In last weeks blog post I recommended avoiding sugar while you are battling a cold due to its negative effects on your immune system. This week I’m repeating that advice; even if you aren’t battling a cold. You’re goal should be to avoid sugar altogether. To be clear, I am not referring to natural foods like many fruits that are higher in naturally occurring sugars. I’m talking about the refined, highly processed sugars that are distilled from their natural sources and are then re-added to just about everything we consume in our modern processed diets.
Avoiding sugar is not easy and that is the very reason that it gets added to so many processed foods. It is a dense and quick source of energy for us and our bodies have evolved special sensors in our taste buds to detect it. Our brains even give us a ‘feel good’ release of opiates as an additional reward whenever we consume it. So you might be wondering why you should to avoid something that our bodies need and are actually set up to crave. Simply speaking the processes used to refine sugar (as well as other refined sweeteners) removes beneficial nutrients that accompany it in its natural form. What’s left is an ultra concentrate that can behave more like a drug than a food and can cause numerous problems when ingested to excess.
Some of those problems can include(1):
Excessive weight gain and obesity, Diabetes, Crohn’s disease, Arthritis, Tooth decay, Periodontitis, Asthma, Mental illness, Nervous disorders, Low blood sugar, Imbalance in the body’s calcium-phosphorous relationship
Sugar and other processed sweeteners are found in a wide array of processed foods that can be sold at your local grocery store or favorite restaurant. Besides all the usual suspects like sodas, candies, pastries and other ‘sweets’, refined sweeteners are added to a great many sauces, dressing, sports drinks, flavored yogurts, granolas, coffee drinks, ketchup, protein bars, peanut butter and more and more.
Get used to reading ingredient labels on the foods you buy. Remember the earlier it’s listed in the ingredients list then the higher the concentration in the food you are eating. Also pay attention to the cumulative effect of multiple refined sweeteners that are added to an item and listed in its list of ingredients. Some other names to look for in that ingredient list include(2):
Brown Rice Syrup (this was by far the most common added sugar I saw at the show – I even saw one booth with a huge graphic, extolling brown rice syrup’s virtues!), Fruit Juice Concentrate, Fruit Juice, Sugar, Invert Sugar, Cane Sugar, Cane Juice, Evaporated Cane Juice, Raw Cane Sugar, Brown Sugar, Beet Sugar, Palm Sugar, Date Sugar, Coconut Sugar, Barley Malt, Malt Syrup, Rice Bran Syrup, Corn Syrup, Corn Syrup Solids, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Dextrose, Maltodextrin, Glucose, Glucose Solids, Fructose, Sucrose, Maltose, Lactose, Galactose, Honey, Maple Syrup, Agave, Sorghum Syrup, Diastatic Malt, Molasses, Caramel, Treacle, Golden Syrup, Panocha, Muscovado Sugar, Turbinado Sugar, Demerara Sugar, Sucanat, Rapadura, Jaggery, Panela
OK so all that said I’ll relent a bit on my initial advice about making your goal to avoid ALL sugar. One candy bar on Halloween is not going to bring about diabetes. Moderation is ok but be aware that processed sweeteners are hidden in many foods and their cumulative effect over time can have a significant effect on your health.
To illustrate my point check out this recent post from Holland: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/food/article-3263390/Man-gives-added-sugar-alcohol-one-month-loses-weight.html
(1) Kirschmann, John D. (2007) Nutrition Almanac. New York, NY: McGraw Hill.
(2) Wilder, Andrew (2012, March 12). Sugar is sugar is sugar is sugar!. Retrieved from https://eatingrules.com/names-for-sugar/
Kevin holds a Nutrition Educator Certification from Bauman College