’s a short list of the worst offenders to look out for:

·       Agave

·       Cane

·       Caramel

·       Corn

·       Syrup

·       Anything ending in -ose is a sugar

·       Anything ending in -itol is a ‘sugar alcohol’ (artificial sweetener)

What is ‘natural’ may not be healthy. Cane sugar and Agave syrup are both natural sugars and I wouldn’t recommend consuming much of either. Stevia and Monkfruit are both natural, but they’re up to 350 times sweeter than sugar. They may not be as harmful as chemically created artificial sweeteners, but they’re still going to have a big effect on your body’s chemistry!




10 Frequently Asked Questions

1. Are all sugars the same?

Absolutely not. While the end compound may be the same, the way they are packaged and delivered makes all the difference

2. Should I avoid all sugars?

Sugars are found naturally in healthy foods like fruit and vegetables. You need these to be healthy and therefore some sugar is necessary in your diet. A better option would be to avoid all added, refined or artificial sugars

3. Is sugar addictive?

The how's and whys of sugar addiction are hotly contested, but the fact remains people display addictive behaviour when it comes to sugar and artificial sugars may be even worse.

4. Will eating sugar make me fat?

Excess sugar can indeed contribute to weight -gain, as that which isn't used for energy will be stored as fat. Naturally occurring sugars in fruit come with fibre which can increase insulin sensitivity (decreased fat storage), whereas refined sugars without the fibre promote insulin resistance (increased fat storage).

5.  How can I stop eating sugar?

There are many ways to go about it and the right method for you will depend on your personal circumstances. You can always reach out for advice!

6. What has the most sugar?

Coke famously has almost 10 teaspoons of sugar in a single can. There's a teaspoon of sugar pin each tablespoon of Ketchup. Low fat products often have lots of added sugar to make up for the lack of fat. It's about time you learned to love fat!

7. Does sugar rot teeth?

Technically not. Sugar provides a lovely meal for bacteria which then create acid, which in turn damages your teeth. Sugar is just a handy source of food rather than the culprit - a healthy oral microbiome is key to having great oral health

8. Do humans need sugar to survive?

Yes and no. Yes we need glucose, a sugar, to survive. No we don't need to acquire it from refined or added sugars. The body is more than capable of producing glucose from carbohydrates

9. Why is sugar so good for you?

It isn't, where did you read this? Please reconsider your sources of information and read this article again.

10. Will sugar help me sleep?

When you sleep, your body is largely resting but your brain is using a lot of energy. If the brain depletes your stores of energy before you wake, this can result in a reduced quality of sleep. Check out the Hibernation Diet to see why you might need some sugar before going to bed!

Adam Pike - Holistic Healer

Looking for nutrition and dietary advice?

Get in touch with Adam Pike

Holistic Healer & Health Consultant | Director of Spiritual England


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