Sugar is everywhere and in almost everything you eat. It’s almost impossible to avoid but something we should consciously be trying to eat less of …much less of!
History of sugar consumption
The manufacturing of sugar began in the middle ages and was so expensive that it was a luxury reserved only for the wealthy. By the 17th century, the price of manufacturing sugar was significantly less and hard candy was starting gaining popularity. By the mid 1800s there were over 400 factories in the U.S. producing candy.
As you can see from the graph above, sugar consumption reached historic levels around the 1920s. We can see a slight decrease in sugar consumption during the Great Depression but it picked up again at the end of WWII.
According to Dr. Josh Axe, author of “The Real Food Diet” and founder of the Exodus Health Center in Tennessee “sugar is not only devoid of any and all nutrients, it’s actually worse than empty. Sugar is an anti-nutrient that drains and leeches the body of precious vitamins and minerals through the demand that sugar’s digestion, detoxification, and elimination makes upon your entire system. Excess sugar affects every organ in the body.”
Sugar meticulously breaks down your immune system and your ability to fight off disease. Also note the time frame in which sugar consumption reached historic highs and what other critical event happened during that era? A disease that frightened every parent to the core during the time…POLIO…but I won’t get into how sugar played a critical role in the polio epidemic your grandparents remember, I’ll save that for later 🙂
Your brain on sugar
Sugar is highly addictive primarily because it fuels every cell in your brain. Your brain then sees sugar as a reward, which then makes you crave more of it like a drug. Sugar acts on your brain in the same manner as cocaine and the two are alike in chemical composition in many ways. The “sugar high” happens because your body quickly turns this simple carbohydrate into glucose causing your blood sugar level to spike. Simple carbs are also found in fruits, veggies and dairy but these have fiber and protein that slow the process. Eventually you will have a sugar crash. This happens when your body needs to move glucose out of your bloodstream and into your cells for energy. Your pancreas then makes insulin and as a result your blood sugar suddenly drops leaving you feeling wiped out and craving more sugar to regain your energy.
Forms of sugar
There are many different types of sugar but here are the most popular
- Cane sugar
- Beet sugar
- High fructose corn syrup
- Maple Syrup
High fructose corn syrup has taken over everything. Cane sugar consumption has gone down since the 1970s but high fructose corn syrup took its place. You’ll find it in candy bars, soda, processed junk, fruit juices, salad dressings, etc. Aside from being derived from GMO corn crops, which is a heck of health hazard on its own, it is identical in chemical composition to white sugar.
The natural sugar debate
I read an article that claimed there is no safe amount of added sugar consumption and that sugar in all forms should pretty much be avoided like your life depends on it. I do agree 100% that we should be avoiding sugar BUT I don’t believe natural sugars should be thought of as an equal health hazard as refined sugar. Yes, honey is made up of fructose and glucose just like white sugar BUT here’s the big big difference between the two.
Honey and maple syrup are natural sugars and when consumed in their pure, unrefined form can have many health benefits. Honey’s sugars are independently fructose & glucose, which are monosaccharides. Sugar (sucrose) is a disaccharide composed of glucose and fructose. The difference? In digestion, monosaccharides are absorbed in our intestinal tracts, while disaccharides have to first be broken down to monosaccharides to be absorbed. Our bodies naturally have enzymes to break them down. However, not all sucrose molecules are broken down in digestion and they reach the gut bacteria. The bad bacteria in our guts feast off of undigested sugars. If there is an over-population of bad bacteria the intestines become inflamed to fight the infection resulting in severe symptoms like food sensitivities or worse leaky gut syndrome. By using honey as a sugar substitute you can limit the sugars that reach the intestinal flora, therefore starving out the bad bacteria over a long period of time to help restore a normal balance of flora. I’m not saying to use honey in everything, what I’m saying is that pure raw honey should not be vilified and the same goes for pure maple syrup.
So what’s the big deal?
Well, we’re consuming more added sugar than ever before and we’re seeing the health consequences of all this sugar rear its ugly head in the form of obesity, diabetes, Alzheimer, dementia, cancer and cardiovascular disease. Cancer LOVES sugar, it needs it to survive. If you’ve been following me, you know my dad has cancer and that my health journey started as a direct result of his diagnoses. What ever I can do to decrease my risk of cancer, I will do!
How can you make changes today?
I’m not going to tell you to avoid all sugar in all forms. How boring would that be?
What I am going to tell you is to be honest with yourself and really look to see how much sugar you’re consuming. Read the labels of everything you consume and if you’re eating out, expect your food to be loaded with added sugar. There is always raw honey, pure maple syrup and coconut sugar at my house and we eat it in very small amounts.
With children, you should be extra cautious because they’re developing so quickly and building a nutritional foundation from the very beginning is essential to long-term health. You may think that a little candy won’t hurt but you’re setting the stage in those early years for either a lifetime of health or a life filled with chronic health conditions.
- Maple syrup
- Coconut sugar
- Stevia (an acquired taste and not one I personally enjoy)
Eating healthy is a way of life around here and yes, it does involve a lot of work but work that will reward you greatly and worth all the time you invest into it. Although my little boy is only 20 months old, he has never had to go to the doctor. He had a minor cold just after his first birthday but he was all better just 2 days later. I work hard to keep him healthy and to keep my husband and myself healthy for him so that we can be around for him, healthy for him to be there for him to see him turn into a man and my hope is that some day he will take care of himself as much as I have taken care of him and that he will pass along his nutritional foundation to my grandchildren someday in the very very far future.
What are your thoughts? Do you eat sugar? Are you trying to cut back? Was this information eye opening to you? Share with me in the comments below.
Until next time, be well!