Sugar: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

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Bad sugars

I had a conversation with a friend the other day about sugar. And she was talking about the “healthier” versions; agave, etc. and immediately two things occurred to me: One, isn’t sugar, sugar? Does that fact that one has a slightly lower glycemic level make it any better? (We must also consider the fructose to glucose ratios in every type of sugar). And second, if, as they say, the brain cannot distinguish real sugar from substitute sugar, and reacts in the same way, does that also hold true for these “healthier” sugars?

Now for me, I have reduced my sugar intake to less than 10 grams per day, if even that much. That’s less than a pound of sugar a year. The average person consumes between 135 – 150 pounds of sugar each year; according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, or according to SugarScience.org, 66 pounds of “added sugar”. According to USDA Agricultural Fact Book and National Center for Health Statistics; the Americans consume an average of 152 pounds of caloric sweeteners per year USDA Factbook.

And while I may have the occasional catsup with my fries, or a piece of bread every now and again, or enjoy a couple pieces of fruit, sugar is definitely not a part of my diet. In fact, I recently had a glass of wine a couple times at social gatherings and paid heavily for it. The next morning(s) I had severe headaches (similar to the migraines I used to get), and my inflammation from an old car accident flared up; which, since giving up sugar, has almost completely vanished.

So if my body reacts that sensitively to sugar these days, one has to wonder what is going in behind the scenes for the “occasional” sugar users, or even for the “healthy” sugar alternative users?

Here are some facts to consider –

According to Doctor Robert Lustig, M.D., there are 56 names for sugar out there:

Sucrose, High-Fructose corn syrup (HFCS), Agave nectar, Beet sugar, Blackstrap molasses, Brown sugar, Buttered syrup, Cane juice crystals, Cane sugar, Caramel, Carob syrup, Castor sugar, Coconut sugar, Confectioner’s sugar (powdered sugar), Date sugar, Demerara sugar, Evaporated cane juice, Florida crystals, Fruit juice, Fruit juice concentrate, Golden sugar, Golden syrup, Grape sugar, Honey, Icing sugar, Invert sugar, Maple syrup, Molasses, Muscovado sugar, Panela sugar, Raw sugar, Refiner’s syrup, Sorghum syrup, Sucanat, Treacle sugar, Turbinado sugar, Yellow sugar, Barley malt, Brown rice syrup, Corn syrup, Corn syrup solids, Dextrin, Dextrose, Diastatic malt, Ethyl maltol, Glucose, Glucose solids, Lactose, Malt syrup, Maltodextrin, Maltose, Rice syrup, Crystalline fructose, Fructose, D-ribose, Galactose.

And here’s the thing that people keep missing about the “healthier” sugars… If I eat an orange, that’s one thing, but if I drink a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice, that’s 4-6 oranges I’ve just consumed, 4-6 times the amount of sugar intake. So when you consume agave or beet sugar, or some other “healthy” sugar, it’s in concentrated form and you are actually consuming greater quantities that you think.

Here’s something to consider; it’s the word “concentrate.” Whenever you see that word you can be sure

that whatever “natural sweetener” is used to enhance that food or drink will have higher levels of sugar.

It’s important to note that people keep missing about the “healthier” sugars… If I eat an orange, that’s one thing, but if I drink a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice, that’s 4-6 oranges I’ve just consumed, 4-6 times the amount of sugar intake. So when you consume agave or beet sugar, or some other “healthy” sugar, it’s in concentrated form and you are actually consuming greater quantities than you think.

The manufacturing process of agave is similar to how other unhealthy sweeteners are made, such as High Fructose Corn Syrup, stripping it of its healthier compounds liked fructans, which are linked to beneficial effects on metabolism and insulin.

Agave is commonly used as a “healthy” alternative to sugar because it doesn’t spike blood sugar levels as much as many other sugar varieties.

However, agave nectar contains about 70–90% fructose, and 10–30% glucose.

Given the harmful health effects of excess fructose consumption, agave nectar may be even worse for metabolic health than regular sugar.

After giving up sugar, originally because I was having memory loss issues, it was recommended to reduce my sugar intake, these are the results I’ve personally experienced:

  • Inflammation vanished! – After 6 years of chronic back and neck pain due to an auto accident

  • Immediate weight loss – 22 pounds in less than 3 weeks (but it wasn’t even on my radar that this was a perk)

  • Memory increased dramatically!

  • Energy increased by at least 45%

  • My taste buds exploded and healthy foods tasted profoundly better

  • Recovery from colds and flu – A third of the down time as before and less illness every year

I’m not suggesting that everyone will experience the same results but it’s interesting that I’ve had such dramatic response after more than 40 years of being a sugar addict, fiend. I was the poster child for ice cream and could not get through a single meal without a yummy reward afterwards.

It took me a minimum of 60-days to rid myself of the sugar craving. A friend, doing the same 60-days, decided to use substitute sugars during her 60-days and ended up right back where she started until she had to start again and completely weaned herself off sugar entirely.

When people claim they could not keep weight off or lose weight by reducing fat, it’s typically because they maintained some form of sugar in their diet.

But honestly, it’s one of the toughest things to kick.

Yes, it does mean giving up certain things like wine, mixed drinks, and yes, I still fantasize about a warm sunny day at home, sitting on the couch with my favorite bowl of McConnell’s Salted Carmel ice cream, but it’s no longer a craving and as much as I can fantasy-taste how wonderful it would be in my mind, I love the benefits of my new body, health, memory, and lifestyle much more.

There’s an old saying; “Follow the money.” Which is a catchphrase popularized by the 1976 drama-documentary motion picture All The President’s Men, which suggests a money trail or corruption scheme. And if you follow the money, you’ll see why big tobacco and alcohol, have been able to survive for so long, until recently, touting the harmlessness of their products. And how now the medical marijuana industry and bottled water industry are raking it in. It’s why we have not seen a cure for cancer; because there’s no profit in a cure. And why sugar is not going away any time soon; unless we, as consumers, say so. And that means becoming better informed and not just listening to compelling propaganda.

I know it sounds like I’m saying give up all fun. Especially alcohol. But I think, I know, that resetting your system, then making that choice is a good way to determine if you want to continue the way you have been, or if there is something you might be missing. I’ve done this with juicing too, and after three months of nothing but green juice, I had some dramatic and amazing results that I will go into another time.

I am by no means a health nut. People who know me would tell you I still love bacon and a great burger. Giving up sugar, I did gain a craving for salty foods, like potato chips and fries, however, I do not feel the negative results of a poor, sugar-rich diet anymore. Fats are not the villain that Ancel Keys, University of Minnesota, 1961 (hired by the sugar industry), portrayed it to be. And if you think that my life is no fun, I have to tell you that because my energy levels are up, my creativity and drive are up, and I’m doing things I used to do only in my twenties. I think it’s a great tradeoff.

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