The Not-So-Sweet truth about sugar
It’s time again for my annual article about “Sugar Season”!
It started with Halloween: Overindulging in cheap candy just because it was everywhere in the stores. How many bags did you buy and how many “Trick or Treaters” did you actually get? Next, we had Thanksgiving where most of the sugar is coming from the processed carbohydrates (potatoes and stuffing, and don’t forget the pumpkin pie). Christmas is coming with more candy and sweets. Ending with a great finale of New Years with most of the sugar coming from alcohol. No wonder you are more likely to get sick this time of year!
Today we are talking about the not-so-sweet facts about Sugar and Artificial Sweeteners. As we go into the holidays where cookies and candy are “tradition”, we need to understand this fact: Our bodies (and our brains) don’t care what day of the year it is or what season it is.
Sugar is toxic…even lethal because of how inflammatory it is in our bodies and brains and our immune systems. Excessive sugar intake has been linked to Diabetes, Alzheimer’s and other degenerative cognitive conditions (because it increases erratic brain cell firing), heart disease, and cancer.
What Does Sugar Do To The Body?
Let’s look at some basic numbers first: One teaspoon of sugar equals 4 grams of sugar. The latest research shows Americans are consuming 17 teaspoons of sugar a day! Healthier levels are between 6-9 teaspoons.
Sugar is over 99% pure calories with no vitamins, minerals, fats, or proteins – just simple carbohydrates which spike blood sugar, followed by an insulin response, and subsequent sugar crash. A severe crash can even result in an anxiety attack – usually on Monday morning after a very sugar-ladened weekend.
Sugar in processed foods like flour, bread, cookies, candy, cake, muffins, crackers, chips, energy drinks, sodas, etc., enters the bloodstream very quickly, wreaking havoc on our blood sugar level – first pushing it sky-high – causing excitability, nervous tension and hyperactivity, then dropping it extremely low causing fatigue, weariness, agitation, and exhaustion.
Eating too much sugar can damage your health and threaten your life in a number of ways:
1. Leads to Type 2 Diabetes, skin ulcerations, and nerve damage.
2. Can cause elevated cholesterol, high triglycerides, vascular disease and heart disease, hypertension, and stroke.
3. Is toxic to the liver and can lead to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
4. Promotes chronic inflammation - Sugar reduces how white blood cells perform and increases inflammation. In fact, obese people have fewer white blood cells with a reduced capability to fight infection.
5. Suppresses the immune system - Interferes with Magnesium and Vitamin D absorption needed for your immune system.
Sorry – Sugar is Sugar - even if disguised behind the labels of “organic”, “cane”, “raw”, or “unprocessed” it doesn’t change the insulin response in your body when you eat it. Whether it comes from a beehive, a maple tree, or any other natural source, sugar is sugar.
How The Food Industry Got You Addicted-
For those of you who have attempted to go cold turkey on processed sugar, you know sugar addiction is real! Much like cocaine, alcohol, and nicotine, a diet loaded with sugar can generate excessive reward signals in the brain which can override one’s self-control and lead to addiction.
It started in the 1970s. A mathematician by the name of Howard Moskowitz discovered that the perfect combination of sugar, salt, and fat would optimize the human brain’s pleasure experience. He coined it the “bliss point” – a point in an area deep in the brain, called the nucleus accumbens, which is associated with motivation and pleasure. The perfect food with the perfect combination of sugar, salt, and fat triggers this bliss point. It is the same part of the brain which is activated by cocaine, methamphetamines, nicotine, and morphine! In other words, the job of food designers is to create foods which hook your brain.
The good news is: Within several days of eliminating sugar many amazing things begin to happen in your body. Your hormones begin to regulate – your focus is better – your sleep is better. Your hunger and satiety signals normalize. You begin to enjoy the taste of real unprocessed foods. Fruit tastes sweeter and vegetables more flavorful.
What Are The Different Forms Of Sugar?
Corn Syrup – Look for it on the labels of your processed foods such as bread, frozen pizzas, macaroni and cheese, cereal bars, cocktail peanuts, tonic water, salad dressing, apple sauce, ketchup, etc.
Fructose - The carbohydrate form in fruit. If you eat the whole fruit, the insulin response will be more moderate because of the fiber and water content in most fruit. However, fruit must be processed in the liver where excess carbohydrates get more easily converted into triglycerides which is fat. So, the sugar from fruit converts into fat quicker. And Agave has the highest amount of fructose.
Fruit Juice is just sugar water, and Dried Fruit (raisins) is just concentrated sugar. A quarter cup of raisins has 23.5 grams of sugar. I tell my folks not to ingest more than 5 grams of sugar per meal or eating event. That means you can have less than one tablespoon of raisins.
Fructose also messes with the hormones ghrelin and leptin which regulate your appetite and keeps you always hungry, which promotes overeating and fat storage. If you eat your dinner just to get to dessert, and eat dessert immediately after finishing a healthy meal, you have hormonal issues.
High-fructose corn syrup is found in nearly all processed foods and beverages - in soda, condiments, desserts, applesauce, baby food, etc. The average American consumes more than 40 pounds of high-fructose corn syrup per year. And worse yet, it causes nonalcoholic fatty liver – buildup of visceral fat, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and Alzheimer’s.
The new research demonstrates consuming excess fructose can actually change the expression of hundreds of genes in your DNA, including those which may lead to a greater risk toward Diabetes, and brain disorders such as Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Alzheimer’s disease.
Foods which convert to Sugar – Potatoes and grains (breads, pastas, crackers, chips, etc.).
These are foreign foods which your body recognizes as invaders, cannot process, and sends antibodies to attack. Do you get headaches? Migraines? Look at what artificial sweeteners may do to your body:
Aspartame – (Equal, NutraSweet – Blue packets) Impairs memory performance and increases oxidative stress in the brain.
Sucralose (Splenda – Yellow packets) Was discovered during research on insecticide compounds and is carcinogenic. Look out for it in energy or protein bars.
Saccharin (Sweet 'N Low – Pink Packets) Linked to Bladder Cancer. Reactions can include: Headaches, Breathing difficulties, Diarrhea, and Skin problems.
Sugar Alcohols (Erythritol, Xylitol, Maltitol, Mannitol, Sorbitol and other substances which end in “itol”) Be aware of the digestive issues: Bloating, flatulence, stomach pain, and severe diarrhea.
Best Healthiest Sugar Substitutes or Sweeteners
1. Maple syrup, coconut sugar, and organic raw honey – keep amounts low.
2. Unprocessed Stevia – Does not impact blood sugar levels. Use only a little.
3. Monk Fruit – Use only a little.
Trust me: You can survive the holiday season with Joy in your Heart – instead of sugar!