It doesn’t seem to make sense but sugar–and not fat–puts on the pounds. Sugar makes its way into my diet through the tantalizing delivery vehicle called chocolate. I eat a very healthy, clean diet, but I’m a recovering, backsliding, partially-in-denial, excuse-making, passionate chocoholic, and even though it’s only 6 grams per serving, I eat too much of it.
The problems of sugar are multi-pronged, sort of like a devil’s pitchfork:
Sugar doesn’t relieve hunger:
The sugar we’re talking about is fructose, and fructose consumption does not make you feel satiated. Why? Partly because it does not lower your levels of hunger hormones. Therefore, it does not reduce appetite—there’s still blood flow to the centers of the brain that control appetite encouraging you to eat more. The calories from sugar just aren’t as fulfilling. Therefore, you don’t get full and you keep on eating.
Not a natural part of the human diet:
Our bodies were not made to consumer sugar and frankly, they have not adapted to its avalanche. Fructose is a form of sugar not produced by our bodies (unlike glucose, which is found both in nature and in all our cells). It was not even available until recently in human evolutionary history— except in the form of fruit where its absorption into the bloodstream is slowed by water, fiber, and vital nutrients. Think of a whole beet with all its attendant vitamins and fiber and compare it to the highly processed bleached sugar crystals that appear in thousands of food products. It’s important to know that food ingredients that ‘come from” something holistic or natural can become something quite different through processing. Like coca leaves and cocaine.
Body can’t process it efficiently:
Your liver is the only organ that is able to metabolize fructose in significant amounts. When you eat a diet high in fructose your liver gets overloaded and starts turning the fructose into fat in your body. That’s right, it makes you fat.
Not just obesity but disease:
Richard Lustig, pediatric endocrinologist at UCSF California, and a leading researcher on sugar, is a rising star in the world of health because of his pioneering work and its dire message. He claims that fructose consumption is responsible not only for the epidemics of obesity and type II diabetes, but is also a factor in heart disease, fatty liver disease, and contributes to the growth of cancer cells. He sees overweight babies in his practice and has demonstrated the link with sugar. Beware! If you love your kids, the greatest gift of love you can give them is to keep them off sugar.
Sugar is addictive:
Recent studies show that sugar is more addictive than cocaine. It releases opioids and dopamine which gives it addictive potential. “Bingeing”, “withdrawal”, “craving” and cross-sensitization (increased likelihood of using other addictive drugs) have all been observed in laboratory animals. These behaviors are the result of neurochemical changes in the brain that also occur with addictive drugs.
- Review everything on your kitchen shelves and in the fridge to see where sugar is hiding. Next time you shop, try to find alternatives that don’t contain sugar. Remember that sugar comes in many forms, some more evil than others. I’m not talking about honey and molasses here, but I am talking about fructose and high fructose corn syrup. In a separate post I will illuminate all the deceptive guises that sugar hides under so you can avoid those, too!
- Have easy healthy snacks available that you enjoy and will satiate you. Like nuts, baby cucumbers, clementines, popcorn
- Don’t buy sweets. If they are in your house, you’ll eat them.
- Remember that one cupcake leads to another. Sugar leads to more sugar, and believe it or not, is sometimes a gateway drug to other addictive substances. Ask your office mates to kindly keep that cake away from you. The longer you go without sugar, the less you will crave it.
- Keep your kids off it as long as possible. Once they get a taste of it, it’s a very slippery slope. Kids are exposed to an avalanche of sugar, so one of the greatest and most important challenges of parenthood is trying to keep it at bay
My husband always points out that I am a sugar junkie when he catches me surreptitiously scarfing down chocolate from one of my hidden stashes. But then I point out that it is dark chocolate which only has 6g of sugar per serving, as compared to his granola, which is 18g of sugar per serving. Most granolas, yogurt, power bars and other “wholesome” food contain enough sugar to be considered a dessert. BEWARE!