When I was growing up my mom would limit our sugar intake…she wouldn’t buy the sugary cereals we wanted and we were only allowed to drink soda on the weekends. At the time I didn’t understand why she did that and quite honestly, I don’t think she knew the full story about sugar back then. It wasn’t until seven or eight years ago that I started to learn more about the way it was made and the hidden dangers. Thanks, Mom for being ahead of the game!
Sugar is EVERYWHERE, in everything, in things you wouldn’t even think. The average American adult consumes 150 lbs of sugar per year! It’s no wonder we have issues with obesity, diabetes, and a list of other diseases. Here are some reasons to avoid sugar:
- Sugar can suppress your immune system and impair your defenses against infectious disease
- Sugar can produce a significant rise in total cholesterol, triglycerides and bad cholesterol and a decrease in good cholesterol
- Sugar feeds cancer cells and has been connected with the development of cancer of the breast, ovaries, prostate, rectum, pancreas, biliary tract, lung, gallbladder and stomach
- Sugar feeds Candida (yeast overgrowth/infections)
- Promotes wrinkling and aging skin
- Can lead to osteoporosis
- Contributes to obesity
- Sugar can cause many problems with the gastrointestinal tract including: an acidic digestive tract, indigestion, malabsorption in patients with functional bowel disease, increased risk of Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis
- Sugar can cause your saliva to become acidic, tooth decay, and periodontal disease
- Sugar can cause autoimmune diseases such as: arthritis, asthma, and multiple sclerosis
Those were just a few…to learn more, I urge you to check out these two links:
Years ago I eliminated refined sugar (white and brown) because not only was the process to make it horrifying, but it has zero nutritional value. “It’s heated to boiling at least three times, treated with chemicals, filtered through bone char (powder made from cow or pig bones) and forced to crystallize.” (http://healingvibes.com/healingarticles/the-most-toxic-food-you-can-eat) Well, then I made sure to only use or buy raw sugar or evaporated cane juice….until I found out that while not as much as white sugar, raw sugar is still refined. Now what?!? It wasn’t that I needed sugar, but every now and then I craved something sweet, so I started using date sugar, raw agave nectar, coconut nectar, and pure maple syrup. Over the past year, I started using other natural sweeteners…but before I get into them, let’s talk a bit about glycemic index. Glycemic index (GI) is a measure of how fast a food will raise your blood sugar level. The lower the GI rating, the slower the absorption process, which provides a gradual release of sugar into the bloodstream. High GI ratings cause glucose and insulin levels to spike, which may lead to weight gain and diabetes.
- Low GI 55 or less
- Medium 56-69
- High GI 70 and above
Palm Sugar – (GI rating 35) comes from the flowers of coconut trees. The nectar is air-dried to form crystals which are naturally brown in color and rich in vitamins. Palm sugar is loaded with potassium, magnesium, zinc, iron, vitamin C, and many of the B vitamins. It has a caramel sweetness, reminiscent of brown sugar.
Yacon – (GI rating 0) a potato-like root vegetable that is a relative of the Jerusalem artichoke. Can be turned into a powder or syrup to offer a slightly sweet sugar substitute. Yacon contains potassium, calcium, magnesium, antioxidants, and vitamins A, C, and E.
Stevia – (GI rating 0) contains zero calories and zero carbohydrates too! Stevia is a herb in the sunflower family. The ground leaves are 300 times sweeter than sugar…so you only need a pinch of powder or a drop or two of liquid. It is super sweet and too much can leave you with a bitter taste. You want to avoid the white stevia powder as it is processed so look for the raw natural green stevia.
Coconut Sugar – (GI rating 35) high in potassium, magnesium, zinc, and iron and a natural source of vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, and C, organic coconut sugar is unprocessed, unfiltered, and unbleached natural sweetener.
Coconut Nectar – (GI rating 35) contains 17 amino acids, minerals, vitamin C, B vitamins, and has a neutral pH. It is raw, made in small batches, and minimally evaporated at low temperatures.
Raw Honey – (GI rating 30)
Agave Nectar – (GI rating 15-30)
Maple syrup – (GI rating 54) use the PURE stuff! Stay away from the imitation syrups such as Aunt Jemima, Mrs. Butterworth, and others as they contain corn syrup and artificial flavorings.
I never got into the low-calorie, sugar-free junk and stayed away from artificial sweeteners…to me they tasted overly sweet and left a chemical aftertaste in my mouth. The toxic sweeteners to avoid are:
- aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet)
- sucralose (Splenda)
- Acesulfame Potassium K
Aspartame is the BIG one to avoid! Recent studies in Europe show that aspartame use can result in an accumulation of formaldehyde in the brain, which can cause damage to your central nervous system, immune system, and can cause genetic trauma. It’s been linked with MS, lupus, fibromyalgia, and other central nervous disorders. Possible side effects of aspartame include headaches, migraines, panic attacks, dizziness, irritability, nausea, intestinal discomfort, skin rash, and nervousness. Some researchers have linked aspartame with depression and manic episodes. http://www.womentowomen.com/healthyweight/splenda.aspx
The top 10 dangers of artificial sweeteners are: (http://www.nutralegacy.com/blog/general-healthcare/top-10-dangers-of-artificial-sweeteners)
- Depression, bipolar disorder, and panic attacks
- Persistent headaches
- Weight gain (how ironic!)
- Allergic reactions
- Birth defects or infertility
- Blurred vision and hearing loss
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Cell damage
- Nervous system
The great thing is that you can find the raw natural sweeteners I discussed above in your local health food store! The artificial junk and regular sugar do not provide ANY nutritional benefits…if you’re going to eat something sweet, it might as well be good for you too!