As I said before, eating sugars causes our bodies to release the hormones opioids and dopamine. For this reason, sugar is actually addicting. It's either a comforting thought (I'm not a pig!) or a scary thought (I have no hope!). Hopefully it's the first. However my point to telling you this isn't to give you an excuse to move ahead with eating as much sugar as you want. It's to understand. once you understand the root of a problem, it's easier to find a solution. That, the solution, is my goal.
Okay, so sugar is addicting. So what? Well, when you're addicted to something, you have a hard time not consuming it, right? This leads to over-eating of those sugary substances and that can create a lot of issues.
Here are the problems I find with sugar. Most processed sugars (table sugar) have no nutritional value. We need to change our perception on what eating is for. It's for giving our bodies the nutrients it needs to live. We eat to live, not live to eat. Of course, we can enjoy eating. Especially a sugary treat every once in a while-but our main purpose should be to give our bodies the best food we can. That's one of my number one goals-to change my reason for eating. Remembering that what we put in our mouth effects more than just our hips (or muffin top) & taste buds is important. We need nutrients from our food. If we're eating mainly sugary, fatty foods-most likely we're skipping the nutrient, vitamin, mineral rich foods our body needs.
So to get a little scientific, our brain needs sugar(glucose). Our body craves it. So when those cravings begin-we don't usually think of whole fruits and vegetables. We think of sweets. There's natural fructose in vegetables and fruits-that's the sugar our body wants. Those are great to eat because they're paired with the vitamins, minerals, and fiber that is used to slow down absorption of the sugars and metabolize it properly. When we take out a macro-nutrient from a real food. It becomes a processed food, and it's not in the natural state God intended.
The scariest thing about sugar is the health issues that arise from eating too much sugar. As I said above, by eating something sweet with no nutrition your denying your body healthy food. It can cause bone loss, tooth decay, worsen your asthma, cause mood unbalances, depletes antibodies that fight viruses and bacteria, and much more. Because we're addicted to it (most of us) it causes us to overeat which in turn can cause us to be overweight, obese, and have high levels of stomach fat. The biggest health risk I see is spiking our blood sugar which can cause Type 2 Diabetes.
Now what about 'natural' sugars? Sugar in the raw, cane juice, agave nectar or honey? Aren't these healthier for us? Here's my take: It depends on what you mean by healthy. Sugar is sugar. Whether it's glucose or fructose, our body see's it as sugar. It processes it the same. It will spike your blood sugar if it's not taken with other nutrients that will slow down the absorption. Now if your goal is to eat more REAL, unprocessed foods. As close to their natural state as possible, and you need to eat sugar (hopefully as a natural ingredient in a recipe), then by all means use agave nectar or the like. In the non processed sense, yes it is better for you. However if your goal is to lose weight and fat and give your body the nutrients it needs then I would remember that your body sees it the same as any other sugar.
Here's a good thing to remember. 4 grams of sugar is equal to 1 teaspoon of sugar. That puts it in perspective for me. It's suggested that if you want to lose weight, not to have more than 5t/20g of sugar per day. Also, the USDA suggest that the average person with a 1200-1600 calorie diet (most people trying to lose fat are in this category) should eat only 4-5 t. per day.
So my game plan? Ha, I'm not sure. I think arming myself with this information is a good first step. Two, cut out as many processed foods as possible (even that chocolate chip cookie dough in my fridge). Be aware of added sugar in foods. Be a label detective. Here are a list of added sugars1. One or two isn't too bad (as long as it isn't one of the first 3 ingredients listed). More than that I would avoid it.
- Agave nectar; brown sugar, can crystals, cane sugar, corn sweetener; corn syrup or corn syrup solids; crystallized fructose; dehydrated can juice; dextrin; dextrose; evaporated cane juice; fructose; fruit juice concentrate; glucose; high-fructose corn syrup; honey; invert sugar; lactose; maltodextrin; malt syrup; maltose; maple syrup; molasses; raw sugar; rice syrup; saccharose; sorghum; sucrose; syrup; treacle; turbinado sugar; xylose.
1.U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005. Chapter 7: Carbohydrates. Accessed on April 5, 2009.