I have heard a lot of people talk about eating sugar free lately, and I find it to be entirely intriguing.
There are a lot of misconceptions about sugar and what it really means to eat sugar or to eliminate it from your diet.
Let me just first say I LOVE SUGAR. No shame, no regrets. I love sweets. Cake, cookies, muffins- they are so good. But I am smart enough to know that they aren’t good for me. That doesn’t mean that I don’t ever eat them, but I certainly don’t eat them all the time. When I do enjoy them, I try to enjoy them with the best ingredients and least amount of processing possible. I try to enjoy them still sweet, but with whole and clean sweeteners.
Perhaps one of the most popular terms people are using currently is refined sugar free.
That’s cool, right? I mean, I use that term here and there when sharing new recipes. And that’s exactly how I like to enjoy my cakes, cookies, and muffins.
The problem is that the general population doesn’t have much of an understanding of what it really means for sugar to be unrefined, and even further, what the difference is in our body’s way of processing either type of sugar.
Here’s the thing- sugar is sugar. As far as our bodies and their responses to calories and ability to digest them, they are one in the same. Maple syrup and cane sugar will signal the exact same response in the pancreas. Blood sugar will not spike less because you replace cane sugar with honey.
Therefore, eating something that is refined sugar free is not really a sugar issue, but rather a clean eating issue.
And if that’s your goal- clean eating- then by all means, enjoy organic maple syrup or raw honey. Eat the cakes, cookies, and muffins.
But if your goal is to eliminate sugar from your diet and truly be sugar free, there’s a lot more to it.
The thing is, “sugar” is in everything. Seriously it is in almost everything, and there’s no getting around that. If you eat fruit, drink milk, or consume sweet potatoes, onions, or carrots- you eat sugar.
Maybe you are thinking, “that’s not the sugar I’m talking about. Those sugars are naturally occurring.”
Ah, so really, what we arrive at is the desire to be free of added sugars. Because unless all we ever eat is steak and spinach, we will never fully avoid naturally occurring sugars. Again, unless your goal is simply clean eating- in which case honey and maple syrup are great unrefined options, then the heart of the sugar free movement is in avoiding added sugars.
So how do we do that? How do we stay on a “sugar free diet,” or better put, a “no sugar added” diet?
It’s really quite simple. The best possible way is to consume the majority of your nutrients through whole and natural foods. The best foods are the ones with only one ingredient listed, or better yet- no ingredients listed. When was the last time you saw an ingredient list on a fresh apple or bunch of carrots in the produce section?
Sticking to the most whole form of foods possible is definitely the best way to eliminate the intake of added sugars. Unfortunately, however, if you truly want no added sugar in your diet, it means eating almost nothing that is packaged.
The important thing to take from this and remember is that eating “sugar free” is not just avoiding sweets. You can’t just avoid cookies and candy and say “I don’t eat sugar” but then eat a piece of bread. Sugar is everywhere, so it is just a matter of knowing what sugar you are okay with and eating the right foods for your decision.
I don’t personally aim to maintain a diet that is entirely added sugar free. I aim to eat whole and clean foods, and when I do want to make a batch of muffins or homemade ice cream, I stick to clean sugar options- my go to options being raw honey, maple syrup, and stevia.
Being educated about sugars is the first step. Know your goals, and then go from there.