Sugar (Imbalance of the sweet flavor)

Many prepared and preserved foods contain high amounts of sugar, because it is addictive and food companies know it. Crackers, dressings, sauces and mixes often have unnecessary sugar added. Check ingredient labels for sugar – it’s in everything! Other names for sugar: Brown sugar, Cane crystals, Cane sugar, Corn sweetener, Corn syrup, Crystalline fructose, Dextrose, Evaporated cane juice, Organic evaporated cane juice, Fructose, Fruit juice concentrates, Glucose, High-fructose corn syrup, Honey, Agave nectar, Invert sugar, Lactose, Maltose, Malt syrup, Molasses, Raw sugar, Sucrose, Sugar, Syrup. See the 50 names for sugar here.

Some products, like nut butter and dried fruits, have two options on the grocery store shelf – one with and one without sugar added. Opt for the one without the extra sugar as many of these foods are sweet on their own.

Naturally Occurring Sugar Versus Added Sugar

Sugars that are naturally occurring are balanced within a food. Examples are fruits, juices, some vegetables and grains. “Added” sugars can be any form of sweetener that does not occur naturally within the food and alters its digestibility.

 Sugar Substitutes

Some sugar substitutes are natural (stevia) and some are formaldehyde-based (aspartame). The less a sweetener is processed, the easier it is for the body to absorb.

Sugar alcohols (erythritol, glycerol- also known as glycerin or glycerine- hydrogenated starch hydrolysates, isomalt, lactitol, maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol) are often used in low carbohydrate/low sugar foods. They can have a laxative effect and cause other digestive problems. More importantly, the body does not recognize these substances as food and so they can contribute to multiple physical and mental illnesses. They contain fewer calories/less sugar, but taste less sweet and so often more is used, defeating the purpose of the substitution. Be sure to read labeling to check calorie, carbohydrate and sugar amounts and avoid sugar alcohols when possible.

Natural sugars found in the context of whole foods are easiest on the system. Sugar found in fruit, honey, grains and plants is more digestible for most people. For example maple syrup, honey and molasses contain minerals that help the body digest sugar. Combining sugars and starches (which immediately become sugar in the body) with fiber and/or protein slows down the absorption of sugar so blood sugar doesn’t spike the same way. Key cultural examples of such combinations are baked potato with sour cream or butter, apples with cheese or nut butter, and wine and cheese.

High fructose corn syrup** is actually made in a lab and is much sweeter than real sugar or corn syrup. It spikes blood sugar and insulin levels to give a much higher risk for people with diabetes and hyperlipidemia. It is highly recommended to avoid foods with high fructose corn syrup.

9 Reasons to Avoid Sugar

  1. Sugar consumption has a strong negative impact on the immune system. At a blood sugar level of 120 and above, the body's ability to destroy viruses and bacteria is reduced by up to 75%. As little as 20 grams of sugar has the capacity to compromise immune function for the 4-6 hours following ingestion. Recent studies have shown that long-term daily ingestion of sugar raises the risk of developing cancer by as much as 60%.
  2. Sugar consumption depletes minerals from the body tissues, skeleton, and teeth. Mineral depletion occurs from sugar consumption in several ways. Most obviously, sugar represents "empty" calories in the diet thereby reducing daily nutrient intake. In addition, sugar upsets absorption of nutrients that we do eat by compromising the integrity of our digestive tract. Finally, a high sugar diet promotes inflammation and oxidative stress that out body has to counteract by pulling neutralizing minerals out of our bony stores and teeth.
  3. Sugar consumption leads to weight gain and cardiovascular disease. Unless the fructose from sugar consumption is immediately used as fuel, the liver stores it as fat. Fat is transported away from the liver into peripheral fat stores by LDL and VLDL (types of cholesterol), raising the risk for cardiovascular disease. Oxidative stress from high blood-glucose compounds this problem by creating inflammation along the walls of the arteries.
  4. Sugar is addictive. Sugar consumption stimulates the "reward" centers of the brain by initiating a surge of dopamine release. This effect is also seen with the ingestion of cocaine, opiates, alcohol, amphetamine, and nicotine. In addition, sugar promotes the release of endorphins, which create a sense of euphoria and increase the likelihood of addiction.
  5. Sugar causes depression. Because the brain relies on a stable supply of glucose for normal functioning, rapidly rising and falling blood glucose significantly undermine its functioning. Depression, anxiety, aggression, and fatigue are all side effects of sugar consumption because the brain struggles to adapt to the highs and lows in blood sugar provoked by rapid absorption of glucose from the gut.
  6. Sugar consumption leads to insulin resistance and can pave the way for gestational or type 2 diabetes. The accumulation of fat in the liver following excess sugar consumption is a trigger for the body to begin "ignoring" insulin, the hormone that drives sugar into our cells. As insulin resistance worsens over time, type 2 diabetes develops. Complications of diabetes are systemic and can include cardiovascular disease, kidney damage, poor wound healing, and neuropathy.
  7. Sugar strongly interferes with digestive health by favoring the growth of intestinal yeast and slowing the passage of food through the intestine. Overgrowth of yeast leads to permeability of the gut wall and undigested proteins can "leak" into the blood stream. The immune system reacts to foreign protein in the blood, leading to food allergies and setting the stage for auto-immune diseases.
  8. Sugar consumption by children is associated with learning disabilities, anxiety, attention deficit disorder, allergies, obesity, tooth decay and eczema.
  9. Sugar consumption during pregnancy can lead to gestational diabetes, toxemia, and premature labor. Children born to mothers who consumed high sugar diets during pregnancy are more likely to be obese and struggle with insulin resistance and diabetes during their life.

Summary

Because of its strongly addictive quality, sugar represents an increasingly prevalent portion of the American diet. Although sugar consumption has become mainstream, it is important to remember that sugar is a highly processed plant derivative that is challenging for the body to process on a daily basis.

Sugar consumption taxes every system in the body including the digestive system, immune system, cardiovascular system, and skeletal system. Diets that are high in sugar have been associated with high rates of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, autoimmune disease, allergies, attention deficit disorder, depression, and cancer.

Consider this: it is believed that in 1822 the average American consumed 45g of sugar every 5 days and in 2012 the average American consumed 765g of sugar every 5 days. That’s about 130 pounds of sugar a year. And most people don’t know half the time that they are even eating sugar because it is hidden away in supposedly savory, store-bought foods. Until the government acknowledges the link between the spike in American sugar consumption and serious illness and puts restrictions on the “sugar-marketing” that has become so prevalent, it is up to us to regulate our own sugar intake.

For more info on sugar and what it does in the body click here.