Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Sugar the "Sweet Poison"

Sugar the “Sweet Poison”
Many of my clients have lost weight. Recently, I have noticed that a few pounds have returned to some of them. When I ask about the changes they have made in their diets, I often get the same response…. “Nothing has changed except I have found these great GLUTEN-FREE products”! And there lies the answer to the problem. Gluten –free doesn’t mean sugar free!
As the need for gluten free products begins to grow, more manufactures are coming up with great tasting products to fill the demand. Unfortunately, many of these products have provided a healthy alternative to glutinous grains but have added an ingredient for taste that can be just as harmful as gluten. That ingredient is sugar. There are many sugar alternatives like Xylitol, and Stevia that do not raise blood sugar, create heart disease, and are not an acid food like sugar, but they can be very expensive and most manufactures do not choose to use them because of cost. Instead they will choose “organic cane sugar”, “organic juice” or agave (which is processed like high fructose corn syrup) to sweeten the products. The word organic makes clients think that the product is healthy. The fact is, sugar is sugar organic or not and has its effects on health. Agave, which many of my clients thought to be healthy, is being processed like high fructose corn syrup. There are a few brands that do not do this, but they are difficult to find. My clients are avoiding Agave. A great source to read on this information is from Dr. Mercola’s website.
We know that processed cane and beet sugar is not good for us and has many side effects when eaten in large quantities. As we move into the holiday season, most of us are going to enjoy an occasional dessert. Making sure that the goodies we make have the best choice of sugar and the least amount possible to get that sweet taste is really important. In selecting a sugar for my baking I would suggest looking at some alternatives to processed sugar.
There are sweeteners made from plants that give that sweet taste without raising blood sugar and having an effect on insulin, which is great for diabetics. Another advantage is that they do not feed the yeast in our gut causing a proliferation of the so called “bad bacteria” which can cause digestive and fatigue problems. Stevia, which is a sweet herb derived from the leaf of the South American stevia plant and is safe in its natural form. It takes some practice using this product because it is so much sweeter than sugar. If you over use it, the taste will change from sweet to bitter. Lo han or luohanguo is another natural sweetener. Lo han is derived from fruit. It is more expensive than some of the other sweeteners but has a remarkable sweet taste that replaces sugar easily. It even looks like sugar. It is also great for diabetics for the same reasons as Stevia.
Sugar alcohols like Xylitol, glycerol, sorbitol, maltitol, mannitol, and erythritol are either a sugar or a alcohol but are becoming increasingly popular as sweeteners. They are incompletely absorbed by the small intestine, so they provide fewer calories than sugar but can cause bloating, diarrhea and flatulence in some people. I use Xylitol as a sweetner in my baking, but I am careful to use very little unless I know the guests do not have a digestive issue when they consume it. I always use Xylitol made from birch trees verses the ones made from corn. Too many people have corn allergies.
Honey is completely natural in its raw form and has many health benefits when used in moderation. However, it does spike blood sugar and is not the preferred sugar for diabetics. Coconut and Palm sugar are low on the Glycemic Index and are a good choice to occasionally sweeten a dessert. They too will raise the blood sugar in a diabetic and must be used in moderation.
So, what are the effects of those empty naked calories in sugar?
Sugar increases diabetes and heart disease. Even baby formula has sugar equivalent to one can of Coca-Cola, starting children down the road to the diabetes epidemic. In 1893, there were fewer than three cases of diabetes per 100,000 people in the United States and today there are approximately 8,000 diabetics in every 100,000 people. 50% of Americans are consuming one-half pound of sugar EACH DAY. This sugar is increasing weight which leads to deadly conditions like heart disease, kidney disease and of course, diabetes. 55 % of sweeteners used in food and beverage manufacturing are made from corn in the form of high fructose corn syrup which is very cheap. Due to its chemical form the body does not have to break it down and it is absorbed immediately. It goes straight to the liver and becomes a liver toxin. This fructose is turned into fat (VLDL and Triglycerides) and is deposited in our bellies, buttocks, breasts and thighs. Sugar can produce a significant rise in total cholesterol, triglycerides and bad cholesterol (LDL)and decreases the good cholesterol (HDL).
Sugar can harm our bones. Sugar is very acidic and creates an over acid condition. The body does not like living in an acidic condition and robs our minerals mainly from our bones to rectify the imbalance. Calcium is a readily available mineral and the body takes it from the bone to balance the acid from the sugar leaving the bones weak and brittle. Sugar consumption can lead to osteoporosis. Sugar increases urinary output which decreases essential vitamins and minerals. Calcium loss through the urine doubles when soft drinks containing sugar are consumed.
Sugar in all forms compromises the immune system. A study using processed honey, table sugar and processed orange juice (100 grams of sugar) decreased WBC activity for five hours, which has a direct effect on our immunity. Just 24 ounces of cola depressed the activity of neutrophils, which are white blood cells that eat bacteria, suppressed Natural Killer Cells (the cancer fighters) and the T cells (our defense against disease) which can lead to compromised overall health.
Sugar can be toxic. White refined sugar is also bleached with Chlorine bleach which many people are sensitive to. Chlorine, when combined with organic compounds, converts to Dioxin, a lethal chemical.
Sugar changes our flora and ph in the gut . As mentioned above, consuming sugar increases the yeast in the gut which produces toxins that can harm the gut lining. As the yeast proliferate, they crowd out our predominant bacteria (the good guys) which make short chain fatty acids that support the integrity of the gut lining and make B vitamins. An acidic digestive tract can lead to indigestion and malabsorption of nutrients.
Sugar causes insulin surges. Sugar can make it difficult to lose weight because of the constant elevation of insulin, a fat sparing hormone that causes the body to store excessive carbohydrates. Insulin surges also effect testosterone in males and can have an effect on the conversion of testosterone to estrogen in men which can also effect blood sugar.
Sugar increases the aging of skin. Sugar causes a loss of tissue elasticity and function. It accelerates ageing by triggering insulin. It also changes the structure of collagen which then causes aging of the skin. Sugar contributes to eczema in children.
Sugar has an effect on vision. Sugar weakens eyesight. It causes cataracts and nearsightedness.
Sugar affects our brain health. Sugar can increase your risk of Alzheimer’s disease. MRI studies show that adults 60 and older who have high uric acid, which can be caused by consuming sugar, are 4-5 times more likely to have vascular dementia, the second most common form of dementia after Alzheimer’s. Sugar consumption contributes to learning disorders and often to violent behavior in both children and adults.
It is really important to select your gluten free products wisely. Do not get caught up in the hype of gluten free at the expense of your health from the increased consumption of the sweet treats.