Sugar Ins and Outs

Kara Bauer Health Guide
  • Sugar is a confusing topic for most. On the one hand, we are all in agreement that we should reduce our sugar consumption. However, many don’t realize just how difficult that is given the amount of hidden sugar inside our everyday foods. Often times we think that if we replace the sugar in our coffee or tea with an artificial “non-sugar”, we’ll be rewarded with better health. However, these chemical sweeteners can be even more detrimental then sugar itself, confusing our body’s systems, and leading to an array of health problems. Another confusing topic is fructose, which has many health benefits when consumed in the form of fresh fruits, but is far from healthy when consumed in excess as an additive and especially in the form of high fructose corn syrup.

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    To help clarify the confusion, let me first explain the effects of our increased sugar consumption, the danger related to artificial sweeteners, some misconceptions about natural sugars, and where to turn to satisfy those sweet cravings without sacrificing your health.

     

    The first sugar refinery in the United States was built in the late 1600s, with sugar becoming a major industry in the 1800s. Very quickly sugar consumption per person reached approximately 4lbs per year. Now, almost four centuries later, average individual consumption is 180lbs per year![1] The Standard American Diet (SAD) is packed with sugar, especially in the form of High Fructose Corn Syrup found in soda, fast food and processed foods. Although the sugars (glucose) found in complex carbohydrates provide energy for the body, simple sugar prompts an addictive response leading to a roller coaster ride of blood sugar ups and downs as a result of the hidden sugar content in the foods consumed on a daily basis. Fructose, in the form of HFCS does not get broken down and is absorbed immediately, therefore going straight to the liver. It also elevates uric acid, contributing to chronic inflammation, which is at the route of most disease. Hypoglycemia, diabetes, insulin resistance, obesity and a host of other diseases are all related to the effects of the sugar habit that hopefully has reached its peak or will very soon.[1]

      

    In an attempt to cut back on sugar, many people feel that they are improving their health by replacing sugar with artificial sweeteners. However, the issue with these alternatives is that they are chemical substances with a host of potential dangers for the body and your health. For example sucralose contains organchlorines and there hasn’t been any way to determine yet exactly how much of that chlorine, which is a carcinogen, gets absorbed into the body. Others have been shown to be toxic for the brain, as they contain aspartame, which may lead to brain tumors and other neurological problems. And still others contain saccharin, which has been connected to bladder cancer in animal studies. Although the long-term effects of these sweeteners are still being studied, many countries have already banned their use based on what we’ve learned thus far.[2] Research has also shown that contradictory to beliefs that zero-calorie sweeteners will help you lose weight, exactly the opposite seems to be happening. Artificial sweeteners instigate hunger and appetite cravings due to their lack of calories/energy causing most people to eat more then they would with ordinary sugar.  They also trick the body into secreting insulin, which increases sweet cravings when no sugar is actually found.[3]

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    Natural sugar in the form of raw honey or stevia are your best options when it comes to natural sweeteners, although there aren’t any sweeteners that should be consumed in excess. Unprocessed pure honey (not what you typically find on supermarket shelves) is packed with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, enzymes and amino acids.[4] Stevia, an herb native to South America, is 300% sweetener then sugar and doesn’t negatively impact blood sugar making it ideal for sweetening just about anything.[5] However, be wary of any product that isn’t pure, raw and organic. For example, agave nectar, which received a lot of health praise, is actually higher in fructose than HFCS. It is also generally processed at extremely high temperatures, which kill off its nutritional properties. If you’re going to consume agave nectar, make sure it’s organic (produced without pesticides and herbicides) and raw. Another great new sweetener to consider is coconut palm sugar, which has become one of the sweeteners of choice for raw food enthusiasts. Above all, just remember to keep your sugar consumption to a minimal overall to support good health.

     

    [1] Mercola, J. (2010, April 20). "This addictive commonly used food feeds cancer cells, triggers weight gain, and promotes premature aging." Retrieved from http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2010/04/20/sugar-dangers.aspx

     

    [2] http://www.edinformatics.com/math_science/science_of_cooking/artificial_sweeteners.htm

     

    [3] Moritz, A. (2008, March 6). "Diet sweeteners can make you sick and fat." Retrieved from http://www.naturalnews.com/022785.html

     

    [4] http://www.benefits-of-honey.com/antioxidant.html

     

    [5] http://www.stevia.com/Stevia_Article/Frequently_asked_questions_FAQ/2269

Published On: October 16, 2012