If you're contemplating a sugar cleanse, you'll find that psychological preparedness is vital to your success. Part of that preparedness involves coming up with a plan that you can stick to. After doing as much research as I could for my own sugar detox, I ultimately came up with a list of
10 simple steps to help kick my sugar habit. It has worked extremely well and I was eager to kick off another sugar cleanse this winter.
I realized however, that something changed in me. In the wake of breakthrough documentaries like Fed Up, articles in The New York Times propounding the toxicity of sugar, Dr. Robert Lustig's impassioned viral video on the chronic toxicity of fructose, and the growing body of peer-reviewed articles pointing towards sugar's effects on our expanding waistlines and chronic diseases, I have begun to feel even more empowered to kick sugar to the curb.
As I dig deeper into the research, however, I find myself more and more confused with the amount of conflicting information out there. One false marketing claim — like "agave nectar is healthy", for instance — can inadvertently spur a deluge of agave-based recipes and unwarranted health claims, even from people who should know better like Dr. Weill and Dr. Oz, (both of whom have in the past few years, recanted their love for the sugary nectar). As such, I wanted to share my findings with MBG's esteemed readers, because I know you will want to know this information as much as I do.
I call these the Seven Deadly Truths of Sugar:
1. By nature, sugar is duplicitous.
Let's first define sugar. Typically when we talk about "sugar," we are referring to table sugar, primarily derived from sugarcane or beets. Table sugar is also called sucrose. Sucrose is made up of 50% glucose and 50% fructose. Glucose and fructose are important to differentiate because the two get processed very differently in the body, which as you'll find out, has seriously different ramifications on our health.
2. Fructose = Fat.
Glucose is the sugar that gets processed in our guts during digestion and can ultimately be used by every cell in our body. Fructose, the sister carbohydrate in sucrose, bypasses the gut completely and goes straight to our livers. Some of it gets stored as glycogen, but some of it also gets turned into triglycerides, which is a fancy term for fat. Yes, fructose = fat. This wouldn't be a big deal, but food these days is loaded with sugars—including fructose, which in its purest form, happens to be 70% sweeter than table sugar, making it more addictive. According to a 2012 Mercola article, we should be consuming no more that 25 grams or 5 teaspoons of fructose per day. If someone is overweight or at risk for any of the diseases mentioned above, then they should curtail their intake to 10-15 grams or 2-3 teaspoons of fructose per day. However, we are on average consuming three times that amount on a daily basis!
3. Sugar is addictive.
Sugar alters our biochemical pathways in our brain and tampers with our dopamine receptors. In order for us to get the next dopamine spike, however, we need a greater dose of sugar. That's why out of the 600,000 food products in America today, 80% are laced with some form of sugar, and more specifically fructose, because it's cheap and keeps us addicted.
4. Fructose is a chronic liver toxin.
Eating too much food with fructose is now correlated to a number of chronic diseases. This includes, slower metabolism, higher cholesterol, heart disease, fatty-liver disease or cirrhosis, hypertension, obesity, hepatic insulin resistance and even gout due to the overproduction of uric acid in the body. Fructose also can cause leptin resistance, which is the hormone that tells your body whether you are hungry or full. If you break that switch, then chances are you're going to be on a one way road to fat town.
5. Stripping fiber from food leads to increased sugar to our system.
Normally plants with fructose are equipped with fiber. Fiber, something we're not consuming enough of, acts as a safeguard. It not only fills us up and slows digestion, but it also helps slow down the absorption of fructose into our bodies. However, nowadays with juicing and smoothie crazes (which destroy fiber), the stripping of fiber from foods (think white rice, puffed wheat and white bread), and the breeding of fruits for more sweetness and longer shelf life) we're ruining our chances for healthier bodies.
6. "Natural" sugar is misleading.
Fructose may be naturally occurring, meaning that it is present in whole fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds — but that doesn't mean that it's good for you. (Just ask Socrates who was sentenced to death by drinking hemlock.) When we futilely discuss about which sugar is better than another, we rarely ever look at fructose levels. Here's a short list of nine "natural" sweeteners to give you an idea of what percentage of fructose is commonly found in each; variations in levels are often due to different brands and how sugar is processed:
- Agave nectar = 56-97%
- High fructose corn syrup = 42-90%
- Tapioca syrup = 55%
- Table sugar / cane sugar / beet sugar = 50%
- Honey = 38-50%
- Coconut sugar = 38-48.5%
- Yacon syrup = 35%
- Maple syrup = 30%-45%
- Molasses = 23%
7. Just because sugar has a low glycemic index (GI), it doesn't mean it's good for you.
The GI is misleading for a couple reasons. The scale was created to see how high your blood glucose rises after ingesting 50 grams of carbs of a specific food. Firstly, fifty grams of carbs is quite a lot. A common example I see thrown around is carrots. They are high on the GI, but to get 50 grams of carbs from carrots, you have to eat 1.3 lb! You have to look at glycemic load, which tells you how much food you need to eat to obtain those 50 grams of carbohydrates. But as you have just found out, sugar is oftentimes more than just glucose. In most cases, it also consists of fructose. So GI and glycemic load aren't useful tools for measuring fructose levels in the body. That's why calories of sugar, to a certain extent, don't matter. All sugars weren't created equally; they are metabolized very differently in the body, each having their own ramifications if eaten too liberally.
If you are interested in following my sugar detox journey, sign up over at sugardetox.me.
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