Most of us stop and think about the impact of sugar when it comes to losing weight. Sugar has some pretty serious consequences that affect more than just our waistline! A 2009 study published in the journal Food and Addiction, “Is Sugar as Addictive as Cocaine,” proved that sugar was eight times as addictive as cocaine. Hard to imagine, right? Tests on rats have indicated that when given the choice, rats prefer sugar water to cocaine!
Our body converts carbohydrates into sugar in the form of glucose, which is our body’s primary source of energy. Glucose is absorbed into the blood stream where it is distributed and used by our cells, muscles and organs to carry out all of their processes and functions. We cannot live without glucose.
Along with caffeine, processed sugar threatens similar negative effects to the nervous system and can actually deplete your energy when consumed excessively over time. Before you panic, you don’t need to cut out all sweets from your life! On the contrary! You can easily replace cane sugar and other processed and artificial forms with the natural good stuff like raw honey, coconut sugar, maple syrup, dates and stevia.
Here’s the rundown on sugar…
Two Main Types of Sugars
Glucose, a simple sugar: it’s what our bodies use as fuel for energy. Some glucose is stored in the liver and muscle tissues as glycogen for future use. The excess sugar gets stored as fat for use during periods of low calorie intake.
Sucrose, the other type of sugar we encounter, is a disaccharide made up of two sugars-–glucose and fructose (fruit sugars). Sucrose is typically extracted from plants and processed into a refined product, like cane sugar or beet sugar. In this process, the nutrients are removed from the plants and discarded, leaving a refined crystal of pure sugar.
Sugar feeds candida! You’ve probably heard of candida – everyone has it. Candida – it’s part of the gut flora of microorganisms that not only lives in our gut, but in our mouth. It’s when it gets out of control that there’s a problem that greatly weakens the digestive system and affects the digestive and absorption process of nutrients. In addition to causing symptoms like fatigue, weight gain, gas, constipation and joint pain, Candida Albicans, when out of control, weakens the intestinal wall, gets into the bloodstream and merrily releases its toxic byproducts throughout the entire body. In turn, the immune system is weakened and results in other forms of digestive issues like IBS.
Having a candida overgrowth may be the reason behind your sugar cravings, and those cravings when you satisfy them with sugar will unfortunately compound the problem by feeding and strengthening the candida.
Yes, it can be a tough cycle to break!
While candida overgrowth results from poor digestion and/or a leaky gut and isn’t always simple the consumption of sugar, it is a big contributor. We address own grains, even gluten free grains, also contribute to candida overgrowth another time. For now, we’re focusing on the effects of high, sugar/refined sugar diet.
Awareness is the first step to decreasing your daily sugar consumption and breaking the cycle. Reading labels and understanding the many forms of sugar contained in packaged foods is important. Look for other names used to disguise sugar such as:
- processed honey
- malt syrup
- corn syrup
- high fructose corn syrup
- even artificial sweeteners like aspartame, acesulfame potassium, neotame, saccharin, sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, erythritol, sucralose. (Some of these are naturally-derived sugar substitutes that look and taste like sugar, have almost no calories, which have been “approved as safe” by the FDA. There are side effects such as diarrhea, stomach upset and headache after normal consumption. Stick with natural sugars like the ones listed below!)
Main Negative Effects of Sugar
- Sugar causes a sudden increase in glucose levels.
Imbalanced sugar levels in your blood often spike mood changes, sudden tiredness, constant headaches, and the desire for even more sugar. Eating sugar regularly slowly becomes a habit. And, just like anything else addictive, a new dose of sugar provides only temporary relief. Within a few hours, feelings of hunger and cravings for more sugar become even stronger. On the other hand, those who don’t overuse sugar feel more energetic and more vibrant than those consuming large doses.
- Sugar increases the risk of obesity, diabetes and heart diseases.
Research shows that there is a definite correlation between sugar and obesity and diabetes. It can also increase the risk of heart disease.
- Sugar causes immune system disorders.
When experimenting with animals, it was discovered that sugar blocks the immune response. Bacteria and yeast need sugar to grow. In the presence of imbalance between these materials (bacteria and sugar) human immune systems can become weaker, leading to a range of illnesses, both acute and chronic.
- Large doses of sugar cause chromium deficiency in the body.
Chromium is essential to regulating sugar levels in the blood. People who constantly consume large amounts of sugar or other refined carbohydrates do not get enough chromium. Chromium can be found in many animal or vegetative products and also in seafood. Refined carbohydrates pull chromium away from these products, producing a “Catch 22” situation. (1)
- Sugar causes aging.
Sugar can have a negative effect on the quality of your skin. Certain parts of sugar molecules join with proteins when they enter the blood (glycolysis.) As a consequence, new structures are formed that reduce body tissue integrity. Hence, the more sugar in your blood, the faster your body will age.
- Sugar and Stress
During a stressful situation, the body releases the stress hormone cortisol. This hormone is also more prevalent when blood sugar levels have decreased. For example when you eat a piece of cake, your sugar levels sharply increase and set you up for a soon-to-follow sharp decrease-–otherwise known as a sugar crash…and then your stress hormones are activated! They quickly pump more sugar and energy into the body. The problem is that these otherwise-useful hormones can cause anxiety, irritation and sudden changes of mood.
- Sugar depletes your body of important nutrients.
Excessive sugar depletes your body of vitamins A, C, B12, folic acid, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and iron. Sadly enough, kids fall prey to this problem, too, and they need those nutrients for their growing bodies!
Ready to make the switch from processed to natural sugars? Here’s the first thing to focus on! Upgrade processed sugars and your common artificial sweeteners to nutrient-rich nourishing sweeteners such as:
Local Raw Honey – it’s loaded with antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, amino acids, enzymes, carbohydrates and phytonutrients. Raw honey is also very medicinal.
Grade A or B Maple Syrup – Grade A is lighter in color and consistency and is harvested at the beginning of the season. Grade B is harvested at the end of the season, is darker and may have a richer flavor. There is little difference in nutrient value. Do not use maple “flavored” syrups.
Coconut Sugar or Coconut Nectar – made from the sap of coconut palms. Has a relatively low glycemic index.
Dates – high in fiber, vitamins and minerals. Dates fill in quite nicely in recipes instead of granulated or brown sugar – use equal parts.
Stevia – best for low candida diets.
Feeding your body with nutrient-dense, fiber-rich foods helps curb cravings for quick pick-me-ups. Many people who are nutrient-deficient crave sugar. Eating a diet rich in complex carbohydrates from whole grains, vegetables and protein-laden foods works to stabilize blood sugar and minimize the need to feed on artificially sweetened foods. When our bodies are fed properly, our hormones are balanced and our cravings subside.
As you can see, you can still enjoy some sweetness in life – just pick the healthier options!