Dietary Toxins: The Sugar Demon
The day you kick sugar out of your life is the day you begin to enjoy living, from the moment you wake up energized in the morning until you turn in at night for a restful, undisturbed and peaceful sleep. The remarkable benefits of living without sugar are numerous.
Those who commit to a sugar-free diet/ lifestyle undergo a fantastic transformation that includes turning back the aging clock, glowing skin, eyes that sparkle, improved sleep patterns, weight loss, a shifting of weight, strength, energy, clear-headedness and more. To learn how to live completely sugar-free download my free ebook below! The book includes tips for how to clean your pantry, refrigerator and more!
I like sweets. In fact, if I had it my way, I would be living on Paleo-fied foods (you know, Paleo muffins, pancakes, breads, crackers and the lot) 100 percent. Really, I would! But sometimes, you have to give something up to get something. I remember in high school, many of my friends would hang out after school.
I worked. I gave up “hangin’” to work because I liked having my own car and the feeling of knowing I earned this luxury myself, not to mention the independence it afforded me. When I was younger, I gave up some much-adored playtime, to practice dance, because I was serious about ballet and modern dance. So as much as I love sugar, I keep it to a minimum and try to be smart about what kind of sugar I eat.
Why? Because I know sugar is like charred glass in our vessels — it can create more trouble then its worth. You need to be dialed into the fact that added sugars really are a dietary toxin.
In this blog post, I covered what dietary toxins actually are and why you should avoid them. Check it out here.
Sugar ChecklistI determine if a sugar is acceptable (when eaten as an exception, rather then a rule) by considering these three factors:
- Insulin Level. How will this particular sugar affect my insulin levels?
- Hormones. How does this sugar affect my hormones? I’m specifically referring to Leptin, which is the guy who regulates your hunger and satiety. There are other “hunger hormones” as well, but Leptin is a master hormone, and you don't want to mess with him. When Leptin gets out of whack, you have a hard time dealing with cravings and controlling your weight. You can also become “resistant” to Leptin, which creates a metabolic mess as well (more on this in future posts).
- Fructose Percentage. How much of this sugar is made up of fructose? I am not a fructose fan. This has to do with both #1 and #2 above. Fructose gets your blood- sugar levels out of kilt, and messes with your Leptin levels to make you hungry! People are always stunned when I say agave is a “no” sweetener. When I was on Daytime TV, the anchor was stupefied by this fact. “What, no AGAVE?” Its high fructose percentage is the “why.” Although not as much of a surprise, high fructose corn syrup falls into the same issue. Too much fructose. Not good.
Note: Fructose in fruit is different because it’s packed with water, fiber, vitamins and antioxidants. Fruits contain anywhere from 13 percent to approximately 67 percent fructose, so if you want less fructose, pick fruits that contain less fructose, such as berries, cherries, avocado and tomatoes.
Sugar: Why I call it a Dietary Toxin
Remember what my definition of a dietary toxin is: “Anything your body cannot fully utilize, metabolize, digest or eliminate, causing waste, debris or harm to your gut.” Sugar definitely falls into this criterion of a dietary toxin.
Nancy Appelton, PhD has been compiling research for many years of all the ways sugar crushes our health. She gives 141 reasons. Read about them here. If you want my “top 7” list, see below.
My Top 7 Reasons Why Sugar is a Dietary Toxin
- Sugar feeds cancer cells (well, that’s about all I need to know)
- Sugar causes hypoglycemia
- Sugar causes gastro intestinal issues, including increased risk of ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
- Sugar decreases your absorption of protein and minerals
- Sugar causes food allergies
- Sugar causes inflammation (this is dangerous to your health, as you can read here)
- Sugar is addictive
The Bottom Line
Sugar ages you. Sugar makes you unhealthy and contributes to obesity.
SUGAR IS EVERYWHERE
Even vegetables have natural sugars. But here, we are focusing on added sugars. These are the sugars that show up in condiments like mustard, salad dressings, marinated meats, luncheon meats, bacon, dried fruit, nut butters and more.
This can be naturally derived or not. These sugars are added: agave, agave nectar, barley malt, beet sugar, brown rice syrup, brown sugar, cane can crystals, cane juice, cane sugar, caramel, corn sweeteners, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, fructose, date sugar, dehydrated cane juice, dextrin, dextrose, evaporated cane juice, galactose, glucose, glucose solids, high fructose corn syrup, invert sugar, lactose, malt syrup, molasses, palm sugar, rapadura, raw cane sugar, rice syrup, saccharose, sorghum syrup, sucanat, turbinado and many others. Typically, you can identify sugar by ingredients with an –ose, or –tol. Or beware of works like sugar (obviously), nectar, syrup or crystals.
Added Sugar Alcohols
Let me begin by saying that whole fruits contain some naturally occurring sugar alcohols and that's okay. The rest of the lot can irritate the gut. If you have no autoimmune disease or other condition, you have less to worry about, and these substitutes may be okay in small amounts. I still do not recommend these added sugars, which include: Erythritol, Mannitol, Xylitol and Sorbitol.
Added “Dead-to-You” Sugars
Artificial sugars are actually neurotoxins, which means they mess with your brain and nervous system. Keep in mind … these won’t make you skinnier. As soon as you taste “sweet,” your body releases insulin BEFORE it even realizes there isn’t actually sugar (glucose) there. This drops your glucose, so your body in its innate wisdom tells you to get more glucose. This makes you hungry! So, nothing is gained from these sugars whatsoever. Acesulfame K/Acesulfame Potassium (Sweet One, Sunett), Aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet), Saccharine (Sweet’N Low), Stevia that's white/bleached (Truvia, Sun crystals), and Sucralose (Splenda).
Typically, I keep it pretty clean. I have figured out who I am, and I know If I have too much sugar – I’ll go on a bender. The added sugar I use as a once in a while for a treat, or in a treat for my kids really depends on what I’m making (like if I need a liquid or a solid sweetener) The sweeteners I stick to for baking, cooking or adding are generally the sugars that are derived from nature as much as possible – and not a factory: Coconut, date and palm sugar, raw honey, maple syrup, 100 percent fruit jam, apple juice concentrate, applesauce, dates, smashed bananas, blackstrap molasses and Green Leaf Stevia. Some Paleo folks are more forgiving when it comes to using sweeteners, while others are far stricter.
I try to be reasonable and practical, because I know from being in practice that people want options. It’s my job to find the best options I can give patients – that are the healthiest possible. It really comes down to what works with you and what you are willing to give up to get health and look your best. What’s important to me is to be totally aware of how the sugar is made, how our body processes it, and how much is in whatever I’m eating.