I would not say I crave sugar but I do at times think it craves me. I walked past a Good Humor truck recently and the magnetic force was acute. I had not had an ice cream sandwich in over 10 years but that was about to end. With the first bite I thought, “Ew, this is too sweet! One more bite and that’s it”. By the last bite I thought “Wow, that was outstanding.”
Sugar is a nutritional Trojan horse — a zero nutrient warrior wrapped in friendly Good Humor paper (or hidden in cereals and pasta sauces) in order to enter our body before launching a full-on attack of our insides.
The well publicized war is waged like this: sugar forces our pancreas to produce insulin to control how much sugar gets into our blood. Too much insulin and our cells become immune (insulin-resistant), meaning our body has to produce even higher levels of insulin to get the same result. But our insulin stock piles are limited, we can only produce so much, which means when the ammunition runs out, the sugar in our blood shoots up and diabetes occurs.
Here is some of the lesser known collateral damage:
- Depletion of vitamins and minerals: Sugar brings none of its own, so it relies on the body’s reserves to metabolize it. Calcium for example is used to neutralize the effects of sugar and the depletion of it can lead to osteoporosis.
- Depressed immune system: Sugar creates destructive bacteria that hangs out in our intestines. Our immune system resides largely in our gut and the more bad bacteria that it has to get rid of, the harder it is for the immune system to fight disease.
- Inflammation: High levels of sugar depletes cells of their energy. Cells that are depleted of energy become inflamed. Sugar is strongly associated with inflamed intestines and irritable bowel syndrome, but high levels lead to chronic inflammation throughout the body.
- Heart disease: Chronically inflamed blood vessels lead to heart attacks.
- Fat storage: Excess insulin prevents our cells from using fat for fuel.
- Hyper-active response: The more sugar we allow in, the more our body gets stressed by it and over-reacts to the invaders’ arrival.
So are all sugars harmful? In high quantity, yes. Some sugars are less destructive (those found in fruits and vegetables for example), but be particularly aware of those masquerading as health food – raw sugar which simply means unbleached sucrose or table sugar, brown sugar which is table sugar with molasses, fructose (when listed as an ingredient) is likely largely corn syrup, maple syrup is no different from white sugar in how your body treats it, and honey, though marginally better because it’s unprocessed, still raises blood sugar and can still cause havoc.
So what can we do about this sugar problem. Eat it. Very occasionally. For some of us, we can have a bag of cookies in the cupboard and eat one a week, for others (me) there’s no chance, so I simply never have it around. But when you do eat it, be really aware you’re eating it, love it, savor it, do it guilt-free, because small amounts won’t hurt you. But know it’s sugar. Know that it’s programmed for war and its friendliness ends at your tongue.
Are You Pro-Life? (Why consuming probiotic-rich foods can help the body control its sugar levels)
What To Expect When You’re Expecting Kombucha (Kombucha also contains high levels of probiotics which can help with sugar digestion)
Soy Milk: A Bowl of Froot Loops In Every Glass?
Share your stories – tips for overcoming sugar cravings? Results from cutting back? Results from not cutting back?
Photo: Tomato-based pasta sauces are flooded with it Copyright ©Michelle Madden
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