These days, keeping your immune system as healthy as possible is essential, and even life saving. There are many factors that can support and aid in the maintenance of healthy immunity, and lowering the amount of refined sugar in your diet is considered crucial. So before you eat one more piece of candy to satisfy your sweet tooth, read these easy tips on how to increase your immunity by replacing refined sugar with healthy sweets and natural sweeteners, and focusing on a plant based vegetarian or vegan diet.
Types of sugar and how they affect your health
There are two main forms of sugar. First there is glucose, which is a natural type of sugar found in fruits, vegetables and other complex carbohydrates. Then there is sucrose, which is a refined, artificial type of sugar. Sucrose threatens our health because it requires increased insulin production when blood sugar levels spike, as insulin aids in storing the sugar for later. If we consume too much refined sugar, it can negatively affect our immune system, reduce the performance of our white blood cells, increase inflammation, cause weight gain, and increase the risk of developing diabetes and other diseases.
How much sugar is okay and how much is too much?
The American heart foundation recommends a maximum daily intake of 20-40 grams of sugar a day, and research is indicating that consuming over 75 grams can negatively impact the body’s immune system. There are 75 grams of sugar in 2 cans of generic soda pop and the average American consumes about 150 pounds of sugar a year! Why not satisfy your sweet tooth with healthy sweets and natural sweeteners that are immune boosting and full of vitamins and minerals instead?
So, if you’re feeling a sugar craving coming on, what should you reach for?
Fruit is an excellent source of healthy sugar that can easily curb sugar cravings. Two servings of fruit is recommended by most doctors, because just like vegetables, there are the extra bonuses of fiber, nutrients and minerals in fruit. If you use refined sugar or artificial sweeteners in your coffee or tea, an easy switch to a natural sweetener is an excellent move. Let's talk about the wonderful plant based sweets that are both healthful and delicious.
Honey is well known for it's soothing effect on sore throats. It is full of antioxidants that help your body's cells fight free radicals, and has antibacterial, antifungal, and antiseptic properties. Raw honey has been shown to have immune boosting and anticancer effects.
Coconut sugar has a lower glycemic index than white sugar, and it does not create a spike in insulin like white sugar. It contains inulin, a type of dietary fiber that helps to balance the blood sugar and create a healthy gut. Coconut sugar contains vitamin C, antioxidants, electrolytes that help regulate the water content of the body, and minerals that strengthen the bones.
Yacon is a vegetable native to Peru, cultivated for its roots like potatoes and yams. Yacon has a sweet taste but is low in natural sugars, and has been traditionally used by people suffering from high blood sugar, obesity and digestive problems. It is rich in antioxidants and potassium.
Monk fruit, or luo han guo is grown in Southeast Asia. It is up to 250 times sweeter than refined sugar, and gets its sweetness from special antioxidants. Monk fruit promotes weight loss because it has no calories, carbs or fats. It is safe for people with diabetes and has anti inflammatory properties.
Maple syrup has a high concentration of vitamins and minerals. Research has found that maple syrup has anti oxidants and anti inflammatory properties. However, while it is a much healthier sweetener than refined sugar, maple syrup has a higher glycemic index than some other natural sweeteners, so it's best to use it sparingly. But who doesn't love it on hot buckwheat pancakes every once in a while!
Date fruit has been shown by research to have a low glycemic impact. Dates are a rich source of antioxidants, fiber, minerals and B-complex vitamins. Studies have shown that dates promote the health of the heart, bones and digestion. Dates promote brain health, and what a great energy booster they are!
But switching to healthy sweets is just the first step!
In addition to cutting out refined sugar, we must maintain a regular exercise regimen, and incorporate lots of plant based vegetarian or vegan whole foods into our diets. This will give us vitality and help us stay safer from diseases, viruses and infections. Some important immune boosting foods to include in our diets are coconut, garlic, turmeric, ginger, lemon and other citrus, tomato, cabbage, carrot, medicinal mushrooms, black currants, elderberry, echinacea, green tea, licorice, olive leaf, pau d’arco, St John’s wort, oregano, sage, basil, fennel, lemon balm, peppermint, rosemary, dandelion, astragalus, ginseng, walnuts, flax, pomegranate, colloidal silver, seaweed, and spirulina.
Let us not forget the famous words of Hippocrates, the father of western medicine, who said, "Let food be your medicine, and let medicine be your food." After all, eating well and exercising will help you feel both physically and mentally prepared for whatever comes your way!