Sugar: Not So Sweet

This is a modified version of an article I wrote for work. Have a read, and let me know what you think!

Have you ever noticed how as soon as January hits, detoxes abound? It's not really a secret that the feeling people are trying to shed is related to how much sugar and junk is typically consumed around the holidays. 

That’s because sugar—as well as other sweeteners such as honey, syrup, and agave—trigger insulin spikes and other nasty byproducts, and cause us to become addicted. Learn all about sugar’s not so sweet truth below. 

The History of Sugar
Around 30 years ago, many health organizations in the US recommended lowering our fat consumption from 40% of total calories to 30%. By lowering fat content, things started to taste, well, not so great. To combat this, sugar started being added to more and more products. So, while people were eating less fat, as a whole, people got fatter. How come? Fructose may be a large part of the problem.

Table sugar is half glucose, a necessary form of energy for the body, and half fructose. Natural fructose consumption is about 15 grams per day. Prior to WWII, when sugar became a little more available, consumption rose to 16-24 g/day. Between 1977 and 1988, shortly after high fructose corn syrup was introduced, it jumped to 37 g/day. By 1994 it was 54.7 g/day. Today’s adolescents are consuming 72.8 grams per day, while one in four young people is obese.[i]

Is a Calorie Just a Calorie?
Many people hear that a calorie is just a calorie. Eat less and exercise more and you’re guaranteed to lose weight. If following that advice didn’t show results, this bit of science may help explain why.

If you take in 120 calories of glucose, the main form of energy found in complex carbohydrates, 96 of those calories will be used to fuel the body, while 24 will be stored in the liver. At the end of the digestion process, only a half calorie will turn into fat.

When it comes to sucrose, or what we know as table sugar, 60 calories come from glucose and 60 come from fructose. All 60 calories of fructose are sent to the liver. With such a heavy load coming in to the liver, many nasty byproducts are formed including uric acid and free fatty acids. These lead to problems such as gout, high blood pressure, and insulin resistance. High levels of insulin in the blood block the brain’s ability to read leptin, a hormone that promotes satiety. Without that satiety, your brain will want to eat more and more and may also become addicted to that sugar rush.

Fructose’s Relationship to Metabolic Syndrome
Metabolic syndrome is a clustering of at least three of five of the following medical conditions: abdominal obesity, elevated blood pressure, elevated fasting plasma glucose, high serum triglycerides, and low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels.
High consumption of fructose has been linked to:
·       Hypertension
·       Heart disease
·       Fatty liver syndrome
·       Insulin resistance
·       Diabetes
·       Insatiable appetite
·       Obesity
·       Tooth decay

While many factors play a role in metabolic syndrome, fructose is a dangerous add into the mix. The adult population suffering from metabolic syndrome is estimated to be at 34%.

The Upside of Fructose
Fructose isn’t all bad, however. It’s found in fruits! What’s also found along with that fructose is fiber, which not only promotes satiety but also stabilizes blood sugar. Fruit also provides many essential vitamins and minerals. This is why eating an orange is much better on your body than drinking a glass of orange juice.

What to Do
Be aware of the sugar both hidden and in plain sight in the things you eat. Even one sweetened beverage per week increases the likelihood of developing diabetes as does the use of artificial sweeteners.  And seemingly innocuous sweeteners like maple syrup, honey, or agave are metabolized the same as table sugar.

A recent study by the University of California San Francisco found that restricting sugar consumption without lowering calories in children between the ages of 9 and 18 had amazing results within just 10 days. The result was 4.3% lower blood pressure, 12.5% lower LDL cholesterol, 46% lower triglycerides, and a staggering 53% lower fasting insulin. By taking fructose out of your diet, your numbers can show results—fast.

For more information on sugar’s—in particular fructose’s—effect on the body, watch Dr. Robert Lustig’s presentation, Sugar: The Bitter Truth.

Did you watch the presentation? Do you think your eating habits will change as a result?

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Claire Bear just turned one, a day that felt like a warm up Christmas and at the same time like a funeral for a year that gave me the thrill of an expanded life along with the ache and exhaustion of many days spent forging ahead into strong headwinds. In any case, it was a wonderful day, and Claire didn't cry AT ALL. Not once.

Here are a couple pics from her big day. 

The cake (sugar-free banana coconut cream cheese)

The presents

The smash
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Catch up

My life has been in quite the upheaval the past couple months, in a great way. I think it started about the time I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Fitting title, wouldn’t you say, for someone whose life has changed? I absolutely was taken by the book’s voodoo, a sort of quasi spiritual way of viewing the items in my home. Here’s how it literally changed my life:

  • I don’t have a desire to buy clothes.
  • I got rid of almost every article of clothing or pair of shoes I own, and feel richer because of it.
  • I donated, sold, and threw away a dozen bags of things. Although my house doesn’t look much emptier, it feels lighter.
  • I’m more relaxed.

That’s just the start. Around this same time, I also read The Year of No Sugar as well as watched the presentation that inspired it, and another book called Sweet Poison. Tom was skeptical, but after watching the video, we knew we had to cut sugar and fructose out of our lives. Again, I pulled out the garbage bin and threw or gave away anything with added sweetener in it. Read the run down on why sugar kinda sucks here.

Yeah. ME. I gave up sugar! Aren’t you shocked? Are you scandalized? Growing up as the child of someone who would become known as “Candy Nana,” I never expected to find no longer eating sugar so painless. We make a few exceptions, for special occasions. I like to call it Keeping Sugar Special. This means that we’ll eat it maybe once a week, if that. 

I’ve had fun trying out new recipes like flavored applesauces which I turn part of into apple butters that we can spread on our pancakes. I bake our bread and make our tortillas, which is fun and easy and delicious. Hot cocoa, a weakness, is made with a tablespoon of cocoa powder mixed in with my vanilla protein powder. 

The greatest part about giving up sugar is that I’ve lost 10 pounds, in a month, every bit of it painlessly. After giving fructose the finger, I almost never felt hungry anymore. When I did, I ate, and ate whatever I wanted without counting calories or measuring out ingredients. WHAT. I can’t believe I’ve spent so much of my life hungry.

Stay tuned for the rest of the story.

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