While most of America is coming down from their candy-induced sugar high, I think it’s time I explain why I think sugar is the enemy. If you’ve been reading at all, you know that I try to keep the amount of sugar in my diet and my family’s diet to a minimum. I use natural sweeteners when I do want to sweeten our food. If you read my Halloween post, you know I worry about Meghan growing up with too much sugar in her life. Where is all this crazed sugar hating coming from? Let me attempt to explain the science behind it. I’m an English major, folks, so this is going to be elementary.
When you eat sugar or a simple carbohydrate (processed carbs like white bread, bagels, white pasta, etc.) it gets broken down quickly and goes straight to your bloodstream. Your body says, “Woah, we’re out of balance here!” and the pancreas secretes some insulin, the hormone that takes the sugar out of the bloodstream in order to restore balance in your body. But wait–there’s too much sugar in your bloodstream! So the pancreas secretes too much insulin. Then what happens? Boom. Big drop in blood sugar. That’s why sugars and simple carbs give us a quick burst of energy followed by a huge low.
Sugar is Linked to the Big Three Diseases
Problems ensue from this imbalance caused by the overload in sugar. (It doesn’t take a ton of sugar to cause this. Any sugar or simple carb in your bloodstream has this effect). If you’re doing this to your body on a daily basis for a number of years, many health problems can follow. In fact, the three leading, most deadly diseases in the United States, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, can all be linked to sugar and the imbalance in our bodies caused by its excessive intake. I won’t bore you with more details about each of these diseases and their connection to sugar, but I urge you to do more research on your own if you are interested in the science behind it.
Sugar Damages Your Immune System
In addition, sugar is an immunosupressant. Cold and flu season is coming, so if you want you and your family to stay well, I suggest cutting back on the sugar. It is proven that for five hours after ingesting sugar, your white blood cells are unable to do their job of killing germs. It also reduces the production of antibodies, which are needed to neutralize bacteria and viruses in our body.
Sugar Causes Obesity
More than anything else you can eat, sugar (and simple carbs) make you fat. Remember that big surge of insulin the pancreas sends out into the bloodstream after you eat sugar or simple carbs? Well, when the insulin takes the sugar out of the bloodstream, it stores it as body fat. That is why you didn’t lose any weight when you switched to fat-free cookies. It wasn’t the fat that was the problem, it was the sugar.
What You Can Do
Of course, the first thing is to limit foods with added sugar. It isn’t just table sugar, however, that causes this big spike and subsequent drop in blood sugar. Any food that has a high glycemic index causes this imbalance, so you should get to know your foods and be aware of how many high-glycemic index foods you are eating and maintain a balance. High glycemic index foods include refined carbohydrates (processed foods made with white flour, like bagels), many breakfast cereals, and white rice. Most fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains are moderate to low glycemic index carbohydrates.
Some natural sweeteners, like honey, have a high glycemic index. That doesn’t mean you have to avoid anything that’s sweet all the time. I’m sure you’ve noticed I use honey , agave nectar (a lower GI, by the way), and dried fruits to sweeten my foods. The key is to add a healthy fat when you are eating these sweeter treats or foods with a high glycemic index. The fat helps control the rate at which the sugar enters your bloodstream and the release of insulin, thus keeping your body in better balance. You should still eat the high glycemic index foods in moderation, with the majority of your diet being whole, unprocessed, low GI foods.
This brings me to the title of this post. Were you wondering if it would ever make sense? 😉 If you are going to get a latte, you are not doing yourself a favor by ordering a fat-free version! In fact, the fat-free version is more likely to cause you to pack on the pounds than the full-fat counterpart. It isn’t fat that makes us fat, friends, it’s sugar.
If you are interested in learning more, here are some of the books that have helped me in learning about detrimental affect sugar can have on our health:
Get the Sugar Out by Ann Louise Gittleman, M.S., C.N.S.
Anti-Cancer A New Way of Life by David Servan-Schreiber
The Zone by Barry, Sears, PH.D.
The Great Physician’s Rx for Health and Wellness by Jordan Rubin