Everything You Need to Know About Sugar
You’re surrounded by different kinds of sugars and sweeteners and bombarded by commercials for foods containing them.
Pick up a box of cereal and you’ll most likely find cane sugar, regular sugar, corn syrup, maltodextrin, fruit juice concentrates, and possibly even a tad bit of real sweeteners.
Grab a beverage and you’ll likely see artificial sweeteners added to the list of ingredients. Most packaged, processed desserts will have three or more sweeteners in them. Can you exist without sugar and stand up to the food industry’s blatant, in-your-face advertising?
You can, and your health depends on it. In order to do so, you must understand why sugars (and sweetening agents) cause diabetes, are bad for your waistline, and why none of them truly are safe to eat.
Diabetes, obesity…. diabesity
Diabetes are usually caused through the following:
- Genetics: Those born to type 2 diabetics parents are more likely to be insulin resistant or develop the type 2 diabetes (1)
- Fatty liver: Industrial seed oils like corn oil, safflower, and soybean oil as well as large amounts of sugar contribute to fatty liver. High fructose corn syrup found in soda, candy, and packaged goods are the most common culprit of a fatty liver (2)
- Inflammation: Inflammation is the bodies natural response to injury. A way for your body to heal, repair, higher germs, chemicals, and essentially anything unwanted. The immune does this by recruiting more red and white blood cells as well as cholesterol (yup, it helps you heal) to the area that needs the most help. Diabetes and elevated blood sugar damage blood vessels and inhibit this process (3).
- Autoimmunity: Autoimmune diseases are characterized by an inappropriate or unusual immune response in your body. Basically the immune system makes a mistake and starts attacking its own cells. Diabetes is now being considered an autoimmune disease and not a metabolic disease (4)
- Stress: Work, school, lack of sleep, family, friends, and a host of other things can cause you stress. This elevates the cortisol (stress hormone) in your body which in turn raises blood sugar. Chronic stress keeps blog sugar elevated for abnormally long periods of time.
The role of insulin
The purpose of insulin in the body is to get the sugar out of the blood after you eat and into the muscles, so it’s a good thing. But when insulin levels are four or five times higher than normal, there’s a taxing of the pancreas. This is also the time when a person has insulin resistance, when all the insulin is at high levels in the blood but the muscle cells won’t let it in. This is when Type 2 Diabetes occurs.
Once your insulin levels are high, your body goes into fat storage mode. You’ll store food that isn’t even high in calories as fat and your body gets in a turn-everything-into-fat mode. Unless you know how to break this cycle and shift to burning fat, you’ll keep craving carbs and sugars leading yourself down the dark path of developing diabetes and gaining weight.
When insulin levels soar to levels 4 or 5 times normal repeatedly over for prolonged periods, the pancreas becomes weaker and weaker. Finally, the pancreas gets to the point where it cannot produce insulin in levels that are needed by the body and the person becomes Type 1 diabetic.
How to Look at Sugars
There are three ways to analyze and view sugars:
- Based on a food’s Glycemic Index
- Based on the fact that it’s chemical or non-chemical
- Based on info on the actual sugar in a food or composing a food
Most people are quite familiar with the Glycemic Index, which is a scale that rates food (and sweeteners) on how quickly they are broken down into glucose and cause a spike in blood sugar. What most people aren’t familiar with is background information on individual sugars (sweeteners) and whether they are chemical or non-chemical.
First, let’s cover the chemical aspect of sweeteners and then we’ll dive into interesting information on individual sweeteners and sugars.
Chemical or Non-chemical, what’s the difference?
Chemical means toxicity and non-chemical means non-toxicity.
However, the consumption of either chemical or non-chemical sugars is not recommended and will lead to negative health effects.
Non-chemical sweeteners include (Note: This does not mean they are awesome for you.)
**The bold selections that you see are your preferred sources of sugars**
• Agave (nectar also)
• Cane juice crystals
• Diastatic Malt
• Ethyl Maltol
• Fruit Juice real & fresh(concentrate also)
• Honey (raw)
• Stevia (green or liquid extract)
Syrups such as
• brown rice
• high fructose corn
• maple grade b
Sugars such as
• light brown
Chemical sweeteners include: Please never use these. EVER
- Saccharine – known to cause bladder problems in diabetics
- Sucralose – called Splenda and touted as no different from regular sugar
- Aspartame – also called the commercial sugar replacement, Equal
- White Stevia (bleached) – Yes, they took a good thing and altered it chemically, trying to trick you. Truvia and Sun crystals are chemical sweeteners. The green Stevia is the real stuff.
Now let’s look a bit more in-depth at certain common sugars and sweeteners.
Getting the Rundown on Sweeteners
Here’s a list of individual sweeteners and what researchers have revealed about them.
Glucose: Fuel of Your Brain and Cells
Glucose is the most important sugar in the body. It’s the only fuel that your brain uses, and it’s the primary type of sugar found in the blood. The food industry version is called dextrose.
Relationship to Diabetes: Your liver and pancreas monitor your blood glucose levels. When levels get too low, glucose is created from the breakdown of glycogen. When glycogen stores are low, such as in sporting events like marathons, Crossfit, or MMA, glucose is created from the breakdown of amino acids.
When glucose levels are too high in the blood, your pancreas kicks up production of insulin so it can open the gates of the cells to let the sugar in. However, when there’s insulin resistance as in the case of Type 2 diabetics, then the excess blood sugar stays in the blood. That’s when the damage starts in diabetes. This excess sugar damages all cells of your body by gnarling up the DNA, rendering it useless. When you have enough gnarling in an organ, there’s loss of function of that organ.
Thought to Be Safe, Now We Don’t Think So.
This sugar is found naturally in food, especially honey or berries, and made artificially from corn or table sugar. About a decade ago, nutritionists thought that fructose was better for the body because it wasn’t metabolized as sugar was. Fructose is metabolized by the liver not your pancreas and has a low Glycemic index of 17. Could this possibly mean that this sugar isn’t related to diabetes?
After about a decade of research, there’s enough data to really wonder if fructose is safe to consume, just like sugar. Here are the findings:
- High fructose consumption is linked to fatty liver disease, and you don’t have to drink alcohol to get this type of liver problem.
- A natural byproduct of fructose metabolism is uric acid, which increases the chances you’ll get gout.
- Fructose raises a hormone called gherlin, which boosts appetite.
- High fructose consumption is associated with metabolic disorder and Type 2 diabetes.
Not Safe No Matter Which Way You Look at It.
Sucrose is table sugar, made from sugar beets or cane sugar. It’s a combination of glucose and fructose. This sugar is rated 100 on the Glycemic Index, and that means maximum insulin production in the body after eating it. Continue eating it and you’ll likely end up with diabetes or pre-diabetes.
Cultural studies by Dr. Price back in the 1940s confirmed that once a society allowed sugar into its diet, it didn’t take too long for the next generation to start suffering from ill effects. Every degenerative disease showed up. Diabetes was one of the many degenerative diseases that increased as a result.
Who Invented This One?
It seems crazy that corn syrup was created as a sweetener when there are plenty of other sweeteners found in nature and additional ones synthesized in the laboratory.
Sure, corn is sweet but especially in this day and age where everyone is suspicious of genetically engineered corn, one has to wonder if corn syrup really is a good idea at all. What’s the effect of the genetic engineering of food on the negative health effects? Probably not so good.
Corn syrup is usually processed into high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). There are two types of HFCS, both rated 87 on the Glycemic Index:
- HFCS 42 – this type is added to processed foods.
- HFCS 55 – this type is 55% fructose and added to beverages.
Adding the fructose to corn syrup will result in all the above problems mentioned under fructose and additional ones, such as increasing LDL-cholesterol levels as well as triglycerides. Triglycerides are tied to insulin resistance and insulin resistance means weight gain and difficulty losing weight. Recent studies have pinpointed a new problem – the possibility of mercury contamination, too.
Natural Enough to Do Some Good?
The term “fruit sugar” is a generic term for any and all types of sugars found in fruit. Some fruits are higher in glucose than fructose (kiwi, apricots, bananas, prunes, cherries, and figs) while others are higher in fructose than glucose (pears, papaya, mangoes, and apples).
Next, you can look at the overall sucrose content of the fruit and sum it up in a Glycemic Index of the fruit. From this rating, you’ll find that the best fruits are low Glycemic index fruits:
High Glycemic index fruits include:
- Sweet grapes
Perhaps the easiest way to determine what fruits you should choose in your daily diet is to simply eat only one serving (a small handful of berries, or a his size piece of fruit) of a low Glycemic Index fruit at a time. This way you’ll never eat too much carbohydrate at one time and your blood sugar level won’t rise to high levels.
Depends on the Processing
The big question to ask about honey is whether it is raw or processed. Raw honey is rated about 30 and is supposedly safe for consumption. However, processed honey has added glucose and/or fructose, and with this addition, the Glycemic Index jumps from a low Glycemic index food all the way to a high Glycemic Index food rated at 75.
And food with a high Glycemic Index is damaging to everyone; non-diabetics as well as diabetics and even those who are prone to develop diabetes or already suffering from a blood sugar level between 100 and 110 mg/dL.
Maybe You Can Handle It, Maybe You Can’t
Maple syrup comes right out of the maple tree but some food processing plants will add other sugars to it to water it down. Maple syrup is naturally high in sucrose, and contains some minerals but its Glycemic index is on the border of low Glycemic index and medium Glycemic index with a score of 54.
Depending on how carbohydrate sensitive someone is, maple syrup may cause an insulin reaction. Remember that carbohydrate sensitivity is a matter of how quickly you pack on the pounds when you cheat on your diet.
Shouldn’t the Nutrients Lower Its GI?
Blackstrap molasses is everything that’s left after cane sugar is processed. All the minerals and B vitamins are left in. The GI of this sugar is 55. Its composition is 70% fructose. No studies have been done on the relationship of this sugar to diabetes yet.
It’s Natural So Let’s Indulge? Not so fast.
Similar to honey, agave nectar has a low GI at 15 to 30 in its natural state but once it’s processed, fructose levels rise to 75%. Thus, the effects in the body are the same as from the increase in fructose. This one comes from the Blue Agave plant.
Palm Coconut Sugar:
The Latest Sugar Bandwagon
This white stuff comes from the sap of coconut palms or date palms. Its GI is low, registering in at 35. Its composition is mostly sucrose. So far no studies have been done on these sugars but give them about 5 years and you’ll find out the results.
Mannitol, Sorbitol, Xylitol, Erythritol, Maltitol:
Originally from Plants
The food industry creates these sugar alcohols from sugar or starch, and then tries to pass them off as natural because they are found in plants. So far, there’s no connection of them to diabetes, probably because they are not absorbed in the body.
Xylitol is a natural insulin stabilizer that can be added to most baked goods. This can be helpful to diabetics, as can its ability to prevent bacterial growth in the body and interfere with Candida growth. Since diabetics are constantly on alert for bacterial infections that get away with rapid growth, this sugar could be potentially helpful. By the way, this sugar can reduce sugar cravings instead of stimulate them, a great way to reduce potential weight gain.
The Glycemic index of xylitol is 7, low on the GI scale.
Maltose and Lactose
Sugar is twice as sweet as maltose, which is produced from grains. The end product of maltose is glucose.
Lactose is the natural sugar found in milk that can cause food intolerances. Food intolerances can cause bloating, headaches and weight gain but other than that, there’s no relationship between the consumption of lactose to diabetes.
The Basic Sugar Guidelines That Will Keep You Safe
Here are some basic guidelines about sugars that most nutrition experts are using:
The least amount of sugar and sweeteners you can have in your diet, the better you will feel and the better your health will be.
What it’s going to always come down to is that you never give up reading the labels for total grams of carbohydrates in a food. Anything more than 30 grams in a serving, forget it!
And remember, once you get going on a sugar binge, your taste buds will change so you can eat more and more sugar. And if a substance is sweeter than sugar, then its possible to start craving it a lot more than you would logically desire. That means added weight gain.
If you have to use sweeteners, go natural and forget the ones created in the labs.
To go natural, generally means to use raw honey, blackstrap molasses, and sugars from dates, coconut or the palm tree, fruit, the maple tree, cane sugar, or herbs that are sweet.
And always remember that even if a sweetener doesn’t have any calories, it doesn’t mean it’s innocent when it comes to packing on the pounds. This is because of the insulin reaction. You body doesn’t know the difference between a calorie free sweetener and regular table sugar. It just knows sweet and it responds very similar.
Bottom line: You don’t need it. Your body will convert both carbohydrates and protein to glucose to use for both brain and physical function. So there you have it – everything you need to know about sugar.
I know sugar cravings are a big one for most. I’m working on a little something to help you all with that.
How do you currently handle sugar cravings?