REAL, FRUGAL, HEALTHY, and FUN!!!
Sugar, referring to the processed white stuff, is a deliciously sweet substance that comes from plants. Sugar cane and sugar beets. It’s a carb made up of sugar molecules, both sucrose and fructose. It does not contain fiber, protein, vitamins or minerals. Just carbs. Just simple empty carbs that so, so many people can’t seem to get enough of. Some people joke about being addicted. More and more studies are finding that they just might be. They’re actually comparing the addiction to sugar, to that of drugs! Cutting out sugar can actually lead to similar withdrawal symptoms, as well. You might find that you get headaches, are tired, feel down and achy. Also, similar to drugs, the more you consume, often times, the more you feel you need or want to consume to get that same satisfaction.
Sugar is one of the fastest things to enter the bloodstream. Why? Because there’s really nothing of nutritional value to it. There’s very little to be broken down or processed by your digestive system. It goes in just about ready to go. That’s why it can cause a fast blood sugar spike. This of course is not good. Your body panics and tries to set things right. To do this, your body releases insulin to get the excess sugar out of your bloodstream. Well, it has to go somewhere. Where does it go? Your cells. This gives you really great, short-lived energy. Eating a lot of sugar typically leads to a wild insulin party (due to your body’s panicked state) and it ends up moving too much sugar out of your blood. Your blood sugar drops a little too low. Oftentimes, this leads to fatigue, irritability, anxiety, and a desire for hmm… more sugar. Ugh! What a vicious cycle!
Studies have shown other negative effects of sugar. It can suppress your immune system, leaving you more susceptible to disease and infection. It can make it hard to focus. Most people who fill up on sugar have a hard time eating an adequate amount of nutritious foods because their bellies are already full, leading to nutritional deficiencies. No doubt you’ve heard that excessive sugar consumption can lead to type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and high blood pressure. It’s also been linked to cancer, depression, allergies, asthma, ADD and ADHD.
Ok, so here’s a simple digestive sugar story. You eat sugar. It goes through your mouth and you swallow it into your stomach. It then goes into your small intestine. From there it is quickly absorbed into your body (remember, it absorbs quickly because it’s basically ready to go). It is taken from the small intestine into your body through special veins. From there it goes to your liver. Your liver does it’s magic and sends glucose out into your body for energy. Whatever excess cannot be sent is stored in the liver and muscles as an energy reserve called glycogen. Well, your body only has so much storage space and it can’t just make excess sugar consumption disappear. It ends up stored as fat. The fat can build up in your liver, which can weaken your liver and cause more problems, such as fatty liver. Think of a factory production line. If the materials are coming through the line too quickly, eventually, someone in the line gets overloaded and problems arise. In this case, sugar coming in too quickly can overload your liver. Your liver is forced to be a hoarder of sugar turned to fat. Not a good thing.
Alright, so EEK! Scary! Sugar is bad, but you love a sweet treat from time to time. Natural sugar is different. It’s not a polar opposite. I’m sure you’ve heard sugar is sugar, and it is… and it isn’t. All plants create some sugar during the process of photosynthesis. In the case of natural unprocessed sugar, the sugar is broken down more slowly because it is accompanied by fiber, vitamins, minerals, and sometimes even protein. Let’s back up for just a moment. Remember how the processed sugar was absorbed into the body quickly because there was little digestive work to be done? Well, in these cases there is work to be done! The digestive system has to separate and process the fiber, vitamins, minerals, proteins, and sugar for their individual uses in your body. What went into the body as one unit needs to be broken down for the body to use it. It needs separate everything. This slows down processing and means slower absorption of the natural sugar into the body. This means less of a spike in blood sugar, which means less panic, less insulin releases, less crash, less irritability, and less need for more and more. So, yes, the sugar in natural sugar is sugar, but it’s the nutrients that accompany that make it a better choice.
Now, you’re probably thinking that if common, processed, white sugar comes from the sugar cane of sugar beet plant, it must be natural and good. Well, it was, when it resembled it’s natural form. The processed, white stuff looks nothing like it’s natural form. It’s that processed! Short story time. Once upon a time there was a sugar cane plant (or sugar beet). It grew into a lovely plant, and the tops were cut to be harvested. Those tops are crushed and pressed. They’re basically juiced. The juice is boiled and boiled into a syrup. The syrup then begins the crystallization process. Centrifugal force is used to squeeze out any remaining liquid, until only dry sugar crystals are left. The crystals are then washed, bleached, filtered, and recrystallized. The crystals are pushed through screens to get them to the right shape and size. From there it is shipped out to a ton of manufacturers, who put it into just about every food they make, and the grocery store is overtaken by processed white sugar. The end. You’ll have to forgive my bad story telling, but do you see what a huge transformation the white sugar goes through. Through that process, all nutritional value is lost. Everything that would benefit your body is removed. Every element that might have slowed the sugars absorption into your bloodstream is completely taken out.
My thoughts often get ahead of me. I hope that I explained this all reasonably well. It’s a topic I feel strongly about. It is for this reason that none of my recipes call for regular, white, baking sugar. I want to nurture my body, and so I see no sense in fueling it with something that has been so refined that all that is left is garbage.
Seidenberg, C. (2015) There’s no candy coating sugar, The Washington Post, p.G12, G15