My sister announced over breakfast this morning that our small country of Ireland is the 4th worst in the world for sugar consumption. We are behind only the U.S, Germany and The Netherlands. Initially I found this surprising, having lived in the US and having also toured Germany quite a bit, I honestly didn’t think we consumed as much sugars as either places… the U.S adds sugar to just about anything they possibly can, and Germany has bakeries stocked full of the most drool worthy sweet pastries at every corner in every town, so I can understand how hard that may be too avoid, but I guess I didn’t think that there was as much of a sugar culture here in Ireland… until I thought more about it.
When i think about it, pretty much every time I’ve sat down at a café for lunch here at home, (which is for some reason always later than normal lunch time, around 3pm) I have witnessed many of those around me sipping on sugary coffees and indulging in very large slices of cake. I guess Im forgetting the culture of the Irish to sit down and have an early evening coffee or tea break, and for the most part these beverages are sweetened with one to two tablespoons of sugar, and then of course it would be ludicrous to have tea without having a slice of something sweet, or at least a biscuit. Heck most places give you a little biscuit on the side when your order a coffee or tea. I too was guilty of this habit in the past. I remember from childhood to my teenage years it was just “normal” to make a cup of tea for everyone and have a slice of madeira cake or a chocolate bun or muffin every single day. And thats where the problem stems mainly from, the fact that it is part of the culture and so its being consumed every single day.
Not to mention the other hidden sugars in things people consider healthy for them like cereal, and flavoured yoghurts, condiments and sauces for dinners like store bought tomato sauce. All this on top of the copious amounts of tea we Irish drink, most usually sweetened with one to two teaspoons of sugar at each go, it starts to add up. I can see how yes indeed we may be in fact consuming far more sugar than we even realise.
I personally have been aware of the sugar problem for a few years now and how it was effecting my health, so I pretty much eliminated refined sugars from the diet about five years ago. I turned to making desserts and sweet treats using dates, and agave syrup and honey. While these can also still be culprits of adding too much sugar to the system, it allowed my tastes buds to adjust to things with a lot less sugar. Things I find very sweet now, others may think are not even close to being sweet enough, but thats only because over time, Ive allowed my palate to adapt. I eat plain yoghurt instead of sweetened, I never have sugar in my tea or coffee, I sweetened porridge with stevia or rice syrup and I make “sweets” from dates and other unrefined sugars to avoid having too much in my diet. I’ve even decided to go a step further this year and try to go without any kinds of sugars (except fruits) for most of the week, only occasionally having any dessert. Its not an easy thing to do, as believe me I know, sugar is incredibly addictive, but the truth is, is that we have to make the change because being a sugar culture is killing us! It makes our bodies highly acidic which is perfect breeding ground for diseases like cancer and diabetes, infections, and candida. We have to start to choose a more alkaline diet to nourish our bodies (which would be packed mostly full of vegetables)! In order to maintain the proper PH of our body 80percent of our diet should be alkaline and only 20 percent acidic. Which means 80 percent of what we eat should be coming from fruit and vegetables and only 20 percent from animal products, legumes, grains, teas, coffees and alcohol (if you’d even include the last 3 at all). Disease cannot exist in a properly alkalised body. Full stop.
We need to start ditching the sugar and other acidic food stuffs and turn more to our plant friends.. fruits and veggies for our nutrition.
While there is also a debate about whether fruits contain too much sugar, this is not the same as added refined sugar. The sugar you consume from eating an apple as opposed to a piece of cake react very differently in your body. Fruit is alkalising, cake is acidic. Don’t be afraid to eat fruit. Its natures dessert!
Here are 5 tips to ditching the sugar this year
- Start by weening off any sugar you add yourself to teas, coffees, porridge or other things you make at home. If you take two teaspoons of sugar in something, cut gradually down to one, and then to none. Or replace with something that won’t effect your insulin levels like sugar does, stevia is a great substitute. You can find this at local health stores.
- Read the labels of the food your buying in the shop. If sugar, maltodextrin, fructose or dextrose is close to the top of the ingredient list you can be sure the product is a sugar bomb. Try to choose things that have no sugar in them. Buy plain yoghurt instead of sweetened stuff and the sweeten yourself at home with a little organic honey or stevia. At least you can then monitor how much is going in.
- Try baking your favourite cookies or cakes using alternative sweeteners like rice syrup, or coconut palm sugar or even organic honey instead of refined sugar. I find dates are a wonderful way to sweeten things when you’re trying to adjust to a less sugar lifestyle.
- When your out at a café or restaurant, skip dessert, or what I do is I carry a fruit and nut bar, or a naked bar, or a healthy sweet in my bag and then have that with my tea or coffee. No one has said anything to me yet.
- Choose fruit. Start falling in love with fruit. Its natures most perfect food, packed full of nutrients and vitamins its designed to make you fell good, designed to give you healthy. If you’re heading to the movies, or on a car trip, pick up a pack of fresh strawberries or chopped mangos and chow down on them instead of store bought sweets. I also make my own bliss balls from dates when I go to the movies to avoid buying peanut M&Ms. This also saves money because cinemas way overcharge for these things! Healthy and rich ! Yes!
These are just a few simple tips to get your started. Of course theres so many more things to help you along a refined sugar free path, but the most important thing is to start with baby steps. a little bit at a time because the worst thing is to become overwhelmed as usually the first thing you’ll turn to is sweets to make you feel better about being overwhelmed. Believe me I know! Also have a look through my site for recipes of desserts that are all made without any refined sugars (like the one in the picture above), these desserts have helped me through the hard times haha! I also recommend getting Sarah Wilsons book “I quit sugar” . Its a great foundation to ease you into the sugar free world and its full of lovely naturally sweetened recipes! The Lemon raspberry slices I made in the pictures above were adapted from a recipe of hers!
Any questions please comment below.