Sugar is the downfall to robust health for much of the world. It was for me, too, until I learned about sugar addiction and natural substitutes. I was repeatedly surprised by my negative physical reaction to natural sugar substitutes until I finally found a natural substitute that worked.
I'm a Sugar Addict
"Hi, I'm Lisa, and I'm a sugar addict." There's no sugar anonymous, but if there was, I'd be standing up in front of a room full of people talking about my continual battle with sugar addiction.
I grew up eating meals so I could have dessert. My favorite foods were loaded with sugar. I ate sugar to feel happy. When I didn't feel happy any more, you guessed it, I ate more sugar. Sound like anyone you know? Maybe you?
Then, I had my second child and began having a problem with my weight. My problem was it kept going up. I'd already learned sugar wasn't good for you, but I didn't want to have to give up a cherished friend. How would I be happy without a sugar fix?
Even though I limited my children's sugar intake, I didn't want to limit my own. I realized the hypocrisy of my actions. If too much sugar wasn't good for them, then it wasn't good for me. I just couldn't seem to control my sugar intake.
Finally, I had to admit, I had an addiction. If it wasn't good for me, I couldn't give it up or regulate my consumption, and I used the substance to elevate my mood, then I was addicted to, gasp, sugar!
OK, I'm Addicted. Now What Do I Do?
Admitting you have an addiction is step one. Doing something about the addiction is the next obvious step, but it's only obvious as a vague, "I need to do something about this."
I initially thought since I had admitted I was addicted to sugar that I'd be able to control my intake without giving up sugar. Nope. After almost a year of trying and failing to control my intake, and losing quite a bit of self respect along the way, I had to admit to myself that knowledge of the addiction didn't give me control of the addiction.
I'd been avoiding the obvious response to addictive behavior. If you want to give up an addictive substance, go cold turkey. Don't have it, go through withdrawal from it, and make sure you don't consume it in the future so you don't become re-addicted.
Going Cold Turkey - Again and Again
I gave up sugar and went though sugar withdrawal. Sugar withdrawal is a very real form of withdrawal for me with headaches, crabbiness, and strong cravings. It lasts for about three days as long as I have zero cane sugar during the withdrawal period. That means no white sugar, brown sugar, turbinado sugar, or any other form of sugar product derived from sugar cane.
I also learned I couldn't have corn syrup as it functioned like cane sugar in my body. How did I learn this? From eating something with corn syrup and realizing my sugar cravings went through the roof within 45 minutes to an hour.
Through trial and error, I learned I could eat real maple syrup without becoming addicted to it. Unfortunately, maple syrup isn't a low calorie food. Ditto for honey as long as it was real honey, and not corn syrup flavored to taste like honey. My body is a sugar detector.
Sugar Pushers and Sugar Love
Over and over, I would go through sugar withdrawal, then eat sugar without realizing it or give into temptation and have some. It was easy to go back to eating sugar because I was surrounded with sugar pushers. Repeatedly I'd hear, "You have to try some of this!" as someone held up a sweet treat under my nose.
Sugar pushers just want to give you some love, and don't want to be confronted, even passively with the fact that sugar is bad for you. Saying, "Sorry, I don't eat sugar," was typically followed by a reply of, "Well why not? Are you a diabetic?" Obviously, the only reason to give up sugar is if it's life threatening to eat it.
Continuing with the truth didn't help matters. "No, I just can't eat sugar. I'm addicted to it. If I eat it, then I just want more and more." Imagine the other person frowning and looking unhappy, and you're seeing a true to life picture.
I'd begun to feel like Alice down the rabbit hole as I explained. Of course, they already knew what I was explaining. They were addicted to sugar, too.
Sugar Replacement Misery
I was giving up one of my joys of living with nothing to replace it with that I could use long term. Artificial sweeteners were out. I didn't consider artificial sweeteners because of my conviction that natural is always better. So, I needed a natural sweetener that tasted sweet without any cloying aftertaste negative side effects and without the same addictive qualities as sugar.
I began trying any and every natural sugar replacement. I discovered that
- Xylitol has a cold feel. It's also poisonous for dogs.
- Maltitol and Sorbitol give me gastric distress.
- Erythritol causes me to have very scary tunnel vision episodes.
- I'm allergic to Stevia. It causes me to have extremely low blood pressure after I eat it.
- Honey, agave syrup, maple syrup, dates, coconut sugar, brown rice syrup, fruit purees, and all fruit jams are too high in calories.
- Yacon syrup doesn't taste sweet enough to use as a sugar replacement.
Nothing worked to replace sugar and also help me with weight loss and maintenance. Some of the touted natural replacements were worse than eating sugar. Tunnel vision and low blood pressure so bad I couldn't function can both be life threatening. One of my episodes of tunnel vision occurred while I was driving! Fortunately, I was in light traffic on a city road instead of on a freeway.
I learned after researching my reaction to stevia that anyone who has ragweed allergy is also potentially allergic to stevia. They are both in the same plant family which is very large and includes many common foods like melons. Fortunately, I haven't had reactions to melons, but I do know someone who reacts to them with swelling of the mouth and face. Another very scary allergic response. If you're allergic to ragweed, consume stevia with extreme caution.
Monk Fruit Powder: My Sugar Alternative
I'm stubborn, and I rarely give up when I have a challenge. Plus, I also tend to be a very positive person. I believe I'll eventually find a solution if I just keep trying. No matter how many failed attempts I have along the way, I keep plugging along while looking for the perfect answer.
Thank Goodness! I discovered monk fruit powder. Monk fruit or Luo Han Guo is an actual fruit grown in China. It's supposed to be 200-250 times the sweetness of table sugar at 80% mogrosides, the main chemical component that gives the powder sweetness. It tastes a little caramel flavored to me if I put it to my tongue. In actual usage, I use so little to sweeten that I can't really taste the monk fruit other than as sweetness.
And Good for You as Pure Monk Fruit Powder
Ironically, the same mogrosides that cause monk fruit to taste sweet are also an antioxidant with health benefits. Monk fruit doesn't affect blood sugar levels, so it's safe for diabetics to use.
Initially, the monk fruit powder I purchased to try turned out to be primarily erythritol with a tiny amount of monk fruit powder by weight. Since I couldn't use erythritol, I began the search for pure monk fruit powder.
I finally found a source of high grade monk fruit powder from nuts.com. Their monk fruit powder is the best I've found on the market, and I've tried every source I could find.
I've used monk fruit powder as my primary sweetener for over two years with no negative side effects. Since I'm the canary in the coal mine when it comes to side effects for natural sweeteners, it's passed the Lisa-safe test.
There are two potential downsides to monk fruit usage. Initially the price seems steep. A very small two ounce bag from nuts.com is $22 USD. It takes me at least six months to use two ounces. Considering I'm not just using it for myself, but I'm also making recipes for NHHM which I share, I believe a normal person would probably use about two ounces a year.
Find What Works for You
I guarantee what works for you for happiness and health won't be sugar. Maybe it won't be monk fruit powder either. However, one of the sugar substitutes on my list above, will probably be a good replacement ...if you try it. Go on give them a try.
If you're addicted to sugar, like I am, the answer isn't eating sugar day in day out. Finally, I've found a happy medium with sugar. I've discovered I can eat it occasionally, and I don't have addictive tendencies. I can have a piece of cake at a wedding or a dessert at a restaurant. However, I can't have sugar more than twice in a row in the quantity included in a normal dessert without becoming re-addicted. Specifically, I can have one dessert, then I can't have anything the next day.
Normally, since I'm also maintaining my weight at a healthy number, I try not to have a sugar-containing dessert more than once a week. If I've been eating alot of high calorie non-sugar foods, then I might skip several weeks.
Through trial and error, and believing I could find a solution, I've found peace with sugar without giving up happiness in the process.
How do you manage sugar? Do you have experience with sugar addiction and natural substitutes? What natural substitutes do you use? What are your reactions to natural substitutes? Do natural sugar substitutes help you maintain or lose weight? Please leave a comment and share.
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