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Sugar - The Not-So-Sweet Facts

Sugar has quickly become the single worst ingredient in the modern Western diet. Science has now shown that sugar is taking a devastating toll on the health of the population and is leading to wide spread obesity, heart disease, diabetes, liver disease and a host of other closely related illnesses.

The single largest source of calories in the standard western diet comes from sugar—specifically high fructose corn syrup. In 1700, the average person consumed about 4 pounds of sugar per year. By 1900, individual consumption had risen to 90 pounds of sugar per year. In 2009 that figure rose to 180 pounds of sugar per year which is equivalent to half a pound of sugar per day.

Sugar is loaded into soft drinks, fruit juices, sports drinks, and hidden in almost all processed foods on the supermarket shelves. Anything labeled low fat or zero fat is generally loaded with sugar and even things labeled sugar free, are instead filled with artificial sweeteners that can be equally as detrimental to the body as sugar itself.

“White refined sugar is not a food. It is a pure chemical extracted from plant sources, purer in fact than cocaine, which it resembles in many ways.” - Dr. David Reuben

The very concept that sugar can be compared to cocaine is frightening, but on an everyday level, here a few more reasons why sugar should be avoided.

Empty of Nutrition

Added sugars (like sucrose and high fructose corn syrup) contain a great deal of calories with NO essential nutrients. For this reason, they are called “empty” calories. There are no proteins, essential fats, vitamins or minerals in sugar- just pure energy. These empty and quickly digested calories actually pull minerals from the body during digestion and contribute to major nutrient deficiencies in the body.

Liver Disease

Before sugar enters the bloodstream from the digestive tract, it is broken down into two simple sugars- glucose and fructose. Fructose can only be metabolized by the liver in small amounts. In excessive amounts, fructose overloads the liver, forcing it to turn the fructose into fat. When fructose gets turned into fat this can lead to Liver Disease.

Insulin Resistance and Diabetes

Insulin is a very important hormone in the body yet having too much glucose in the blood is highly toxic. When sugar is consumed in large amounts the insulin stops working as it should and can lead to insulin resistance in the body. When our cells become resistant to the effects of insulin, the pancreas tries to keep up with the demand, eventually resulting in a diagnosis of type II diabetes.

Increase risk of Cancer

Cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide and is characterized by uncontrolled growth and multiplication of cells. Insulin is one of the key hormones in regulating this sort of growth. Thus having constantly elevated insulin levels (a consequence of sugar consumption) can also contribute to cancer growth.

Obesity and Heart Disease

The way sugar affects hormones and the brain is directly linked to weight gain. The addictive nature of sugar also leads to a decreased satiety which triggers an over consumption and dependence on sugar for people to get through their day. Sugar both drives fat storage and makes the brain think it is hungry, setting up a vicious cycle that people tend to feel helpless against.

Luckily there are sweeteners on the market now that offer a healthier alternative. You can try sweeteners such as coconut nectar, brown rice syrup, rapadura or stevia. These sweeteners are not empty nutrition. They are lower in fructose and still retain some mineral content. Sweeteners such as dates or bananas also work well in recipes are are a great whole-food option! You will find that as you move away from sugar, the cravings for sweet things will also begin to fade. Then foods that are naturally sweet- such as carrots or beetroots or green apples, will taste sweet to your taste buds! Having lots of green juice is a great way to curb sugar cravings. Drinking warm water with lemon and ginger is also a great way to hydrate your body and move away from the need for a sweet drink!

Cutting sugar out of your diet will indeed make a tremendous difference on your energy levels, weight, mood and health in general.


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