One in every five calories consumed by Canadians comes from sugar. Sugar is the number one additive used by the food industry. Natural sugars are carbohydrates, that supply the body with the energy it needs function. Carbohydrates can be divided into three categories: monosaccharides (simple sugars), disaccharides (double sugars), and polyscaccharides (starches and fibres, includes those found in potatoes and breads. On average, in 2004, Canadians consumed 110.0 grams of sugar a day, the equivalent of 26 teaspoons.7 This amounted to 21.4% of their total daily calorie intake. *=(1)
As little as 2 teaspoons of sugar changes the blood chemistry so that the body is no longer in homeostasis- the balanced state that the body functions optimally. After the body digest sugar, the mineral balance also changes. For instance, blood calcium levels may increase and those of phosphorus may decrease. When the blood level of a mineral increases dramatically, the body is thrown off balance, as minerals function efficiently only in balance with one another. When the body's levels of minerals in the blood stream decrease, the body may no longer have enough to work synergistically with enzymes, which are also mineral dependent. Mineral deficiencies can lead to many symptoms that lead to disease.
Sugar is disguised as many names: barley malt, beet sugar, blackstrap molasses, caramel, corn fuctose, corn syrup, date sugar, demarara sugar, high fructose corn syrup, glucose sorbitol.... and the list goes on. It's found in so many of our foods that we eat, sometimes occurring naturally, and when we are eating processed foods, sometimes we don't even realize how much sugar is in the products that we are eating. For instance, I was feeding my son a cliff bar. The box label advertises that it is a healthy snack. Right on the front of the bar it advertises 8g whole grains, source of fibre and non- GMO with the certified organic symbol on the corner. When glancing at the front of this package, you would think that you are making a healthy choice feeding this to your kids. Until you turn the package around and just look at the amount of sugar that is in this bar. Sugar 11 g and Carbohydrate 24 g. When I see the measurement in grams, it brings be back to elementary school and I am putting those tiny little metal weights on a scale in 1, 5 and 10 g pieces. Does it really make me visualize how much sugar is in the bar? No, absolutely not. But let me help you put into perspective, just how much sugar is in there. There are 4 grams of sugar in 1 teaspoon. And to calculate the carbs that turn into sugar in your body, you divide the amount of carbs by 4. So lets do some math:
Those 11 grams of sugar calculates into 2.25 tsp of sugar (11 ÷ 4 = 2.75)
Those 24 g carbohydrates calculates into 6 tsp of sugar (24 ÷ 4 = 6)
That is almost 3 tsp of sugar in that one bar, that let's be honest, fills my son up for 30 minutes max before he is asking for more food lol
Sugar is needed for the body to function optimally, but lets face it, we consume far more sugar that the brain needs to function. We live in a society that it is acceptable to eat sugary foods all day long and not expect our bodies to react negatively. Blood sugar issues are a huge influencing factor in mental health. Poor moods leads to high sugar food cravings which trigger high insulin production from the pancreas. Excess sugar and insulin in the blood leads to accelerated glycation end products (also referred to as AGE) Increased inflammation in the brain leads to mood disorders and leads to premature aging.
Also as mentioned before, consumption of sugar interferes with mineral absorption especially zinc, folate, magnesium and B vitamins. Sugar literally pulls these nutrients out of the body.
But don't think you are off the hook if you use artificial sweeteners. Splenda and aspartame do not react in our bodies the same and do not affect the blood sugars the same way but they interfere with metabolism and brain health none the less. Artificial sweeteners are found everywhere from cereals to gum to protein powders.
Sucralose is 600 times sweeter than table sugar so it's 600 times more addictive. Scientists discovered it by accident. It has not been shown to increase cancer, but studies show that it reduces the good bacteria in the gut. Mice that are fed splenda actually gain weight. Pedialyte, cookies, lean pockets all contain artificial sweeteners and they all slow down your metabolism die to it's composition. It is made by adding 3 chlorine molecules to a composition. These chlorine molecules have been shown to damage the thyroid, low thyroid function leads to weight gain. Symptoms of thyroid dysfunction include: depression and anxiety to name a few.
When sugar disrupts the good bacteria in the guy that lives in the intestine is needed to make the happy brain chemical called; serotonin. Lack of good bacteria causes cravings and weight gain. Bifido bacteria is the main strain of beneficial bacteria that helps produce serotonin. Rats that are given sucralose experience 40% drop in thymus function which is important for immune function leaving us susceptible to colds and flues.
The oldest sugar impostor is saccharine which was discovered in 1879 when a diabetes researcher licked his hand at dinner and discovered the compound that he had been working on was very sweet. It is found in the pink packs and is labeled sweet and low. It is also 600 times sweeter than sugar. You do not need as much to sweeten your food and is referred to as the low calorie and we do not absorb the compound well. In the 1970's, studies show it's consumption is correlated to increase weight gain in humans as well as rats. If the last bit of studies haven't turned you away from the pink packet, how about knowing that it is made from coal tar?
A Yale study showed that artificial sweeteners don't activate the food reward pathway in the brain so it tricks your brain so you continue to want to eat sweet food to satisfy the brain. Constantly eating artificial sweeteners will cause blood sugar imbalances. High carb foods (simple carbs like breads, pastries cakes and cookies) combined with artificial sweeteners create accelerated glycation end products. Blood sugar roller coaster rides (which is what happens when you fuel on sugary sweets all day example latte for breakfast, donut for lunch, pastry for an afternoon snack and mac and cheese for dinner) also creates AGEs in the body.
Aspartame: also known as Equal or Nutrasweet has been linked to depression. It was also discovered when a scientist licked his finger in 1967 and it is 200 times sweeter than sugar. A 1967 study was done on mice that showed that mice experience less serotonin when fed aspartame for 30 days. Too little serotonin leads to depression and cravings for processed carbs.
Now obviously we cannot avoid sugars completely. Our body needs to convert carbs into glucose in order for our brain to function optimally. But where those carbs come from make a huge difference on how your body reacts to the glucose. When you consume sugars from natural sources such as fresh fruit and whole foods, the body is able to process it and utilize it as needed. Excess sugar intake, affects the functioning of our organs which leads to symptoms that lead to disease. To keep our blood sugars in balance it is important to avoid processed foods and eat complex carbohydrates like veggies, beans, and fruit. And make sure to ensure healthy fats with those complex carbs to ensure proper absorption of nutrients. More on healthy fats on another day. Stay tuned!
I'm Elizabeth and I love cooking! When my son was faced with many different food allergies, cooking became very challenging. Now I like to educate people about what they are putting in their mouth as well as inspire others that cooking healthy allergen friendly foods are easy and delicious. For recipes, visit my Instagram account @holisticmommabear