This post originally appeared on Sanandi.com
It is quite possible to improve your behavior, your disposition, improve efficiency and better your personality…the way to do it is to abandon refined sugar.
—Dr. John W. Tintera
Refined sugar was virtually unknown until the beginning of the seventeenth century but since its discovery, sugar consumption has been on the rise at a rapid rate.
In 1821, average sugar consumption was 5 kgs yearly while today that figure approaches 77 kgs and in the last 100 years our calorie intake has grown, on average, by 1000 per day principally due to the excessive consumption of refined sugars.
The American Nutrition Association has finally accepted that the consumption of sugar is one of the three greatest causes of degenerative diseases.
“The modern manufacture of sugar has been in itself the source of new diseases. Commercial sugar is nothing more than crystallized and concentrated acid. Previously, only a few had the means to acquire it, but now it is such a cheap commodity that it has created a massive degeneration of the human body. The energy loss occasioned by excessive sugar consumption can now no longer be corrected. It has left its mark on the human race. “
—Dr. Robert Besler
What is Refined Sugar and Why is it a Problem?
Modern science is obsessed with substance purity and often loses sight of the immense wisdom offered by nature. This time it is in the form of complex chains of carbohydrates.
Refined sugar is essentially a natural, whole ingredient (sugar cane) that is put through a rigorous, high heat process to remove anything that isn’t the pure sugar ingredient that you find in your local coffee shop (or maybe even keep on your counter top).
Our bodies can burn through this pure ingredient immediately so it has been referred to as an “empty calorie” food but it’s much more accurate to refer to refined sugar as “negative calories” because while it adds nothing to the body, it takes quite a bit of energy and essential nutrients, particularly B-complex, for our bodies to process.
Why does that matter? Because our bodies actually run on sugar. More specifically we break down all of the carbohydrates we eat into two types of sugar, glucose and fructose (monosaccharides, the most basic form of carbohydrate), to feed our cells. Pure, refined sugar is actually just sucrose—a disaccharide made of pure fructose and pure glucose. When we eat refined sugars, we’re basically dosing our bodies with pure energy that absorbs directly into our bloodstream and burns white hot with absolutely no sustainable nutrients to back it up.
What it Does to Our Bodies
With pure energy surging through our bodies and absolutely no nutritional value, the consumption of refined sugars is the principal cause of chronic body inflammation and such inflammation is the source of a wide variety of chronic, degenerative diseases.
Vitamin B Deterioration
Among other things, we need Vitamin B in our bodies to convert food into fuel, create new cells, keep calm during times of stress, fight free radicals, keep our cholesterol and other hormones at regular levels, and help carry nutrients in the bloodstream. At the same time, our bodies don’t store B Vitamins very well so we need to get them from our food.
Refined sugars play a role in depleting the body of vitamin B because our bodies need to the B vitamins we do have to convert that pure stuff from the sugar you ingest to the sugar that fuels your cells, and it doesn’t replenish anything in return.
Children are more greatly affected by a vitamin B1 deficiency since this generates behavior alterations and provokes anxiety or attention deficit. Chronic sugar consumption drains the suprarenal glands and creates fear, pallor and exhaustion.
If you’re compensating for a high sugar intake, whole grain and organic cereals like millit and quinoa, with their high levels of vitamin B, are the most important foods to eat. Other great natural sources of vitamin B are spinach, tomatoes, peas, and carrots.
Arterial Plaque Build Up
When heart disease is among the top causes of death in our society, this is nothing to shake your finger at. A great deal of the sclerosis that plagues our society comes from an indiscriminate use of refined sugars, here’s how that works:
The liver is the principal organ of our vital energy, it’s responsible for over 100 tasks in our body, including detoxification, and (just like us when we’re feeling overworked) when the liver is overwhelmed it doesn’t do any of its jobs to its full capability.
Well, the liver has a limited capacity to store sugar. When this capacity is exceeded, ie when we’re consuming a lot more lemon bars than we should be, the liver can’t process all of it and has to find a new place to store it.
So what it actually does is release glycogens, a type of polysaccahride that functions as energy storage, into the bloodstream in the form of fatty acids. These glycogens are just deposited in the body’s most inactive parts (hello double chin).
When those areas become saturated, those fatty acids are deposited in areas like the kidneys and the heart (hello heart disease).
Immune System Depression
As if heart disease and the side effects of vitamin B deficiency weren’t enough, refined sugar significantly depresses the immune system. And it does it in a plethora of ways, both directly and indirectly.
Simple sugar consumption directly reduces our ability to fight bad bacteria and remove dead or dying cells by actually weakening our while blood cells, or neutrophils. Studies show that just a few hours after consumption of sugar, the neutrophils just don’t perform their jobs—note that complex carbohydrates do not have the same effect on neutrophil phagocytosis.
Refined sugars also reduce the cellular vitamin C absorption because sugar and vitamin C are similarly structured and use the same pathways to pass into cells (with insulin). Since we use sugar to fuel our bodies, our cells will choose to absorb the sugar over the vitamin C out of self-preservation. However, Vitamin C is essential to the maintenance of the immune system by helping to keep the mucous membranes strong.
Another consequence of sugar abuse is the appearance and proliferation of an intestinal fungus called candida albicans, which feeds on the sweet stuff. It provokes a profound alteration in intestinal bacteria symbiosis—which is a super fancy way of saying that it changes how your gut is able to absorb and break down food.
Blood Sugar Fluctuations
Finally (at least for this article), refined sugar leads to serious blood sugar fluctuations like hypoglycemia and overtime can cause diabetes. Our bodies function well by keeping our blood levels in check—that’s everything from sugar to insulin to zinc to every hormone and neurotransmitter we have coursing through us all the time… and they all work together to keep it balanced.
When one thing is out of balance, in this case it’s sugar, everything is thrown out of whack and that can, and does, cause pretty serious health issues that effect your everyday life. That afternoon sugar crash—take that seriously. Because after a while of being overloaded with sugar, your body simply can’t absorb more and it’s used up all the energy it has to convert the sugar to fuel. This is putting yourself into a state where your body doesn’t have the energy to make energy (and that’s what it feels like, right?) and that isn’t a sustainable way to survive.
What You Can Do Right Now
The internet is rife with listicles all about “how to stop eating sugar” so we know you didn’t come here for another list about kicking the habit. We’re all here for the same reason, so you can let your sweet flag fly.
We want to give you some reasonable solutions because let’s face it, sugar isn’t going anywhere. We’re addicted to the jolt of energy that we get when we feel that first bite of pure glucose flowing through our veins. We won’t tell you to stop it. We can’t—you’re in command of your consumption.
What we can do is help you figure out how to manage it so that you can maintain your health (and enjoy a cookie every once in awhile) for longer.
Let’s start here:
The difference between whole and refined sugar
Okay, we just gave you a lot of foreboding information. Here’s a little bit of extra hope for your sweet tooth. Sugar itself isn’t the enemy here, like we’ve said ad nauseam, our bodies run on the stuff, the problem is the lack of nutrients in the refined sugar.
You see, natural sugar actually does have nutrients—we’re not suggesting that you go out and eat all the raw sugar here but we are saying that switching that white sugar packet to a raw sugar option could make a difference for you.
The difference between whole and refined sugar is all in the processing. Whole sugar is as intact as possible and typically comes from a natural process of extraction. The sugar cane plant is crushed and the juice that comes out is evaporated, leaving the nutrients intact. Have you ever touched brown sugar and felt sticky? That’s molasses stuck to your finger which has iron, calcium, magnesium, and more essential vitamins and minerals to back up that serious energy punch from the sugar content.
Eat More Fiber
Fiberous foods are often high in the vitamin B and complex carbohydrates that you’re looking to help your body sustain energy over time. Fiber also helps the digestive system remove toxic agents and unusable food stuffs. Peas, figs, lentils, barley, bananas and oranges are just a few high fiber foods that you can add to your diet. They offer the vitamins, nutrients, and bulk that your body needs so that you can take those little cheat days here and there.
What to Avoid
I know, I know, I said we weren’t here to tell you what not to do, but I also said that you’re in command of your consumption. And you are. We’re just here to give you the information so that you can make your own decisions about your diet. We can’t leave you without the “sugar nono list”
Soda drinks. You know this one, it’s on every list—for good reason. If you’re still drinking the sugary stuff, try this: get a scale and weigh out 39 grams of table sugar… now look at your the label on your personalized coke can. If you’re on a mission to cut down on sugar, this is the place to start.
Aspartame. It’s just not good for you. It tastes like sugar (only way sweeter) but it’s not made with our lovely monosaccharides. Our body breaks it down into methanol, which is an alcohol that’s toxic in high doses.
Juice made from concentrate. Concentrated fruit juice is just essentially flavored sugar. The natural antioxidants and vitamins in the juice are killed while the juice is evaporated at high heat. Often times artificial flavors and excess refined sugars are added to preserve the drink and tickle your taste buds.
Sugary Pastries for Breakfast. Is this anyone else’s weakness? We had to put it on the list because it’s so easy to grab a scone with coffee, get that crazy energy high, and move through the day like the energizer bunny… until the crash comes along. Protein and more complex carbohydrates for breakfast will serve you better and keep your energy up for longer. If you need a sweet to get you going, add a handful of raspberries to you morning.
Tell us how you’re working with sugar in the comments below!