Don’t let sugar rob you of your health, beauty and youth

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I recommend a diet free from processed sugar and its derivatives. That's not because of the calorie content (it's actually quite low at only 16 calories per teaspoon) but because of the hormonal responses that sugar invokes in the body. Consuming sugar triggers a cascade of chemical reactions that promote chronic inflammation - reactions that are proven to accelerate aging and promote dangerous degenerative conditions and diseases.

High sugar consumption can also lead to adrenal exhaustion, common symptoms of which include feeling mentally and emotionally stressed, continued sugar and salt cravings, mood swings and feelings of weakness and lethargy.

Devastating metabolic consequences of sugar consumption are:

  1. Sugar can suppress your immune system and impair your defenses against infectious disease.
  2. Sugar feeds cancer cells and has been connected with the development of cancer of the breast, ovaries, prostate, rectum, pancreas, biliary tract, lung, gallbladder and stomach.
  3. Sugar can produce a significant rise in total cholesterol, triglycerides and bad cholesterol and a decrease in good cholesterol. 
  4. Sugar can cause autoimmune diseases such as arthritis, asthma and multiple sclerosis.
  5. Sugar can contribute to osteoporosis.
  6. Sugar lowers the ability of enzymes to function.
  7. Sugar can impair the structure of your DNA.
  8. Sugar can cause food allergies. 
  9. Sugar can increase fluid retention.
  10. Sugar can contribute to depression.

The list goes on and on, but from what you have just read you can see just how dangerous a diet high in sugar can be.

Here is a quick lesson in physiology, so you can understand how ingesting sugar (and other carbohydrates like potatoes, corn and most grains) affects your ability to lose weight.

Your pancreas releases insulin after you eat carbohydrates. This causes a rise in blood sugar. Insulin ensures your cells receive some blood sugar necessary for life, and increases glycogen storage. However, it also drives your body to use more carbohydrate, and less fat, as fuel. And, insulin converts almost half of your dietary carbohydrate to fat for storage. In other words, when we eat too much carbohydrate, we're essentially sending a hormonal message, via insulin, that the body needs to store fat!

Not only do increased insulin levels tell your body to store carbohydrates as fat, they also tell it not to release any stored fat. This makes it impossible for you to use your own stored body fat for energy. So the excess carbohydrates in your diet not only make you fat, they make sure you stay fat.

If you have ever wondered why it is so difficult to cut sugar from your diet, it's because research has shown that it is an addictive substance, just like other drugs of dependence. Intermittent, excessive sugar intake causes endogenous opioid dependence, which means that it produces similar chemical reactions in our brains to that of taking heroin. To kick the sugar habit, you must be aware of just how insidious it is. While it might be easy to walk past sugar in its obvious forms (confectionary, baked goods, soft drink, cereal and biscuits) sugar in one form or another is in everything from yogurt to bread to condiments such as salad dressing, mayonnaise, tomato sauce, relish, mustard, and barbecue sauce. If you examine the "foods" in any supermarket more closely and start reading labels, you will find that just about everything contains sugar. Sugar sneaks in to the food we eat under the guise of many different forms and names. This list reveals 50 of them. Make yourself aware of these names so that when purchasing your groceries you know what you are really buying.

1. Barley malt
2. Beet sugar
3. Brown sugar
4. Buttered syrup
5. Cane juice crystals
6. Cane sugar
7. Caramel
8. Corn syrup
9. Corn syrup solids
10. Confectioner’s sugar

11. Carob syrup
12. Castor sugar
13. Date sugar
14. Demerara sugar
15. Dextran
16. Dextrose
17. Diastatic malt
18. Diatase
19. Ethyl maltol
20. Fructose

21. Fruit juice
22. Fruit juice concentrate
23. Galactose
24. Glucose
25. Glucose solids
26. Golden sugar
27. Golden syrup
28. Grape sugar
29. High-fructose corn syrup
30. Honey

31. Icing sugar
32. Invert sugar
33. Lactose
34. Maltodextrin
35. Maltose
36. Malt syrup
37. Maple syrup
38. Molasses
39. Muscovado sugar
40. Panocha

41. Raw sugar
42. Refiner’s syrup
43. Rice syrup
44. Sorbitol
45. Sorghum syrup
46. Sucrose
47. Sugar
48. Treacle
49. Turbinado sugar
50. Yellow sugar  

What about artificial sweeteners?

There are many forms of artificial sweeteners, including Splenda (sucralose), Sweet'N Low (saccharin), Equal and NutraSweet (aspartame), acesulfame K and neotame.

When it comes to artificial sweeteners, one thing is certain: some of the chemicals that comprise them are known hazards — the degree to which you experience side effects just depends on your individual biochemistry. While the jury is out on the possible side effects of some sweeteners, there is conclusive evidence that others pose significant health risks and should not be ingested. It has been found that many of these sweeteners are toxic carcinogens so the message I clearly send is this: avoid them.

Sugar Alternatives

  • Agave nectar: is a natural honey-coloured liquid extracted from the agave plant. Due to its fructose content, it is remarkable in that its Glycaemic Index (GI) and glycaemic load are lower than all other natural sweeteners on the market. Agave nectar does not cause dramatic blood sugar fluctuations so energy levels remain more consistent. Because it is derived from a plant it naturally contains quantities of the health supporting minerals Iron, Calcium, Potassium & Magnesium.
    If you are looking for a sweet treat, choose foods sweetened with this healthy and delicious syrup – your body and taste buds will thank you for it!
  • Stevia: is a South American herb that has been used as a sweetener by the Guarani Indians of Paraguay for hundreds of years. It has a delicious and refreshing taste that can be 30 times sweeter than sugar. Stevia is calorie-free and doesn't upset blood sugar levels. In fact, it can actually assist in regulating blood-sugar levels.
  • Date syrup: or date sugar (not sugar at all) is made from dates, so it contains all the vitamins, minerals and fibre of the fruit. It can be used in equal parts as direct substitute for sugar, especially in baking. It is metabolised slowly so it does not cause energy highs and lows.

More expert advice on health and wellbeing

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Mareike Bout is a qualified and registered personal trainer who specialises in holistic fitness and lifestyle coaching. She is a recognised leader in the industry, receiving the peer-voted South Australia Personal Trainer of the Year award in 2008. She is also a regular guest on <?xml:namespace prefix = st1> Adelaide’s top-rating radio station FIVEaa. Mareike runs her personal training business, One Life Live Well, both online and from a private studio in Adelaide. Services include one-on-one training, outdoor group fitness, lifestyle coaching and weight-loss programs. Individually tailored programs encompass aspects of exercise, nutrition, relaxation, positive thinking, life balance, and goal setting. Her approach is to guide, support and educate her clients so that they posses the tools required to live a life of health, strength and vitality!