By Margie Forrest/Sonoma Sun — So you want to know the truth about sugar? How much is okay? How much is too much? Is it bad for you?
Here’s the truth: all carbohydrates that we eat get broken down into some form of sugar, either fructose or glucose and provide us with energy. They get processed in the liver and in the gut and then gets dispersed into our bloodstream. This is the way our body systems function on a daily basis. So if all of our food gets broken down into sugar, what is wrong with eating sugar?
Plenty, it turns out.
Here’s how it works. Glucose triggers the release of leptin and insulin which signals the brain when you are full. Eighty percent is used by the cells and 20 percent is stored as glycogen for later use; 80 percent is absorbed into the intestines and 20 percent is processed b your liver.
Fructose does not trigger the release of leptin or insulin which are the key hormones that control appetite and satiation. They are converted into glycol, the main component of triglycerides that promote fat formation. And all of it is processed by the liver, increasing the toxic load. Knowing this, you begin to get a sense of why too much sugar is problematic.
Glucose is the body’s primary source of energy. The body breaks down carbs to glucose for energy. Glucose can be created from protein by the liver or kidneys. Fructose is naturally occurring in many plants (fruits and vegetables) and can be consumed in its natural form and most people are able to break it down easily. If you eat complex carbs like brown rice, they get broken down and dispersed slowly and evenly into your system for sustained energy. If you eat refined or simple sugars, they get dispersed very quickly into the system for instant energy, but then your blood sugar drops very quickly which leaves you with no energy, and a craving for more… sugar. It’s a vicious cycle.
The type of sugar you consume is of primary importance. If you are eating sugar in the form of fruits and vegetables, you are adding vitamins, minerals and vital nutrients into your body for sustained energy. In contrast, if you are getting it from refined sugars, it actually depletes your body of vitamins and minerals needed to function properly.
Processed foods are problematic with their many hidden sugars. There are so many foods within this category that are consumed on a daily basis. They have names of sugars like high fructose corn syrup, maltose, dextrose, lactose, and sucrose, just to name a few. The best way to avoid hidden refined sugars is to eat food in its whole form, not processed or packaged.
Also, so many common drinks are a major culprit in terms of refined sugar. Yes, we know soda is loaded with sugar, but what about that Frappacino you drink every morning? It’s not just coffee: it contains 44 grams of sugar! That is more than the USDA daily recommended allowance which is 30 grams. It is also is the equivalent of 12 packets or teaspoons of sugar. Think about an 8 or 12 oz glass of water and stirring in 12 packets of sugar. No wonder you get a jolt from your specialty coffee! Reading labels and knowing the facts is a real eye opener when it comes to sugar consumption.
So what is so bad about sugar? There is a list a mile long of diseases, and a host of problems associated with consuming too much of it. This list includes diabetes, obesity, heart disease,adrenal fatigue, hypertension and dehydration, to name a few. Too much unrefined sugar disrupts balance within the body and leaves it open to disease.
So, how did we get so hooked on sugar? The history of sugar dates back to 1688 when the first sugar refineries were set up in New York. The colonists started using it on their porridge and at that time, average consumption was just a couple of teaspoons a day. Today, the average American consumes more that 130 pounds a year. That is approximately 1/3 of a pound a day!
Is sugar an addictive substance? In my opinion, very much so. Sugar stimulates the hormone dopamine which signals the pleasure center of the brain. So just like alcohol, or tobacco, it creates an instant desire for more, therefore becoming an addictive substance. In fact tudies show that sugar is far more addictive than cocaine or heroin.
So what can you do to kick your sugar habit? Again, eat real food in its whole form. If you want something sweet, go for frozen blueberries or eat a banana instead. Sour foods and fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut and kombucha also help to curb our desire for sugar. Sweet vegetables like beets, carrots, corn, onions, sweet peas, parsnips, winter squashes, rutabagas and sweet potatoes are a good substitute as well, and energize the body and the mind. They are energetically grounding which helps balance out the spaced-out feeling you can get from eating refined sugars, and help to crowd out unhealthy foods from one’s diet.
So if you are looking for new ways to become healthier, start reading labels and reduce your refined sugar intake. It may seem hard but in the first week or two your body will adjust and the cravings will become less and less frequent. Your body will thank you.
Margie Forrest is an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and FPL Certified Thyroid Coach, Beauty Counter Consultant, and the founder empoweredhealthywomen.com and healthysoul.us.