19 Apr Sugar: Lick the Sweet Craving
This month as we focus on blood sugar and balancing it naturally, we have resurrected our article on Sugar and it’s effects on our health.
Sugar Article as Featured in Sangster’s Magazine
We’ve all become so accustomed to the taste of sweetness. How could you not? Its surrounds you just about everywhere you look, touch and taste. Oh, you may not see it as plain old white refined sugar crystals, but look a little closer, you’ll find it pretty much in any type of prepared or packaged food, from your ketchup bottle to your cereal and especially in soft drinks.
Some sources of sugar are quite obvious; candy, chocolate bars, junk food, baked goods, sodas and alcohol, but plenty of sugar lives where you might not expect it. Think about things like crackers, cereals, salad dressings, yogurt, ketchup, dips and all kinds of drinks.
Statistics Canada reports that in 2004 Canadians consumed about 26 teaspoons of sugar a day. That’s a mere 88 pounds worth of sweetness in 365 days. Not all of that comes straight out of the sugar bowl. The study reports less than one third of this sugar comes from vegetables and fruit while 35% comes from “other foods”.
The end result of the “SAD” diet (Standard American Diet), which consists mainly of highly processed foods is a diet high in processed sugar. Refined sweeteners found in prepared foods usually come with the names of sucrose, glucose, fructose, maltose, lactose, maltodextrin, high fructose corn syrup or anything ending in “ose”. These sweeteners have the same number of calories per gram as other more healthy carbohydrates, like whole grains, however these “empty calories” from sweetening agents lack any nutritional value as they do not contain fiber, vitamins or minerals.
The leading source of fructose in the SAD diet is a product known as high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). To avoid confusion, fructose in it’s natural state (as found in fruit) is perfectly healthy but once it’s processed and concentrated into HFCS it’s pretty much lethal. Let’s remember that our body is designed to consume foods from nature, where highly concentrated sugars are relatively scarce. Overconsumption of refined sugar leads not only to increased appetite, weight gain and stimulates the stress response, it also is associated with a host of health conditions including diabetes, hypoglycemia, obesity, poor immune function, increased risk of cancer and imbalanced cholesterol levels which can boost heart attack risk.
According to the Canadian Community Health Survey, 35% of all added sugar is found in soft drinks. If you think you’re being healthy when you pour yourself, your family or your children a glass of juice instead of a soda, think and look again. Check the labels for the sugar content and the source of the “all natural” sugar contained in the box or jar of potential poison. Even if the label says “all natural”, high fructose corn syrup is the number one ingredient in many of fruit juices on supermarket shelves.
Our love / hate relationship with sugar and of all things sweet warrants some inspection. This dependency leads us down the road of constant struggle. We become addicted to what we think is the nectar of life, sugar. Of course our addiction and cravings can be settled anywhere, anytime of any day. The object of our affection is absolutely everywhere. It’s on every shelf in any store that has edible goods. We have a little taste of the sweetness and we can’t help but want more. The sugary temptation not only tastes good, but it gives us a rush of energy in turn making us feel good and alive, full of energy. Then the crash. The high concentration of glucose wears off and how do you get that feel good rush back? You get more. That’s the way the craving and addiction cycle work on simple terms.
What’s really happening when you consume refined sugars is a spike in glucose levels which then triggers a corresponding spike of insulin release from the pancreas to transport glucose from the bloodstream into muscle and other cells. When this emergency reaction of insulin occurs, it can leave too little glucose in the blood stream which equates to reactive hypoglycemia or low blood sugar. This chronic spiking of insulin can also damage blood vessels and vital organs.
If you don’t have enough reason to steer clear of the sweet temptations, consider that refined sugar is also void of all nutrients and causes the body to deplete its own stores of vitamins and essential minerals. This can lead to an imbalance of pH, creating a highly acidic body effecting the brain and nervous system, which can impact moods, cognitive behaviour and function of vital organs. Let’s not forget about how sugar affects tooth and bone degeneration, contributing to tooth decay and calcium/phosphorus imbalance.
You likely inherently know that one pill will not correct years of poor nutrition, habits and choices. The good news is that you can still get the sweetness out of your diet without the adverse health risks. Here are some tips to leave you feeling sweet and healthy:
- Eat fruit. A natural sweetener to satisfy the sweet craving that contains fiber, vitamin and minerals. Choose berries, apples, pears or bananas or other fruits of your choice to sweeten dishes where you would normally reach for sugar. Use real fruit to make your own fruit juices. You can buy a quality juicer for about $100 to make your own custom fruit blends.
- Scrap the soda. You’ll lose the chemical cocktail and about 8 – 12 teaspoons of sugar at the same time.
- Use natural sweeteners. Leave the table sugar on the table. Use dates, fruits like bananas, apples and pears to sweeten your dishes. These natural sweeteners won’t spike your blood sugar levels like refined sugar. Chose honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar, molasses, organic cane sugar, stevia or xylitol in moderation as a subsitute for sugar.
- Eat a balanced diet. Eating a diet high in fiber, protein, enzymes, nutrients, minerals and vitamins will balance your blood sugar and your cravings. To keep the sweet cravings contained, consume protein in the first half of the day, especially breakfast.
- Include cinnamon in your diet. It has a positive effect on blood sugar. It stimulates insulin receptors, increasing cells ability to use glucose.
Be sweet, naturally.
Haas EM, Levin B. (2006) Staying Healthy with Nutrition 21st Century Edition
Berkley CA, Celestial Arts.Citation in text (Haas EM, Levin B, 2006 p.703)
Williams Dr. David (March 2009) Alternatives Newsletter Mountain Home Publishing Potomac MD, Citation in text (Williams, 2009 pg 162 163)
Langlois K & Garriguet D (2011) Sugar Consumption among Canadians of all ages (Report No. 82-003-X) Retrieved from Statistics Canada website: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-003-x/2011003/article/11540-eng.pdf Citation in text: (Statistics Canada, 2011)