Saying goodbye to an old friend can be hard, really hard. They’ve been there for you through thick and thin, they’ve been there after a long hard day and during big celebrations. All friends serve a purpose in our life, whether it’s positive or negative, and eventually comes a time when that friend's purpose in our life needs to be reevaluated. That time has come and we’re talking about your good friend, Sugar.
Sugar has been in your life for as long as you can remember. It has a steadfast grip on your life and sometimes even controls you. Sugar influences you, both positively and negatively, but it’s time that the life sucker must exit the building. Achieving a positive relationship, health status, and life with and without sugar is hard, but not unachievable. We’re here to give you the necessary tools to make the right decision about sugar and its role in your life. Just like an old friend walking by, you must develop the willpower to keep on walking and not give in to old ways.
Sugar is a demon wreaking havoc on every aspect of our life – especially our micro-nutrient profile, overall health, and athletic performance. Sugar is a poor food choice and unfortunately lurks in the corner of almost every nutritional label and ingredient lists. It is there when you expect it to be less and it is there when you don’t need it the most. So, with such a predicament, how do we learn how to stay away from Sugar and turn to more nutrient dense and naturally occurring sugar when we want it? How do we kick our cravings, identify the ingredient, and say goodbye once and for all to this old friend?
Learning to Put the Sugar Spoon Down
A spoonful of sugar is no longer what helps the medicine go down. In fact, sugar is the reason why the medicine must go down. The daily average consumption of sugar for the world is 17 teaspoons (68g) which are 45% higher than it was 30 years ago. In the United States alone, the leading victor in sugar consumption, Americans average 40 teaspoons of sugar (160g) per day or 3 pounds (yes… 3 POUNDS) of sugar in a week1,2,3. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that sugar consumption is limited to just 5% (~25g) of an individual’s daily diet.
Everything in moderation - Too Much Refined Sugar Creates Micronutrient Deficiencies
The complete elimination of sugars is not only unnecessary but is economically unrealistic and culturally insensitive. While we don’t advocate for this, we are recommending and suggesting that sugar consumption is taken into consideration when looking at micronutrient profiles and deficiencies in athletes and individuals. Added sugars supply unnecessary calories with the sacrifice of energy and contribute to reduced quality of life, decreased lifespan, and dilute nutrients from the body’s stores. Not to mention promoting a host of disease states that impair nutrient absorption and energy levels.4
When sugar is ingested, it naturally depletes your body’s micronutrients as well as blocks incoming micronutrients from being absorbed. Not to mention that there’s literally no evidence of any health or nutritional benefit to eating refined white sugar. Not to mention, added sugars displace nutritionally superior foods in their diet while depleting nutrients from other foods that have been consumed in order to enable their proper oxidation and liberate the sugar’s calories as energy. Added sugars damage the mitochondria and impair energy generation (sugar crash). Insult to injury? Overconsumption of sugars in an individual’s diet leads to leptin and insulin resistance generating hunger signals in the body when not necessary.4
5 Most Common Micronutrient Deficiencies from Overconsumption of Sugar
More often than not, the negative side effects of consuming too much sugar revolve around diseases, cancer, insulin resistance, and lifespan, which is all true. But let’s continue the conversation about the importance of realizing the micronutrient deficiencies that are correlated to sugar consumption in our daily diets. While there are many issues that arise in the micronutrient profiles of an individual who consumes too much sugar in their diet, the 5 most common micronutrient deficiencies attributed to sugar are listed as the following:
- Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body. It is used in over 300 enzymatic reactions and is crucial for adenosine triphosphate (ATP) metabolism (muscle activity and nerve impulses). Magnesium also regulates blood pressure and temperature detoxifies the body, and aids in creating strong bones and teeth5.
- Chromium is a mineral needed in small amounts and is an essential nutrient needed for metabolic processes including regulating blood sugar, insulin function, required for macronutrient metabolism, and helps to lower elevated serum cholesterol and triglycerides6.
- Calcium is the most prominent mineral in the human body with more than 99% of it stored in bones and teeth. Other functions include muscle contraction, blood clotting, nerve transmission, reduced risk of colon cancer and hypertension7.
- Vitamin C is necessary for growth and repair of all tissues in the body. It also protects against oxygen-based damage (free radicals), aids in collagen and elastin synthesis which are both necessary elements in the bone matrix, skin, tooth dentin, blood vessels, and tendons8.
- Copper aids in the formation of red blood cells, bone formation, hair and skin coloring, taste sensitivity, and energy production. It also helps with transporting iron, healing processes, and metabolizing fatty acids9.
Deficiencies in these micronutrient profiles because of sugar consumption contribute to wide array of health issues including: frequent infections, swollen joints, lack of energy, anxiety, muscle pain and cramps, insomnia, sugar and salt cravings, insulin resistance, decreased fertility, hypoglycemia, anemia, fatigue, osteoporosis, depression, and impaired respiratory function… just to name a few.
Replace Refined Sugars With Whole Foods
It’s not a bad thing to want something sweet or salty as there are many whole food nutrient options that will satisfy those wants. When first turning away from sugar, it can be very hard! Sugar is recognized in the brain and processed by the body similarly to illegal substances such as opioid (ex. Cocaine). So what is the secret to ending sugar cravings? By replacing refined sugars with natural sugars.
Instead of chomping down a candy bar or sugar-saturated soda, turn to more natural alternatives and guilt-free ways to feel more satisfied. In the early stages of cutting sugars out a healthy meal isn’t going to do the trick, literally. Start by looking to low-sugar alternatives or natural sugar alternatives. Foods can be as simple as fresh fruit (dried fruit is usually coated with added sugar), protein bars with low added sugars (Quest HERO bar anyone?), a glass of milk, a natural fruit popsicle (with no added sugars), Greek Yogurt with natural fruits (read more here), and even sweet vegetables such as tomatoes and squash.
Understanding Sugar Cravings and your Options
What happens when you’re deficient in the minerals mentioned above? You crave sugar! What a dirty little cycle! By introducing more sugar, you are unable to replenish levels and further deplete them, advancing sugar cravings. By regulating and supplementing your body with the foods and nutrients that it desires you squash cravings and increase satiety. Not to mention, you’ll enjoy your food more because you will be inciting energy production and not depleting nutrients. Seems simple, and it is. Not only will you crush salt/sugar cravings you are able to put you and your willpower back in control. While it may feel like you have taken away salt/sugar snacks because of a negative issue, it can be easily turned into a positive by adding back in nutrient-dense foods that leave you feeling satisfied and energized.
Control Sugar Cravings With L-Glutamine From SWOLVERINE
- Anand, A. B. Kunnumakara, C. Sundaram et al., “Cancer is a Preventable Disease that Requires Major Lifestyle Changes,” Pharmaceutical Research 25, no. 9 (August 2017); 2097-16
- Xu, C. G Parks, L. A. DeRoo et al., “Multivitamin Use and Telomere Length in Women,” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 89, no. 6 (June 2017): 1957-63
- Dinicolantonio JJ, Berger A. Added sugars drive nutrient and energy deficit in obesity: a new paradigm. Open Heart. 2016;3(2):e000469.
- Gröber U, Schmidt J, Kisters K. Magnesium in Prevention and Therapy. Nutrients. 2015;7(9):8199-226.
- Hua Y, Clark S, Ren J, Sreejayan N. Molecular mechanisms of chromium in alleviating insulin resistance. J Nutr Biochem. 2012;23(4):313-9.
- Hur YI, Park H, Kang JH, et al. Associations between Sugar Intake from Different Food Sources and Adiposity or Cardio-Metabolic Risk in Childhood and Adolescence: The Korean Child-Adolescent Cohort Study. Nutrients. 2015;8(1)
- Hansen SN, Tveden-nyborg P, Lykkesfeldt J. Does vitamin C deficiency affect cognitive development and function?. Nutrients. 2014;6(9):3818-46.
- Song M, Schuschke DA, Zhou Z, et al. High fructose feeding induces copper deficiency in Sprague-Dawley rats: a novel mechanism for obesity related fatty liver. J Hepatol. 2012;56(2):433-40.