I am constantly trying to improve my health, so one of the steps I had been wanting to take for a long time was to cut refined sugar out of my diet completely. Don’t get me wrong I love sugar, and I can not live without chocolate, but thankfully I don’t need to eat refined sugar in order to satisfy my cravings. There are many guilt free alternatives and today I want to share how I was able to stop my sugar addiction. Yes, addiction! Sugar is highly addictive, just like drugs it causes the release of dopamine in the reward center of the brain.
I stopped all the refined sugar and cane sugar but continued to eat fruits and sugar substitutes such as dates and maple syrup. I always asked myself if sugar was actually THAT bad for us, ninety days after I stopped sugar I had my answer: I have always had huge issues with my period to the point that I would faint or throw up. After cutting out sugar for three months I had no more cramps, I did not feel my period at all. This was the first time in my life that I felt no pain at all, I was a little bloated but there was no cramps. I read many stories on the internet about women having the same results from a refined sugar free diet but it sounded too easy to be true. Cutting out one product in order to fix a problem I have been struggling with for many years. This has really motivated me to keep up my sugar free diet and I will never go back, lying in bed without being able to do anything for a whole week every single month is not something I ever want to deal with again.
I have since managed to stay sugar free and would like to share my successful steps to living a life without refined sugar with you in this post.
I had a look at alternatives, making sure my body knows it won’t be missing out.
Whenever I start a challenge I want to start with a positive attitude, instead of ‘oh no I will be missing out of so many amazing desserts’ I wanted to start by being excited about all the new dishes I will be able to try from now on, adding new and exciting flavours to my diet. First I went to restaurants that offer sugar free deserts so I knew that there was alternatives for the times I really craved sugar.
In Dubai there is Omnia gourmet and Omnia by Silvena, they both have amazing raw vegan, sugar free desserts. My favourites are the raspberry cheese cake and the raw nutella sheikha. (picture on the left) Trust me these desserts are worth driving to Dubai for and you can get their healthy nutella takeaway, it will last up to a week in the fridge. Bestro in Galleria Lafayette also has delicious deserts, the menu changes daily, two of my favourites are their chocolate fondue and chocolate ice cream. (picture on the right)
In Abu Dhabi ‘the raw place’ has two locations in Al Raha and WTC mall, they offer cheesecakes and even a raw vegan tiramisu and brownies. Nolu’s have recently started to sell raw, sugar free snacks like their protein bites. The organic supermarket mawasim in Mushrif offers frozen, sugar and dairy free cakes by Muncherie. At freedom pizza you can order Coco yogo’s sugar-free cheesecake with your vegan cheese and sausage pizza. Coco yogo also sell their products in pop up markets in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. As you can see there are quite a few options for sugar free desserts so you do not have to miss out. FHTT also offers workshops on raw vegan food where you can learn how to make delicious, sugar free desserts.
I substituted all normal sugar at my home with my preferred sweeteners.
I have found that becoming more aware of my sugar consumption also decreases my use of substitutes, however it is good to be prepared for cravings and to have different alternatives on hand. I don’t think that all the sugar alternatives are healthy, but they are surely healthier than refined white sugar. However don’t throw out the sugar you have at home, refined sugar makes amazing body scrubs and can also be used to make kombucha or water kefir.
Xylitol is made from plant fibers such as birch or corn, it also naturally occurs in our bodies. The special thing about xylitol is that it does not raise glucose levels, making it a good alternative for diabetics and women with PCOS. It also does not harm the teeth, so xylitol is used as a main ingredient in many toothpastes and mouth washs. The reason for this is that it kills cavity-forming bacteria by almost 75% and also increases saliva flow creating an alkaline environment. I use xylitol instead of white sugar in Chai tea for my guests and also use it when I bake. I have found small amounts of xylit for sale at Organics food and cafe, Spinneys and also Mawasim, but I order mine from iHerb as I use larger amounts and try to avoid lots of packaging. They also sell xylitol lollipops. Get 10% off your whole order with iherb. Coupon Code: RDD731 For more information about iherb please have a look at the end of the post.
Erythritol is very similar to xylitol, they are both sugar alcohols (unlike their name would indicate they contain no alcohol at all). Erythritol is a little sweeter than xylit so therefore I use less of it when I substitute refined sugar in recipes. The main difference is that erythritol is made from corn. Some people’s bodies don’t do well with xylitol making erythritol a great alternative. I have not seen erhytritol for sale anywhere and I have also bought mine online.
Tip for all pet owners: Xylitol and Erythritol are deadly to dogs and cats. They are also used in peanut butter and chewing gums so make sure to keep your loved pets safe.
Coconut blossom sugar has become a very popular sweetener recently especially amongst the paleo movement, although it has more of a caramel taste compared to normal sugar, the taste if probably the closest to raw cane sugar. I personally do not use coconut blossom sugar a lot as I prefer the taste of dates or maple syrup in my desserts. Coconut blossom sugar is available at the Organics food and cafe and sometimes at Geant.
Dates might just be one of the cheapest and easiest alternatives if you live in the UAE, dates are available everywhere. I use dates in my smoothies and also when I make raw cakes and desserts. I also use dehydrated and powdered dates as a substitute for brown sugar in cakes and other baked goods. I have seen ready packed date sugar at Spinneys and it is also available online. Dates are available in every supermarket and you can find organic dates at Organics food and cafe (20% off every 3rd Saturday of the month) and Mawasim organic supermarket in Mushrif. Normal, local dates are also sold at a reasonable price at the Union Co-op.
Maple Syrup is my favourite sugar substitute when it comes to making no bake cakes. It does contain vitamins, minerals and antioxidants but still contains a percentage of fructose. The lighter maple syrup also known as Grade A is a great alternative to pancake syrup which is usually a mix of corn syrup and sugar. Maple syrup is available at most supermarkets and you can get larger amounts at Organics food and cafe.
Stevia leaves are the only fully natural sweetener, but there is also a processed version derived from plants. Stevia leaves are sold at Zoom in JLT, Dubai. Stevia extract liquid and powder are both available at most of the big supermarkets, at Organics food and cafe and also at Mawasim in Mushrif.
Raw honey is another fully natural sweetener which contains vitamins and minerals. Honey is the only food that does not have an expiry date and it is also commonly to treat colds and other illnesses.
I substituted all my candy with healthy snacks. Sometimes I just feel like snacking on something so I always make sure that I have enough healthy alternatives at home. My favourite are freeze dried fruits: berries, peaches, mangos, they are available at Lulu but I order mine online as they turn out cheaper. I have recently fallen in love with these freeze dried coconut creams that are also completely free of added sugar.
Kale chips are now available at most of the large supermarket chains and of course at the organic markets. They taste delicious and are so much healthier than real chips. I also love snacking on nuts and seeds, especially brazil nuts and sunflower seeds.
There is also candy which is only sweetened with xylitol, which promotes tooth health.
I marked all the sugary items in my kitchen. I bought red stickers from a stationary store and went through my fridge and pantry marking every single product that had refined sugar in the ingredient list. This gave me the awareness of how much sugar I am actually consuming. Sugar is hidden in almost everything, there is over 60 different words for sugar. There are so many products where you would never suspect sugar so it is important to read all the ingredients. Yogurts, fruit juices, ketchup, pasta sauces and salad dressings.
Why you may feel sick when you stop eating refined sugar. Cutting refined, industrial sugar out of your diet is equal to detoxing. You may get headaches, feel weak or dizzy, or have some pimple outbreaks. To understand why you feel sick you need to understand what happens inside of your body while it is cleansing itself. First of all you are getting rid of all the toxins, old bacteria and even viruses, this may take up to a week. After your body got rid of the toxins you will immediately start feeling better. Now on the other hand if you revert back to sugar in this time your body stops the cleansing and you will feel better immediately, sadly not on the long run. Once your body got rid of all the toxins you may experience weight loss, more energy, clear skin and you will greatly reduce your risk of getting diabetes or cancer.
What you can do to help your body detox faster is to drink lots of water to flush the kidneys, drink smoothies and wheat grass shots for extra minerals and you can also do an enema rinse of the colon.
Websites and businesses I have mentioned in this blogpost:
Full list of synonyms for sugar. Omnia Gourmet/by Silvena in Dubai. Bestro in Dubai Mall. The Raw Place in Abu Dhabi. Organic supermarket Mawasim. Freedom Pizza in Khalidiya. Raw food workshops in Abu Dhabi.
Alternatives I decided not to use, these are just my personal preferences:
Agave syrup is made from the leaves of the agave plant and is very sweet, but it has a higher fructose content than high fructose corn syrup and therefore raises blood sugar levels. Aspartame is a sweetener with a bad reputation like no other. I have decided against using it in my diet as there are so many controversial studies about aspartame and I rather not put myself at risk. Blackstrap molasses are a byproduct of the sugar cane refining process. It has all the nutrients which are extracted from sugar, but also contains very high fructose levels.
*when I mention sugar free in this post I mean refined sugar free, not the healthier alternatives.
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