Refined Sugar, What's the Big Deal?
Well I'll tell you what the big deal is. Today's post is all about the simple, yet for some, very difficult task of cutting out refined sugar. Read on below for why and how to cut it out of your diet.
What is Refined Sugar?
Cane sugar is refined by machines that boil, spin, filter and separate it. The terms sucrose, glucose, fructose, maltose dextrose, lactose, high fructose corn syrup, evaporated cane juice, fruit juice concentrates, cane crystals and corn sweetener all indicate the presence of refined sugars. The insidious thing is that refined sugar is found in many products you would not expect to find it in, like peanut butter, spaghetti sauce and bread for example. More than two-thirds of the refined sugar used in the United States is added to processed foods, according to FamilyEducation.com. It's estimated that 74% of processed foods contain refined sugar. Refined sugar is also considered a neurotoxin.
Why Is It Bad for You?
Refined sugar should be avoided for many reasons:
- Refined sugar gives your body empty calories and does not contain beneficial nutrients and minerals.
- It can drain the body of nutrients because of its demanding digestion requirements due to being a refined, processed substance. (That makes it harder for the body to break down.)
- Refined sugar is linked to heart disease. In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), people who ate the largest amounts of added sugar had the highest blood triglyceride levels and the lowest HDL (good) cholesterol levels. That study also showed that eating high quantities of sugar more than tripled the odds of having low HDL cholesterol levels, a strong risk factor for heart disease.
- Refined sugar triggers a spike in blood sugar and insulin, which in turn triggers your body to store fat, leading to obesity and other health issues. Diets high in refined sugar have also been linked to Type 2 diabetes due to the connection between high sugar intake and obesity.
- Yeast (such as candida) is bad bacteria that feeds on sugar, too much of it can lead to yeast overgrowth in the body. Yeast overgrowth can lead to fungal infections as well as fatigue and difficulty concentrating.
- Sugar “hijacks the brain’s reward pathway,” says neuroscientist Jordan Gaines Lewis. When the reward system is activated too much and too frequently, that can cause issues. “Over-activating this reward system kickstarts a series of unfortunate events — loss of control, craving, and increased tolerance to sugar,” states neuroscientist Nicole Avena.
- Sugar can negatively affect your mood. Sugar-rich foods can mess with the neurotransmitters that help keep our moods stable. Consuming sugar stimulates the release of the mood-boosting neurotransmitter serotonin. Constantly over-activating these serotonin pathways can deplete our limited supplies of the neurotransmitter, which can contribute to symptoms of depression, according to Dr. Datis Kharrazian.
*Today's scientists, doctors and nutritionists argue about if refined sugar is indeed harmful and how much is safe to consume. Many of them source their information from the FDA or other government agencies who have interests and stock in the fields and industries which stand to profit from sugar having a favorable image, so keep that in mind when conducting your own independent research.*
What to Do
- Go through your pantry and get rid of any processed foods such as cookies, soda, cakes, fruit juice, canned foods, white bread, pastries and sugary cereal. It can be a tough process to implement, but the increased likelihood of a healthy, long and enjoyable life is definitely worth it.
- Frequently, the sugar needed in a recipe can be reduced by 1/3-1/2 and not significantly affect the flavor. The less sugar you use, the less your body will want and tolerate it.
- Replace refined white sugar with raw sugar, maple syrup, raw honey, stevia or (dark) agave which are not processed in the same way as refined white sugar. Most of them contain more nutritional benefits and don't lead to the same spikes in your brain and body that refined sugar causes.
- Replace things like cookies, sweets and cakes with naturally sweet foods like fresh fruit that contain natural sugars your body recognizes and is able to process more effectively. Fresh fruits also contain other nutritional benefits like fiber, vitamins and minerals.
- Be a label reader. With 74% of processed foods containing refined sugar, learn to recognize the various names it's known by and avoid products with those ingredients.
- Drink more water. Water contains no refined sugar (like soda, sweet teas, lemonades and fruit juices do) and not only fills you up, but helps to cleanse your body and therefore reduce your tolerance and desire for refined sugars.
*Keep in mind that honey, maple syrup, raw sugar, agave and molasses are are also forms of simple sugars and should still be consumed in moderation.
*DO NOT attempt to replace refined sugar with fake sugars such as Splenda-we'll go into the negative effects of those things at a later date!
Looking for some low and no refined sugar recipes? Check out the deliciousness I've got for you here.
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