The Bitter Side of Canada's Sweet Tooth
It’s hardly “Breaking News”; we’ve all heard it 1000 times over. Everyone knows it’s very unhealthy, not to mention potentially disease causing, to overindulge in this common food additive. But regardless of this fact, sugar, especially highly refined sugars (including high fructose corn syrup: HFC), remain a common additive to the majority of processed foods available today. Even “non-sweet” foods like condiments often have massive amounts of HFC on the ingredient labels.
A few questions remain:
What is it that makes sugar and HFC so detrimental to our health?
What do they do in and to our bodies?
What Sugar and High Fructose Corn syrup do in your body:
They rob your body of Essential Nutrients. Why? – Because in the first place, they in themselves are totally void of nutrients. Both are what we call sources of “empty calories”, meaning they contain massive amounts of calories but little else: no fiber, no vitamins, no proteins, fats, enzymes… What then happens when you do ingest them results in a loss of nutrients for 2 reasons:
1- If you’re eating that much empty food, there’s less healthy, nutrient dense food being ingested, and
2- It takes a lot of energy and nutrients for your body to breakdown that sugar – these are taken from healthy cells in your body!
Calcium, Potassium, Magnesium, Sodium are a few nutrients that are used to metabolize the sugar
Consider this: That Calcium & Magnesium are leached from your bones… High sugar = Weak bones/Osteoporosis
They result in tooth decay, Cavities. This also has 2 main causes:
1- As above, since teeth composed of Ca & Mg, these are leeched out to help break-down the ingested sugar
2- Sugar, particularly that eaten/drank between meals, stick to and between your teeth. Bacteria love sugar, so they move in and start feeding. The bacteria and sugar together decay your teeth.
They build up and toxify your cells, tissues and ultimately your whole body.
Once in the body, sugar and HFC are hard to get out of your system. Not only because the body needs to borrow all of those nutrients from your other cells (making those previously healthy cells work less well), also because they are difficult to eliminate. The accumulated wastes end up building up in your cells and then get stuck in certain body tissues, notably your nervous system, including your brain and eyes. Waste products are toxic, so these hazardous products accumulate in your organs, decreasing functioning and accelerating cellular aging and death.
The faster your cells die, the faster the whole organs die. Brain cell death = dementia & Alzheimer’s!
Blood Sugar levels become imbalanced.
Sugar is broken down in the digestive tract very quickly, being released into the blood stream from there. What happens is two-fold:
In the short term (right after drinking the slurpee): you get a sudden rush of glucose into the cells which is what’s responsible hyperactivity, feeling of euphoria and excessive energy, as well as lack of attention. The high blood glucose levels cause your pancreas to release insulin, which is responsible for getting the glucose out of the blood and into the cells. All of that glucose suddenly exiting the blood results in hypoglycemia, which can have symptoms like lethargy and fatigue, headache, moodiness, etc.
In the long term, if this up-down cycle is repeated frequently, the body becomes less able to deal with the high levels of glucose, and chronic signs of hyperglycemia (including increased thirst, hunger and excessive urination, not to mention weight loss, numbness and tingling in the feet, blurred vision, etc) can occur. This can eventually manifest in metabolic syndrome and Type 2 Diabetes, diseases that are becoming extremely prevalent in our population.
They increase the frequency of infections, bacterial and fungal overgrowth in the body.
Bacteria live on sugar, so when there’s plenty available in your cells, the pathogenic (disease causing organisms) are well fed. Not only that, but your immune cells function less well in the nutrient depleted, toxic, sugary environment that’s been created, so they’re less able to protect you from infections, cold and flu and other diseases. Fungus also loves sugar, leading to more cases of candida, athletes foot, etc.
Even tumor causing and cancerous cells have been shown to grow and spread more quickly in sugary environments!
Some of the conditions that may be directly related to high sugar/HDF diets:
Weight Gain and Obesity
Metabolic Syndrome and Type 2 Diabetes
Hypertension (high blood pressure), High LDL-Cholesterol and Heart Disease
Mental-Emotional Imbalance, including Depression
Neurological Damage (nerve damage and death), including Alzheimer’s
Bone Fragility and Osteoporosis
Decreased Immunity and High rates of Candidiasis and Fungal infections
Reading labels in the effort to avoid products with sugar added can be tough too because it goes under many different aliasis. So when you are looking at the ingredient list, keep an eye out, as they include:
Brown sugar, Confectioners sugar, Icing sugar, Invert sugar, Raw sugar, Turbinado sugar, White sugar
Cane crystals, juice or sugar
Corn sweetener or syrup
Dextrose, Fructose, Glucose, Lactose, Maltose, Sucrose
Evaporated cane juice
Fruit juice concentrates
High-fructose corn syrup
Thankfully, there are good replacements for these highly processed sugars and they’re easily obtainable in health food stores/isles. These sweeten your foods and have the benefit of all containing various amounts of minerals and vitamins. A few examples include:
Agave syrup (natural cactus syrup extract).
Use only 2/3 the amount called for of regular sugar and use 1/3 less liquid.
Coconut palm sugar (low glycemic index coconut flower extract).
Substitute it 1:1 for regular sugar in recipes.
Date sugar (just ground up dates – a fruit!).
Honey (natural product made by bees from pollen – try to get a local, unpasteurized variety)
Maple syrup (natural tree sap)
Stevia(a herb – available as a powder or liquid, or better yet - buy a plant - pictured left - and use the leaves themselves in your tea!). It has zero calories or carbohydrates so it doesn’t affect blood sugar levels!
It’s 30-300x sweeter than sugar – so start with small amounts
Xylitol (sugar alcohol extracted from fruit & vegetable fibers)
Yacon (low calorie syrup extracted from a Peruvian root).
A few (sad) statistics about sugar:
Sugar (of any kind) is the #1 food additive in Canada.
The average Canadian gets about 20 per cent of their daily calories from added sugar.
On average, Canadians consume 110 grams of sugar/day, which is about 26 teaspoons.
Highest consumption: Teenage boys aged 14 to 18, at 41 teaspoons.
Lowest consumption: Women aged 71 and over, at 20 teaspoons.
Dr Katarine Holewa, ND