Hungry Haley

it's more than food

The Sugar Experiment: Conclusion

Haley Hansen1 Comment

I know, I know, I'm a tad bit late, but you guys know I'm a student and, unfortunately, this blog comes in second place to school. 

Anyway, I wanted to end my Sugar Experiment with a big ol' wrap-up post sharing my observations and whatnot. Let's get started! 

First of all, I'd like to reinforce how important my sweet-tooth is to me. I do NOT ignore it, so this experiment was a challenge at first. When I found myself craving some dessert at night, I'd reach for my usual - a Clif Bar (which I stick a few chocolate chips into and pop in the microwave) - but then turn it over and find lots of added sugar. If you're eating one right now, don't be alarmed and don't spit it out. Of all the added sugars out there, Clif Bar knows to pick all organic ones like brown rice syrup and cane syrup, in reasonable amounts. I even forgot about added sugar in the healthiest of cereals on the shelf, and felt a little deprived when I couldn't crack open one of the four boxes I just bought. 

After a few days, I picked up the habit of checking the ingredient list on pretty much everything I ate. Thank goodness Larabars don't add anything unnecessary! I reached for those, date-coconut rolls, and fresh fruit when I felt a cravings for sugar coming on. 

Bottom line - sugar is really good at hiding. Well, maybe food manufacturers are just good at hiding it. 

I did notice a few other noteworthy things: 

  • my skin cleared up after a few days - I don't eat a ton of added sugar, so I was kind of surprised to think that maybe the small I do eat causes these breakouts. That, however, doesn't take into account the amount of stress I'm under, the amount of water I drink, and just my skin type in general. 
  • I felt FULL and SATISFIED after eating the sugar-heavy foods I normally eat, even in larger amounts. Dates, bananas, apples, strawberries, dried fruit, etc. - these are my go-to choices for snacks, especially late at night. Unlike ice cream and candy, these actually filled me up relatively quickly. Why? FIBER! 
  • my energy level wasn't drastically different than usual, as I don't eat much added sugar on a normal basis anyway, but I did notice that I felt more sustained throughout my day. Every once in a while, I feel myself hitting the mid-afternoon wall and I like to reach for Trader Joe's ginger chews or coconut milk caramels, which are basically nothing but sugar. While they do make my sweet tooth happy, they also make me feel tired and eventually crave even more processed sugar than I did before. 

And that's a big component of my main point here - the sugar in whole, plant-based foods is not identical to the heavily-processed ones because it comes woven with magical fiber. Fiber prevents blood sugar from spiking because it slows down digestion of sugar. Processed sugar found in candy, cake, cookies, etc. is stripped of its fiber content, which allows the body to digest it quickly while spiking blood sugar, as well. 

I did not gain any or lose any weight this, even though I probably ate more than usual. I also didn't track my calories, which may have been a good idea... I'll keep that in mind for next time. 

We demonize all forms of sugar and place crowns on high-fat, protein-rich animal products because we've identified certain forms of sugar that makes us fat and sick, yet we continue to generalize. Xia Yang, co-author of a new UCLA study analyzing the effects of fructose, finds that Americans get the majority of their fructose intake from high-fructose corn syrup, which is the secret, sickening ingredient in sodas, desserts, and other highly processed treats. Fructose is also found in fruits, but she reminds us that this fructose still reaps its high fiber content (among other essential nutrients), which helps slow the body's absorption of the sugar, as well as protect the brain and body. Read the entire article here.

I'm not a doctor or scientific researcher, but I can still recognize the different sugars and their effects on my body. This is no qualified medical study, but it still reinforces the need for distinction between processed sugar and natural sugar. The two do not deserve to be lumped together (unless of course it be by tastefully combining them into a dessert like a strawberries and cream cupcake, or banana bread) from a health standpoint because they perform differently in the body. 

Like I said in my original post, this is by no means the end of my sweet tooth - that guy is one of my best friends :) This is simply an experiment to help me better understand my body and its response to various foods. I still crave brownies and cookies and cake, occasionally, and I won't try to silence those cravings because I know that doing so will only lead to bigger, stronger cravings down the road. Now that I've researched the different types of sugar and have a better understanding of their effects in my body, as well as their prevalence in several varieties of even the healthiest processed foods, I'm more equipped to make better choices when those cravings do come. I'm more comfortable with defending whole foods/plant-based, high-carb/low-fat diets.

I encourage you to conduct your own version of a sugar experiment! Maybe you resist the little processed guy for a longer period of time and find results beyond my own - hey, we can collaborate! I've love to hear from you - share your opinion or your findings with sugar down below or send me an email. Follow me on Instagram if you don't already to see what a vegan college student - one who does not worry about the sugar in whole, plant-based foods - eats on a daily basis. 

Thank you for reading! See you soon :)