Welcome to the final installment in my What’s Wrong with Food series. This time, I’m talking about sugar. Yeah…that sugar. The stuff you put in your coffee, sprinkle on your oatmeal, and add to just about everything you bake. I know, I know, not that too, right? Yeah – that too. And it’s more than what you might think. It’s not that eating too much of the sweet, white crystals will make you gain weight. It’s that, simply put – sugar kills. It’s toxic. Yeah, that kind of toxic. Don’t believe me? Read about it here. And here. And here.
So, why don’t we see people dropping dead after eating a warm, glazed doughnut fresh off the conveyor belt at our favorite doughnut shop? Because there are two kinds of toxins: acute toxins (like arsenic and cyanide), and chronic toxins. What’s the difference? Well, acute toxins kill you dead right away, while chronic toxins take their time. You won’t even feel the effects of the poison as it slowly changes your body chemistry, bringing you ever closer to your demise. And when you do finally succumb, they won’t list ‘sugar’ as the cause of death. They’ll list something else. Something like ‘diabetes’, or ‘obesity’, or maybe ‘heart disease’.
So, what if you don’t have any of those? Does that mean you aren’t affected by sugar? Not at all. In fact, here are ten different ways sugar affects your body. Feel free to let me know which of these you’re okay with.
So what, right? I mean, you’re pretty good at limiting your sugar intake. It probably takes a lot of the stuff to become toxic. Wrong. It’s toxic even in small amounts. That’s what ‘chronic’ toxicity means. It builds up over time, meaning, even if you limit your intake of sugar, which, let’s be honest, is hard to do if you’re on a typical Western diet, you’re still increasing the level of toxicity in your system with every gram you ingest. Now, according to the American Heart Association, men should be able to consume 37.5 grams per day--which equals 9 teaspoons--and women should be able to consume 25 grams per day--or 6 teaspoons. But there are far too many factors involved to guarantee these levels won’t harm you, such as your overall health, the health of your immune system, how much exercise and sleep you get, the health of your liver, and so on. Bottom line, less is better, and zero is best. Also, 9 teaspoons is far too easy to exceed. That caffe latte you had this morning? 18 grams. Almost half if you're a guy, far more than half for my female readers. That doughnut? 10 grams. And every one of those 'Fat Free' products you eat are more than likely LOADED with added sugar. They gotta make them taste good somehow!
And please don’t think that switching to ‘sugar-free’ is the way to go. It’s not. The chemical soup they use to create these artificial sweeteners can be even worse for your body than the sugar was itself. The good news is that there are substitutes for sugar that can be used. One of my favorites is raw, local honey. As I mentioned before, this isn’t the little cute bear shaped dispensers you find at the store. You’re going to need to go to a local farmer’s market, or find a bee-keeper who also sells honey. Local produce farms sometimes sell raw honey as well. Just make sure it’s raw. The more processing the honey goes through, the worse it is. It’s fine if it’s filtered, as long as the filtering process doesn’t involved heating the honey, since that kills off most of the antioxidants (little cancer fighting wizards). Stevia is also 'okay', just make sure it is either raw or dried stevia leaf and not the processed extracts, which aren't good for you. And my all time favorite, especially for baking, is coconut palm sugar, which is far better than sugar cane (and much healthier for the environment, too!)
Finally, once you’ve decided to eliminate sugar, you can’t stop by just choosing packaged foods that say ‘no sugar added’ or don’t list ‘sugar’ as one of the ingredients. You have to be clever, because the food companies certainly are. You have to look for the list of secret names our food manufacturers use to hide sugar in their foods so we don’t know it’s there. Stuff like glucose, sucrose, fructose, diatase, ethyl maltol, agave nectar, galactose, maltodextrin, etc. Here’s a list of all of them. Memorize this list, or copy it and save it to your phone. Then eliminate any products from your shopping cart if they have any of these. Trust me. Your life depends on it.