The Unsweetened Truth, Part 1: Sugar

This article was published as my Holistic Outlook column in The Times Herald Record.

We love our sweets. And the more we have, the more we crave. That’s not simply habit, or lack of will power. It’s biochemistry, taken full advantage of by the food industry: do we really need sugar added to breads, crackers, salad dressings, and even fast food meats?

For the first time in history, we are dying less from infectious diseases, and more of chronic degenerative diseases like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.  Sugar consumption contributes significantly, particularly to high blood pressure, high triglycerides, insulin resistance (diabetes and pre-diabetes), and liver toxicity.

This is not just about weight. You can have these problems at a normal weight, although you are twice as likely to have them if you are overweight.  And exercise alone won’t save you. You must change how you eat.  Health is 80% nutrition, and only about 20% exercise.  I never want to discourage exercise, but the greatest impact on health is the quality and quantity of your food.

Today, let’s look the impact of sugar consumption, and next time we’ll discuss artificial sweeteners and natural alternatives.

As I’ve frequently written, you can’t just count calories. 100 calories of cookies is not equal to100 calories of nuts, or vegetables, so don’t be fooled.  Sugar calories behave differently in the body.  Sugars are biologically addictive.  They act on the brain to produce dependence, much like alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. Here’s what happens when you eat sugar:

  • You feel tired, cranky and crave another “fix” because blood sugar spikes and drops.
  • You overeat when you’re not hungry, because sugar interferes with leptin, the hormone that signals satiety.
  • Serotonin, the feel-happy hormone, spikes, but only fleetingly, leaving you feeling worse mentally and emotionally than before, perpetuating more cravings.
  • You become less sensitive to the hormone insulin, creating a pre-diabetic or diabetic state.
  • Dopamine is reduced, inhibiting the pleasure response.
  • You store more calories as fat because you consume many more than you can burn, but without getting essential nutrition.

When you are used to everything being sweet, eating “au natural” may taste flat at first, but the palate quickly adjusts, and “real food” soon tastes much better than before!  Why not try for a couple of weeks and experience the difference for yourself?

link to original article here

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