Food Focus: Sugar
I know you don't want to hear it. Another person saying, "CUT THE SUGAR OUT, BABY!" Luckily, I'm here to love on you by telling you the truth, not by saying, "Go ahead and have another piece of cake, it won't kill you!" Read below. It just might.
Dramatic? Ok. ONE piece of cake unless poisoned will not kill you. Yet, years + years (even months) of sugar upon sugar wrecks major havoc on your beautiful bod, inside and out.
So here's what's up.
Sugar occurs naturally in foods such as grains, beans, vegetables and fruit. When unprocessed, it contains a variety of vitamins, minerals, enzymes and proteins. When brown rice or other whole grains are cooked, chewed and digested, the natural carbohydrates break down into separate glucose molecules. These molecules enter the bloodstream, where they are burned smoothly and evenly, allowing your body to absorb all the good stuff.
Refined table sugar, also called sucrose, is very different. Extracted from either sugar cane or beets, it lacks vitamins, minerals and fiber, and thus requires extra effort from the body to digest. The body must deplete its own store of minerals and enzymes to absorb sucrose properly. Therefore, instead of providing the body with nutrition, it creates deficiency. It enters quickly into the bloodstream, making blood sugar levels rise -causing nervous tension + hyperactivity - and then dropping them extremely low - causing fatigue + depression.
Sad part is - this addiction we all carry around is NOT YOUR FAULT! The truth is your noggin is made to feel pleasure when you wolf down sugar. Our current food system sneaks it into everything, setting us up for failure, which is why it's our DUTY to be food detectives.
Devan Klein explains: "Each time you indulge in that bar of chocolate, you're strengthening the neuro-association between that food and the pleasure you feel from eating it. The connection thickens like a tree trunk, growing stronger with each bite. Trying to pretend like you're not addicted to sugar is the worst possible solution."
Our brains were WIRED to love this stuff because it releases the same hormone, dopamine, that makes us feel pleasure. We have dopamine receptors all over our brains and are fired up by sugar, just like they are by heroin. Scary, but true.
So what is the big deal? I feel HAPPY when I eat chocolate. So what, Jes?! Well, here is the scientific breakdown of what happens when we eat too much.
Excess sugar is stored in our liver as glycogen.
Excess glycogen is converted into fatty acids called triglycerides and stored in our tissues.
Those who store fat around their tissues (mid-section, think spare tire) are more likely to get heart disease and diabetes. Worried as everyone else about cancer? Ponder this nugget: cancer cells have a metabolism much higher than healthy cells so they have more glucose receptors! When they do a PET scan to find cancer, they actually use glucose injections! There is also something called the IGF (insulin-like growth factor) that causes cancer cells to grow. Cancer loves excess sugar.
So the 3 big diseases plaguing our nation were already mentioned. What ELSE does sugar do to us? It lowers our immune system, heightens inflammation + messes with our pH balance, which we know is REALLY important in our fight against all disease! It also causes adrenal fatigue. When the adrenals are tired, the body may experience a number of different symptoms such as chronic infections, poor sleep, thyroids issues + premature aging. That triple-mocha-frapa-latte still sound good?
Yes, some sugars are better than others. Of course the most natural forms can still be used in moderation. Because simple or refined carbohydrates break down into glucose, our bodies cannot tell the difference between a spoonful of white sugar or a piece of white bread. What you want to make sure you are paying attention to when choosing foods is the glycemic index. I've included a reference sheet in the forum and a post all about the lovely GI will be coming soon.
Drop the sweets + stay tuned.
Sources and Additional Reading:
Carr, Kris. "Crazy Sexy Diet", 2011.
Institute for Integrative Nutrition, 2012.