Why the sudden increase in negative attention about sugar? We have been enjoying it, even craving it, for years with no problems, right? Who doesn’t have fond memories of their childhood eating bowls of Fruit Loops, Frosted Flakes and Lucky Charms? And drinking the amazing sugar milk at the end?!?! As with so much these days, the more we learn, the more we realize that some of our choices have not been so great in the long run. Back in the early 1900’s, who knew cigarettes caused long cancer? Or remember when cars didn’t even have seatbelts and toddlers stood behind the driver’s shoulder? What were we thinking? Thank goodness for research and smart people! So it is with sugar. Now I am no doctor but you don’t have to look far to see that sugar is one of the worst things you can put in your body. I know…that is definitely not what you are wanting to hear! You were hoping this would be a post about how new research has found that sugar is amazing for you. If only! I would be pouring myself a big bowl of Fruit Loops right now!
Here’s the “skinny” on sugar. It is a drug with life-threatening side effects. Not only does it just make us fat, it is known to feed cancer cells, create fat around our organs, increase the risk of heart disease, cancer and diabetes. It’s addictive both physically and emotionally and countless studies have shown it has negative effects on the brain. Sugar produces dopamine which is a happy, feel-good chemical. If you quit eating it, eventually your brain will start to produce it on its own so you won't crave it. Our bodies were designed to handle about 1-2 teaspoons of sugar (natural ones!) at a time.
Next time you are reading labels, look at how much you are getting at one time. I was recently looking for some syrup with the least amount of sugar and found that most of them had 53 grams in 1 TABLESPOON. 1 teaspoon of table sugar is equal to approximately 4 grams. So if you are exceeding the 1-2 teaspoons, what happens to the excess sugar? It gets quickly converted to fat and stored, and if you have have consumed a lot more, your body produce insulin to get rid of the excess out of the bloodstream. When this happens over and over, the risk of diabetes goes wayyyyy up.
Another side effect is it causes wrinkles and premature aging. It works from the inside out so million dollar creams won’t work! Here's a crazy (and scary) trend: in the 1700's- the average person consumed 4 pounds of sugar a year, in the 1800's- 18 pounds a year, in the 1900's- 90 pounds a year, 2012- more than 50% of all Americans consume 1/2 pound A DAY or 180 pounds a year. In 1890, 3 out of 100,000 Americans had diabetes. in 2012, almost 8000 out of 100,000 do. What???? That is un.real. And the rate in children is sky-rocketing.
Remember the cute little girl at the top of the post? Think about how many tv commercials are targeting young kids every day. Most every food that is advertised has a high sugar level. And marketing geniuses know just who to win over. Ever noticed how healthy food isn't advertised? As mentioned above, sugar can affect your brain. It causes a rush of endorphins so you feel great, then when they wear off, you not only crash but you crave more. See the correlation to cocaine? In a well-publicized study, rats who had been given cocaine for a while, then were given a choice of cocaine and sugar, picked sugar every time. Sugar (specifically glucose) doesn't have to be broken down before it enters the bloodstream so it provides cells wth a rapid surge.
There are the obvious sugar sources like cakes and cookies and soda. But do you know where else it hides? Check some of these labels...ketchup, soup, yogurt and bread. Ugh…why is bread so good but so bad??? Is all sugar bad? No, we need sugar to convert to energy but look for natural sources like fruits and veggies. And a big plus is they also have TONS of other benefits!
What can you use as a sweetener? There are a few good substitutes. I use Xylitol for baking and Stevia for drinks. Both work great and taste like sugar. (Caution about Xylitol. IT IS TOXIC TO DOGS! I speak from experience. If your dog ingests even a tiny amount, get him to the vet immediately!)
Here’s a little info about these sweeteners: Stevia is an extremely sweet herb derived from the leaf of the South American stevia plant, which is completely safe (in its natural form). Green stevia is the whole plant, while white stevia is processed. 100% green stevia in its natural state is what you want.
Xylitol is a sweetener known as a “sugar alcohol”. Sugar alcohols aren’t sugars or alcohols − they are carbohydrates (They just have structures that happen to resemble sugar and alcohol). Xylitol comes from corn or birch cellulose. Unlike sugar, Xylitol is slowly absorbed, does not cause a rapid blood sugar increase, and does not require an immediate insulin response from the body to be metabolized. Many studies have shown that it actually helps prevent dental cavities, ear infections, and some studies suggest that it helps prevent gum disease, dental cavities and ear infections because Xylitol is anti-bacterial. However, Xylitol does have some potential health side effects (most notably gastrointestinal issues so if you notice stomach issues, you might want to stop!)
Compare this... sugar has no nutritional value! it causes insulin retention, it's tough on your liver, it's stored as fat, it causes surges of energy and sluggishness, when you're not on an energy high it makes you cranky, causes bloating, weight gain, makes you puffy, causes an unregulated blood sugar level, it's an acne trigger, a hormones disruptor (link to polycystic ovarian syndrome), there's a lot of evidence linking cancer and sugar (google for more info on that!)
....with this: better concentration, sustained energy, weight loss, clearer skin, improved sleep, better moods, pretty much all the opposites of the list above! Sugar also makes you age! Think about all the time and money you spend trying to erase the years, soften the wrinkles, tighten the skin. Just cut out the sugar. The reason it's bad for your skin is because it binds to amino acids that form compounds, causing you to age. It also affects your joints, organs and tissues and accelerates lots of diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and Alzheimers, to name a few. AND BEWARE of fructose...it causes the process to go at an even faster rate! There is so much to write about sugar but I’ll screech to a halt! Bottom line is pay attention to your sugar intake and limit it!