Guest Blog: The dangers of refined sugar + My Food Philosophy

My Food Philosophy

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I changed my life around.  I started exercising, I started eating healthy, and I tried changing the attitudes I had towards people and myself to positive ones.  I cut out added sugars (like plain old granulated sugar, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, evaporated cane juice, etc), and eating whole foods rather than processed was a goal of mine, no matter how hard it got, and no matter what situation I was in–I was always going to be prepared (in a day out running errands, I would take a healthy snack with me to avoid hunger and reaching out to the nearest fast food restaurant.  For a long day of classes, I would take a few bars with me and try to keep everything low-glycemic to sustain my energy.  I would schedule times to go to the gym, because we all know how going to the gym “on the fly” works out!  Anything to stay healthy and motivated.  I was tired of living an unhealthy lifestyle deprived of nutrition and pleasure–chocolate bars stopped making me happy after a while!)

Overall, I just want to find balance. If I cave one day and enjoy a slice of birthday cake with some family or friends, I want to enjoy every single bite of it, without the guilty feelings I once have had. If I indulge too much in wine and pizza on Friday night with my boyfriend, then I will. However, I like to live by the 80/20 rule. One slice of cake or a pizza date with your boyfriend is not going to make you ANY LESS healthy, on the contrary, it will probably make a healthier you! So enjoy! I hope you can come visit me and enjoy a place where decadence and health become one.

And now I am going to hand over my blog to David Novak’s who has appeared in newspapers and magazines around the world.  He’s an avid health enthusiast, and frequently is featured in regional and national health publications. He is also a weekly writer for Healthline.  To visit his other stories on Healthline, visit http://www.healthline.com/

Health Dangers of Refined Sugars

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Refined sugar is widely used in foods and cake, but behind that enjoyable sweetness of sugar, there exist some lurking dangers.  Raw sugar, derived from sugar cane or sugar beet, is a form of sugar which is purified by removing unwanted substances.  In other words, the process of making raw sugar involves removing the fiber materials in sugar, such as plants, soil, bugs and mold.

After boiling and the drying the raw sugar, it’s then bleached, giving it its white appearance.  This bleaching process involves the addition of lime and carbon dioxide, and the end product is “refined sugar.”  Sounds appetizing, doesn’t it?

Health Issues Associated with Refined Sugar

Refined sugar can lead to weight gain and an increase in triglyceride levels, a risk factor for heart disease. Refined sugar also causes tooth decay, and is associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes. Refined sugar can cause hyperactivity in children because it enters the bloodstream quickly and can cause blood sugar to rise. It can even trigger the release of adrenaline, which makes a child hyper.

Refined Sugar: An Addiction

With all of the dangers associated with refined sugar, it’s unfortunate that we are genetically programmed to like sugar. It makes us feel good, adds flavor to food, and if you are truly consuming it in very small amounts and eating a healthy and balanced diet, then it is probably not much of an issue. However, one of the problems with sugar is that we are mainly consuming refined sugar, which has been stripped of its vitamins and minerals, leaving only an empty calorie that our bodies cannot process properly.

Eating refined sugar is actually worse than nothing because it has to leech vitamins and minerals from your body, vitamins and minerals that would normally be present in raw sugar in order for it to be metabolized.

Another big problem with refined sugar is the amount of sugar we consume. Most people in Western societies consume far too much sugar – in energy drinks, sodas, piled into tea and coffee, sweets and desserts and so on. Carbonated sodas are the single biggest source of refined sugars in the American diet, and yet we spend over $80-billion a year on these beverages.  Energy drinks are no better, and even commercial fruit juices are working against us.

The problem is compounded by the fact that refined sugar is added to almost everything these days, including canned vegetables, pasta sauces, yogurt, cereals, crackers and soups. Obviously sugar does not need to be included in these foods, but food companies know that if they add sugar, it will taste better, and people will continue to buy and consume it.  These manufacturers know refined sugar is addictive, and they are taking advantage of your health so they can expand their bottom line.

We Need Sugar

In all of this, you might be asking yourself if our bodies need sugar.  The answer is yes. We need it for energy, and all carbohydrates are a form of sugar, which is the body’s primary energy source, and which is eventually broken down into glucose. However, because all of these vitamins and minerals in refined sugar have been stripped, this type of sugar goes into your bloodstream much more rapidly than with sugar from nutritious food like fruit.  As a consequence, your body has to produce more insulin to compensate.  This unhealthy process causes you to fatigue quickly, run low on energy and your body thinks it needs more sugar to bring your blood sugar back to normal. You get stuck in a cycle of highs and lows, which is not healthy or natural and can have a negative impact on your health, including your immune system.

Diabetes, which is probably one of the main health consequences that people think of when it comes to sugar, is developed when the pancreas constantly has to compensate and produce more insulin to control blood glucose levels.  When this organ has to do this too many times, it can cause the pancreas to burn out until it can’t produce enough insulin. This is what can eventually lead to Type 2 Diabetes.

Evidence suggests that increasing the consumption of sugar puts you more at risk for Type 2 Diabetes, and it can also lead weight gain, as the insulin has more difficulty getting through fat around cells to help glucose enter cells, which is how our bodily cells get the nutrients from the food we eat. Then, the glucose stays in the bloodstream which leads to a multitude of negative effects. There is also evidence that excessive sugar consumption is linked to certain forms of cancer and many other diseases and degenerative conditions. It has also been linked to autoimmune diseases such as asthma and arthritis.

Cutting Back

Cutting down on refined sugar consumption is the obvious solution to all of this, but it can be pretty difficult, especially considering its addictive make-up. Doing so, though, can make you feel a whole lot better.  Start by drinking your coffee black and diluting your morning fruit juice. Another good tip is to drink a lot of water so you don’t get thirsty and crave a sweet drink. Eat small amounts of food regularly to keep your blood sugar levels stable. Allowing your blood sugar to drop exacerbates your sugar craving. Also, read food labels carefully for added sugar, and watch out for alternative ways food manufacturers advertise sugar.  Some labels may not say “sugar” on them, but the following food additives are the very same thing: high fructose corn syrup, sorbitol, sucrose and dextrose.

Rather, use whole cane sugar.  It contains the molasses, which is normally removed during the refining process, but which has more flavor. Or try some honey as a sweetener, Honey is a simple sugar that contains a lot of healthy enzymes.  Stevia is another sugar substitute.  This natural herb is very sweet, doesn’t have any calories and only requires small doses to effectively sweeten a food or a beverage.  Finally, agave nectar is the raw nectar from the agave plant, which tastes a bit like honey but has a lower glycemic index, and you can use it the same way you would use honey.  You can also use it as a sugar substitute for baking.

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