Category Archives: added sugar

Beyond Sugar Free

Today is October 1st, 2010. It a brand new month and a brand new day. This day has never been seen or experienced before, and it is a day that I make a challenge to myself. I have been sugar free for over a year now, avoiding all sweeteners that raise blood sugar and insulin levels. But today I’m going beyond this, and moving to a new health challenge in which I hope to benefit from.

Going sugar free was probably the best thing I could’ve done for my health. It has provided me with clairty of thought, clearer skin and increased energy. But what if I could experience a higher level of health, one that brings forth the absense of sweeteners all together?

We have grown too dependent on sweet taste, even those who are cooks who use the healthiest ingredients possible. Stevia and xylitol are amazing sweeteners, that won’t increase blood sugar, but I’m afraid I have become too dependent on their additions into my tea, desserts and various other recipes.

I have been researching sweet taste for quite awhile now, and have found some discussing that sweet taste, no matter where it comes from, stimulates insulin levels. This may explain why diet drinks can actually promote weight gain. Even some studies have shown that Stevia helps the pancreas secrete insulin, which can be good when you have high blood sugar, but what if your blood sugar hasn’t risen at all? Is it safe to have elveated insulin, circulating around in your body?

When your blood sugar rises, insulin becomes the effector in the homeostatic mechanism which regulates blood sugar control. It is secreted from your pancreas, and helps take in the glucose monomers (which were broken down from carbohydrates) into your cells which use it for energy. However, if you blood sugar hasn’t risen, yet insulin has, excess insulin can store fat.

Also, high insulin levels can be inflammatory, and many have already concluded that raising your insulin levels contributes to diabetes tremendously, due to the fact that your cells become less sensitive to insulin over time. Because insulin is fat storage hormone, it can be difficult to lose weight if it is secreted excessively. Because it doesn’t have any glucose to take into the cells, it more than likely is stored as fat. This may be the reason why diet soft drinks do not aid in weight loss, and actually contribute to weight gain.

Our ancestors had a way for storing fat whenever they came across berries or sugary carbohydrates, because their bodies knew that famine would be experienced soon. Since fat is a long term energy source, storing it after coming across fruit or other carbohydrates was necessary for survival later on.

After eating the berries or the fruit, which was very rare to do, blood sugar elevated. Insulin then helped take the broken down carbohydrates (glucose-simple sugar) into adipose (fat) cells for later energy use. Thus, many believe that our bodies have evolved from the experiences of our ancestors, to a point where any sweet taste we experience helps secrete insulin. Our bodies may believe that famine will ensure again, and our insulin rises in order to protect our selves and help us survive.

For the rest of the year, I am devoting my entire diet around living sweet free. It is defcinitely a challenge for me, because I love baking, “unbaking” (raw desserts) and making sweet treats for my family. I can still do this, and I will still post recipes every now and then for something sweet and sugar free, but I will not eat it, at least not for a while now.

For three months I shall devote myself to this regimin, and then report back to see if anything has change. I will not eat fruits, either (you can receive the same nutrients from vegetable sources that you get from fruit), or stevia, xylitol, etc. I really do want to see if anything happens or changes in my body, and in my life.

I have tried an experiment on this blog before, my No Grain Experiment. It helped me realize that certain carbohydrates are good, and give me energy. Those from buckwheat and quinoa, for example, help fuel my energy levels throughout the day. I know I shall learn something from this experiemtn, as well.

Are you challenging yourself everyday? Let me know in the comments section. I think that its really important to test yourself and see what you can do, if only so you can know for yourself. You don’t have to prove yourself to anyone, but you must know who you are and what you are capable of (which is anything!).

For now, this is The healthy Advocate.

Can You Find the Hidden Sugar?

Sugar, sugar everywhere, and there seems to be enough to share. But how many people actually understand sugar, and how many people know how much sugar they are really receiving in a day?

Last night I made homemade chili for my family (they seem to always request that every week) and my father and my sister ran out of sour cream. Now I usually use whole milk organic plain yogurt in place of sour cream, and this seemed to appeal to them when it never did before. Should they try it? My father looked at the nutrition information (which was a surprise) and exlaimed, “Wow, that sure has a lot of sugar in it.” He then proceeded to smell it to make sure it wasn’t a sweet tasting yogurt that would ruin his savory dish.
Now, this kind of upset me, because my family knows that I would NEVER buy something with added sugar in it, especially if it is organic, so I defended my yogurt with fervor. Yes, it does have 12 grams of sugar per cup, but this is naturally occurring in dairy products as the disaccharide lactose that is found in every dairy product.
I then told them that their sour cream had more sugar than my plain yogurt, and them, being not as adept to reading nutritional labels, told me it only had 2 grams. That’s true; however, it was 2 grams per 2 tablespoons. That would make it have 4 grams more sugar than yogurt!
Now this story (real event) was told to demonstrate the delusion and confusion when it comes to nutritional labels–but mainly when it comes to sugar content. What should you be looking for when it comes to how much sugar you are ingesting in your favorite food?
I am mainly talking about processed food in this post, whether or not it is organic. Whole foods contain very little naturally occurring sugar, unless it is dairy or fruit. Even then, these sugars are metabolized in the body very differently from the foods you will find in the middle of your supermarket, laden with added sugars.
I will not go through the molecular structure of sugar in this post, as that deserves a whole other post on its own. However, I will let you know, before we delve deeper, that regular sugar is made up of two monosaccharides fructose and glucose, in equal amounts. This forms, like I just said, regular sugar, or sucrose.
If you are looking at the back of a nutrition label, and you see a word that ends with the suffix
-ose, you are guaranteed that you are consuming a product with added sugar. The main sugar that the food industry uses now days (if it isn’t organic) is high fructose corn syrup. This damaging form of “sugar” is hard to consume in moderation if one is constantly consuming processed food.
Later on, I will post about the damaging effect of free fructose, as of that found in high fructose corn syrup, but for now we need to concern ourselves with identifying added sugars in our foods. Most foods that we consume on a day to day basis seem as though they wouldn’t need sugar, but the industry places it in there anyway. Everything from breads (even whole wheat and grain), packaged pasta meals, frozen dinners, sausages and meats–these have all been found to have added sugar.
Walking through the grocery store is a bit fun for me, because I am an avid fan of reading nutrition labels. You wouldn’t believe (or if you are reading this blog, you actually may believe) the products that contain added sugar. Every product that I mentioned in the above paragraph contained either corn syrup or high fructose corn syrup–products that naturally would have no sugar in them at all!
When buying processed food, even if it is organic, it is very valuable to your health, and to those you love, to read nutrition labels. You absolutely don’t have to be insane about it, or to work yourself into a rut, just try and look for better options. Different brands of the same foods may have different sugar content, and may contain different forms of sugar. If you are going to buy something that does contain added sugar, it is best to find a brand that uses pure sugar, and not corn syrup, fructose or high fructose corn syrup.
Sometimes we need to buy these foods–for convenience, for taste or pleasure, whatever. Just always keep in mind that there are better options for the same food, and to also notice where the sugar content that is in the nutrition label is coming from. Is it coming from naturally occurring sources like those found in the whole fruit, vegetable or dairy? Or is it coming from the addition of sugar by the manufacturer?
Hopefully this post has given you some insight, advice and guidance on the sugar issue in your food. You can be sure that this won’t be the last, as I have many more posts coming in the future, especially the growing concern over fructose.
Until then, this has been The Healthy Advocate.