Sugar by any other name is still sugar
“If all Americans knew the dangers of sugar, it would be withdrawn from our list of food additives. Refined sugar acts more like a drug that our bodies need to detoxify rather than a nutrient-supplying food. Refined sugar is, in fact, nutrient-less”
-Anne Louise Gittleman, MS, CNS, author of Get the Sugar Out
Update on Sugar-gate:
If you know me, stay away from me. Ugh. Thankfully I’ve managed not to piss anyone off yet, but man, people are bugging the crap out of me. I’m irritable, tired, grumpy, and just plain ol’ pissy. So watch out…I’m in total withdrawal!
I had fruit in my morning smoothie and it tasted so sweet I couldn’t drink the whole thing. I had some eggs too for protein..let’s see how that works. I’m going to get the amino acid L-Glutamine to take 3x day, which is supposed to help curb sugar cravings. I’m experimenting with everything!
For dinner last night, I ordered a seaweed salad and after one bite realized it was laden with sugar. Boo. I came home wanting something sweet, even a piece of fruit, but instead made teeccino and almond milk. Meh. Chocolate would be so much better.
Today, I’m going to enlighten you as to what sugar actually IS, and the many forms that you’ve heard about. Many of you have asked me if sugar substitutes like Splenda are OK (my answer: no, they are not. Just google “artificial sweetener” and see what comes up.
What is Sugar?
Sugar is not just the table sugar that you put in your coffee. Oh no, that would be too easy! Sugar is actually a carbohydrate. And what is a carbohydrate? (think a little deeper past donuts and bagels) At its basic level, it’s an energy-producing nutrient that our body desperately needs (the others are protein and fat). Carbohydrates fuel our body to keep us moving and is also extremely important for brain function and steady behavior. So ditch those low carb diets, people. They don’t work—and can really turn you into a zombie.
The two types of carbs are simple and complex. Simple carbs, aka simple sugars, supply quick energy to the body, but this burst does not last. Think of the time you ate a piece of cake or a big pasta meal and then felt sleepy 20 minutes later. Then we have the complex carbohydrates, which are made up of chains of the smaller simple sugars. They take longer to be digested, and thus the sugars are released into the blood stream more slowly, generating a steady supply of long-lasting energy. Examples of complex carbs are starches (whole grains, starchy veggies like potatoes), legumes (beans, peas), and vegetables. Basically, the good stuff.
Based on that information, which type do you think our country is eating far too much of? Certainly not fruits and vegetables! It’s also important to know that simple sugars also include natural sweeteners, fructose (in fruits), and lactose (in dairy). So it’s no wonder we have an entire country addicted to sugar! So there’s a very, very basic lesson on what we’re talking about here. As a nation we’re eating too much of the bad stuff (even when we think it’s good for us, like Splenda), and not enough of the wholesome, found-in-nature goodness.
(On a side note, I realize this is a VERY basic run-down on sugar. There have been books and books written about this topic, so please let me know if you want further reading.) There is so much more I could touch upon, like the Glycemic Index and stuff like that, but I’ll save that for another time. This is good enough for now.
Instead of telling you about each individual artificial sweetener, which was my plan, I’ve come to realize that in the long run, they’re all the same. Junk. (Here are two articles that examine these sweeteners in great depth) Created in a laboratory, these are the furthest thing from natural. We still don’t know the role they play in diseases such as cancer, so a good idea would be to stay away.
Artificial sweeteners have not helped our obsession and epidemic of weight lotss in this country. In fact, quite the opposite! In the last decade, Americans have become over 30% fatter even though the consumption of artificial sweeteners has grown exponentially. Sprinkle THAT on your cereal and eat it! (Wait—-no, don’t do that!) These artificial sweeteners have been proven to increase sugar and carbohydrate cravings, which is exactly what we want to get away from. It’s a nasty cycle.
Maple Syrup: natural, use in small amounts. Spend the extra $ and get organic.
Honey: sweeter, higher in calories than white sugar. Chock full of minerals. Buy raw, unprocessed. Not that crap in the cute bear bottle.
Blackstrap molasses: residue after sugar crystals removed from beet juice or sugar cane. Filled with iron and calcium.
Rice Syrup: grain based sweetener that is half-composed of nutrients found in whole grains
“date” sugar: from dry dates, high in fiber and minerals. She likes this in recipes.
Sucanat: aka Sweet & Natural non-refined cane sugar. Gittleman likes to use this for baking, etc.
Stevia: Has been used as a sweetener for hundreds of years in Japan and South America, now coming to us as Truvia. It has 30x the sweetness of sugar, and does not raise your blood sugar like other sweeteners. Good for those with candida issues. If you do get stevia, search for the GREEN powder or GREEN liquid (you’ll have to search a bit harder) as it is unprocessed.
Agave nectar: Derived from the Mexican blue agave plant. My fave. It’s much sweeter than regular sugar, and great in baking. There has been a lot of talk that it is not as safe as we thought, because it is processed with corn syrup. If you use it, invest in the clear, raw kind.
If you are trying to cut down on the sugar, however, it’s best to avoid any sweetener in the beginning. And, also remember, that any added sweetener, even the natural kinds, should be majorly limited!
And one more note: Read your labels! The following may sound healthy, but they are ALL just versions of sugars and they’re everywhere, from tomato sauce to breads:
Barley malt, beet sugar, brown sugar, cane-juice crystals, cane sugar, caramel, carob syrup, corn syrup, date sugar, dextrose, evaporated cane juice (a biggie now—it’s just fancy sugar!), fruit juice and fruit juice concentrate, fructose, glucose, invert sugar, lactose, malt syrup, maltodextrin, maltose, mannitol, molasses, raw sugar, sorbitol, sucrose, turbinado sugar, xylitol.
You get the picture. Sugar has pervaded our food system and is EVERYWHERE, lurking in the most unsuspecting places. I’m not going to lie, reducing my sugar has been very difficult. But the health benefits are worth it.
As I’ve said again and again, the only way to truly know what you’re eating is when you eat fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. They only have one ingredient: the food itself.
On Thursday I’ll offer some practical tips on HOW to cut the sugar out of your diet, as well as a few recipes.
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