(This is part 2 in this series. To learn about problems with conventional meat, read Part 1.)
Ah sugar. The sweet substance we all know and love and crave. Moms around the world have secret stashes hidden away from little fingers in drawers and cabinets. Oh wait, I’m giving away trade secrets now. But really we should all be asking ourselves ‘Is sugar even a real food?’ Unfortunately, you may not like the answer to this question.
Is Sugar a Real Food?
Table sugar, otherwise called sucrose, is derived from either sugar cane or sugar beet. Therefore, it should be a real food. However, it is so highly processed that the resulting sugar crystals do not resemble anything close to a perennial, tropical grass or a tasty root. Sorry Charlie.
Sucrose, Glucose, and Fructose Oh My!
It sounds like a page from a Dr. Seuss story, but Sucrose is a disaccharide which basically means it is made up of two monosaccharides; glucose and fructose. In her ground-breaking book Gut and Psychology Syndrome, Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride MD explains “All Carbohydrates are made of tiny molecules, called monosaccharides. There are many of them. The most common ones are glucose, fructose, and galactose. These monosaccharides or monosugars can easily penetrate the gut lining; they do not need digestion. Glucose and fructose are found in abundance in fruit and vegetables.” She goes on to explain disaccharides. “The most common ones are sucrose (the common table sugar), lactose (the milk sugar) and maltose from digestion of starch. These double sugars cannot be absorbed without quite a bit of work”. (pgs. 100-101)
To make a long story short, monosaccharides are easier to digest and disaccharides are harder to digest. When eating disaccharides, you want to eat them in their natural form so that your body is able to use the accompanying nutrients to digest it. God knew what he was doing when he created sweet foods for us to enjoy! The dangerous thing about sugar is that it is separated from the source, depleted of all nutrients, passed through an activated carbon filter to whiten the color, and then consumed in abundance.
Other Problems with Sugar
It is pretty well accepted that sugar is not good for us. People try to exhibit moderation when it comes to consuming it. However, most people believe it’s bad for us because it will make us gain weight and an over consumption of it could lead to diabetes. Those two facts are true, however there are many more reasons we should be avoiding sugar.
It Depletes our Magnesium Stores
To quote Dr. Campbell-McBride again, “To metabolize only one molecule of sugar the body requires around 56 molecules of magnesium. Consumption of sugar is a major reason for widespread magnesium deficiency in our modern society, leading to high blood pressure, neurological, immune and many other problems.” (p. 112) Most of us probably don’t think about our magnesium levels, but our bodies also have to pull other important vitamins, minerals and enzymes from our body to process sugar. (p. 111) To make this really clear, when we eat sugar that has no nutrients in it, our body has to give up good nutrients to process it.
It Feeds the Wrong Kind of Bacteria
The amount of good bacteria in our gut is imperative to our overall health. When we consume large amounts of sugar, we are feeding the bad bacteria. Candida especially thrives on sugar. When left unchecked, this bad bacteria that is running rampant in our body can damage the lining of the gut. Damaged gut linings let partially digested foods into the bloodstream which the body then attacks. Dr. Campbell-McBride believes “This is how food allergies or intolerances develop. What is happening is that foods do not get a chance to be digested properly before they are absorbed through the damaged gut wall. In many cases, when the gut wall is healed food allergies disappear.” (p. 43) I believe this happened with my second son.
It Lowers Immunity
This 1973 study shows a strong correlation between the consumption of sugar and a lowered immune response up to 5 hours after eating the sugar. I know from personal experience that my kids seem to get sick more often when allowed to consume large amounts of sugar. Basically, the sugar slows down your body’s ability to get rid of bad germs and bacteria. For this reason, I believe, it’s especially important not to consume sugar when sick or even when around other people who are sick.
It is Addictive
We all know that the more sugar we eat, the more we crave it. However, one study actually confirmed that it can be more addicting than cocaine.
And the List Keeps Going
I could go on and on about how it messes with our blood glucose levels, contributes to tooth decay, is genetically modified (sugar made from sugar beets) and is linked to obesity, heart disease, cancer, and high blood pressure, but I think we all get the point.
Sugar is not a real food and is not good for us.
There is Hope
I hope I haven’t crushed your sweet tooth bubble. The truth is, we just need to exhibit moderation in everything we consume. Unfortunately, sugar is not used in moderation within processed foods and that is why we must eat whole, real foods. There are a lot of other whole food options for sweetening things. In our house we use raw honey and maple syrup in baked goods that call for sugar. These sweeteners actually contain nutrients and the raw honey even contains important enzymes. They are both lower on the glycemic index than sucrose, although even natural sweeteners need to be eaten in moderation. Also, since we have cut most processed sugar out of our diet, natural sweeteners taste much sweeter now and table sugar almost has a chemical taste to it.
We are not staunch sugar avoiders. We follow the 80/20 rule. We aim to eat clean, whole foods at least 80% of the time. Then, when we are out and about with the youth group or at other people’s houses and eat foods with sugar and other processed ingredients, I don’t worry about it because I know we are eating it in moderation. Stay tuned for my next post where I will show some easy ways to reduce the hidden sugars in our diet.
What concerns you the most about sugar? When we first started cutting out sugar I was most worried about its effects on the immune system. Now that I’ve done more research I feel more concerned about how quickly it depletes our bodies of nutrients. How do you feel about all the food geared towards kids that are loaded with sugar? I would love to hear your input!