Sugar, the Devil in the Agave-Coated Dress
So I did it! Thank you to Katie for getting me to do a 10-day Sugar-Free Challenge and to those of you who joined in! If you joined in, comment and let us know how it went for you. If you are still sugar-free, give us an update, and if you have trialed sugar-free before (or are still doing it!), I would love to hear if it benefited you.
I have to say, the results were far and above what I expected. I am excited to share them with you today …
But first, I want to address my own definition of sugar-free, because I think this is important. A lot of what I see as “sugar-free” on the Internet is more specifically “refined sugar-free.” That is, many people define sugar-free as merely not containing processed white and brown sugars … but agave nectar is okay, and many times all other unrefined sweeteners are considered okay (maple syrup, sucanat, etc.). But, I’ve never been okay with this definition. To me, sugar-free means no added sweeteners. I concurred with Katie that stevia (particularly since used in such amazingly small amounts) does not have the same impact on blood sugar, but we agreed that all of the other “natural sweeteners” still have a strong impact on insulin.
So for ten days, I cut out all added sweeteners (natural or otherwise) with the exception of using a wee bit of stevia to make these sweet treats for my afternoon cravings.
Here were my goals:
- Cut my sweets cravings so that I’m no longer grabbing chocolate chips to snack on in the a.m. and no longer feel the need to have a sweet after every single meal.
- Go back to my old ways, where one or two cookies was enough to satiate (my sweet tooth had grown to want four or five of those homemade cookies in a day).
Here were the results for my goals:
- It took about three days for my chocolate cravings to vanish, which I was grateful for. I actually used to dislike chocolate, but over the past few years I acquired a taste for it, and now find I was going overboard with snacking on it. Not a single chocolate chip has crossed my lips, even two days after the challenge has ended!
- It took about seven days (yep, a full week) for my “sweets after every meal” craving to vanish, but it did. I admit, I think that one was helped along when I made those sugar-free treats. But, I still only had a few of those (they were small, fudge-piece sized) in the afternoon each day, and if I had a sweet after dinner, it was fruit.
Here were the ADDITIONAL results:
- Men, look away. For the past ten+ years I have had those dreaded monthly cramps – just for one day each month mind you, so I shouldn’t complain too much, but in the past few months they were getting worse and worse. They vanished. I kid you not. The day hit, the day where I expected to be in some miserable pain, and nada. Not only did the cramps stop getting worse, they completely disappeared. Never in a million years would I have thought that something as simple as sugar could be instigating them.
- Okay men, you can join in again. Here was another big surprise, my sleep improved. I slept more soundly and woke up more refreshed. This benefit kicked in around day 5, and lasted during the rest of the challenge. But when I had to return to testing some cookbooks and product reviews on day 11 (post challenge), even though I only used natural sweeteners (and not a ton of them), my sleep immediately became less restful. Yes, sugar-free benefits were gone just by adding “natural sweeteners” to my diet (sorry!)
- Finally, my workout performance improved. I was getting some dizzy spells when working out prior, but not during the sugar-free week. I was strong during my workouts, lifted quite a bit more, did more pull-ups and push-ups, and recovered faster. Though I upped my weights, my muscles weren’t as sore as they normally would be. Nice.
Now here is my dilemma. I really did get over the cravings, and would actually love to continue with sugar-free living … without being too overly-strict about it of course. I had a touch of incidental sweetener in a couple of meals … no big deal. The small amounts in a savory meal seemed to balance out, not causing any cravings or side effects to return. I’m also a believer in honey … but again, in small amounts. And, my test showed that fruit is no problem. My body actually loved fruit and I never once felt an insulin jolt from it.
But, with cookbook testing, product reviews, and recipe creation, I know I can’t yet go long term with that sugar-free challenge. Okay, I can, it is my choice, but I’m not ready. However, I will continue to reduce sugar’s hold, and who knows, maybe you will see a dairy-free AND sugar-free cookbook from me in the near future! I can at least guarantee that my next book/cookbook will be lower on the sugar-spectrum.
So what are your thoughts on sugar and sweeteners?