The message to eat less sugar is well and truly drummed into us from all angles. However, what often misleads people is the lack of understanding of what constitutes ‘sugar’. Sugar includes glucose, fructose (as in fruit sugar), lactose (as in milk), sucrose (table sugar), maltose or malts (rice malt and honey), jam (made from highly concentrated juice, high in fruit sugar), maple syrup, corn syrup, palm sugar (traditionally used in macrobiotic cooking), organic brown sugar and agave. Even alcohol contains sugar!
Once you start looking you’ll notice that sugar in different forms is added to countless products, canned foods, baked goods, desserts, salad dressings, sauces, meat products, breads, cereals, soft drinks, and disguised under assorted names depending upon the processing method it has gone through. If you want to shelve sugar, the following list will help you to identify it and its many secret disguises. If you’re following a completely sugar free diet remember ingredient such as agave are still sugars and stevia is a better option.
30 Uncovered Sugars
- Brown Sugar
- White Sugar
- Demerera Sugar
- Confectioner’s Sugar
- Cane Sugar
- Granulated Sugar
- Grape Sugar
- Table Sugar
- Refined Sugar
- Muscavado Sugar
- Invert Sugar
- Rice Syrup
- Corn Syrup
- High Maltose Corn Syrup
- High Fructose Corn Syrup
- Maltose- obtained from starch
- Turbindo Sugar
- Palm Sugar
- Maple Syrup
We all know that sugar is bad for us…but to what extent? Kicking the sugar habit will have you and your whole family reaping the rewards. It’s clear to see that as the array of processed foods available has expanded over time, so too has the obesity epidemic. Although not always linked to sugar consumption, it does seem somewhat coincidental that along with this increase in obesity an increase in food intolerances and diseases.
Recent statistics from America highlight the extreme increases in sugar consumption in the developed world. Did you know that the average consumption of sugar in the year 1700 was 4 pounds per year; in 1800 it was 18 pounds per year; 1900, 90 pounds per year; in 2009 more than 50% of all Americans consume half a of sugar PER DAY which is equal to 180 pounds a year. Dr Mercola on his website outlines that this increase correlates directly to the increase in prevalence of diabetes in the US. If you look at it statistically, in 1893 there were fewer than 3 cases of diabetes per 100,000 people fast forward to 2010 and that number had risen to 8,000 out of every 100,000 people.
1. Weight Gain:
One of the most obvious results of a diet high in sugar is weight gain and Australia and many other developed nations are currently experiencing an obesity epidemic. Many natural health rangers believe that fructose is the main offender causing this spike in weight gain. Fructose fails to sufficiently stimulate insulin, resulting in ghrelin, the ‘hunger hormone’ and leptin, the ‘satiety hormone’ not being suppressed, causing your body to continue eating and in turn, developing insulin resistance.
Recently, there was an article published in The Sydney Morning Herald which echoed the concerns about the over-consumption of fructose and its direct links to obesity. Professors Robert Lustig, Laura Schmidt and Claire Brindis believe that “sugar is so harmful it should be controlled in the same way as tobacco and alcohol”. Their studies show a correlation between fructose and increased blood pressure, an altered metabolism, serious liver damage and a negative effect on hormones.
Dr Richard Johnson, the co-author of the compelling book The Sugar Fix: The High-Fructose Fallout That is Making You Fat and Sick, believes that the body becomes sensitized to sugar. In his book, Dr Johnson explains the cyclical nature of sugar consumption in that the larger the amount of sugar the body absorbs, the more effective it becomes at absorbing it. He also covers the positive effects that a sugar ‘holiday’ can have on the body, with the metabolic pathways becoming ‘down-regulated’.
2. Heart Disease:
A diet high in added sugar can increase the risk of heart disease due to raised levels of triglycerides (unhealthy blood fats) in the body. A high level of sugar in the body results in higher levels of cholesterol. The levels of high-density lipoprotein, HDL, known as ‘good cholesterol’ are decreased with dietary sugar, preventing them from reducing the ‘bad’ cholesterol, LDL. A resulting factor of the increase in HDL is more plaque on the arteries, putting one at a higher risk for heart disease. So the question we really need to be asking ourselves is… “Is my sugar addiction really worth the risk of getting heart disease?”
3. Sugar Blocks Absorption of Vitamin C
One effect of sugar on the body that came as a surprise to me is its involvement in blocking the body’s absorption of Vitamin C. Linus Pauling, an American chemist, biochemist, peace activist, author and educator is one of only four individuals who have won more than one Nobel Prize. Pauling found that white blood cells require higher doses of Vitamin C to combat the common cold and flu. He discovered that due to the similarities in chemical structure between Vitamin C and sugar, they have to compete for entry into cells. The consumption of too much sugar can crowd out the cells, prohibiting Vitamin C from entering. As Vitamin C can only be obtained from foods or supplements as opposed to being produced by the body, it’s essential not to over-consume sugar and prevent Vitamin C from being absorbed into the body.
Ageing…The Collins English Dictionary defines it as “The process of growing old or developing the appearance and characteristics of old age”. Staying young at heart is important but if you’re looking to stay young on the inside too, then kicking the sugar habit will be your best defense. It’s hard to believe but research now shows that fructose, one of the worst offenders, is an extremely strong pro-inflammatory that creates Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs) which speed up the ageing process. AGEs damage collagen and elastin in the skin and fructose damages the body as it promotes growth of fat cells around vital organs, contributing to the onset of diabetes and heart disease. Dr Mercola reports that in just 10 weeks, 16 volunteers on a controlled high fructose diet produced new fat cells around their liver, heart and other digestive organs. It’s time to check labels for high fructose corn syrup!
5. Artificial Sweeteners
The popularity of artificial sweeteners and sugars has increased dramatically in the last few years with sugar-free, low-fat diets becoming the latest trend. Artificial sweeteners, marketed as ‘sugar-free’ are added to many ‘diet’ products and are well known as sugar alternatives in tea and coffee. Researchers have found that these artificial sugars are detrimental to the body as they are made of a neurotoxic substance, causing damage to the brain, spinal cord and nervous system. Some of the most common ‘sugar-free’ sweeteners such as Equal, NutraSweet, Spoonfuls and Bienvia all contain the primary ingredient aspartame. In his book Sugar-Free Blues author Jim Earles writes that ‘Researchers at Utah State University found that even at low levels aspartame induces adverse changes in the pituitary glands of mice. The pituitary gland is the master gland upon which the proper function of all biochemical processes depend’. He goes on to state that with digestion, the aspartame breaks down into the amino acids phenylalanine and aspartic acid, as well as methanol.
Supporters of aspartame claim that due to the low levels of methanol found in aspartame there is nothing to be worried about. They also claim that the aspartic acid and phenylalaine are of ‘only limited concern’. However, researchers have found that people with a hereditary condition called Phenylketonuria (PKU) are at danger due to the largest component of aspartame by weight, the phenylalanine. This substance does occur naturally in foods and the FDA has recommended that people with PKU, as well as pregnant and lactating women and those with advanced liver disease should avoid it.
Dr Christine Lydon, an accomplished aspartame researcher recognises that phenylalanine and aspartic acid are amino acids normally present in some of the foods that we consume. However, to be considered natural and harmless, they must be eaten in conjunction with other amino acids. Taken on their own, "they enter the central nervous system in abnormally high concentrations, causing aberrant neuronal firing and potential cell death. The neurotoxic effects of these amino acids, when consumed as isolates, can be linked to headaches, mental confusion, balance problems and possibly seizures." Read more about artificial sweeteners here.
So by now your head is probably spinning… But having read about some of the negative affects of sugar I’m hoping that you may think a bit more about kicking your sugar habit. So why is it that just as we seem to be doing so well…our temptation overrides our rational mind and we chomp into that chocolate fudge brownie? Actually there is an explanation if we look back in time into the philosophies of Traditional Chinese Medicine, which claims that we all need sweetness in our life. There are six tastes necessary to stimulate the taste buds on the tongue and allow the body to experience satiety. These include sweet, sour, salty, astringent, bitter and pungent.
Cravings so often experienced when on a sugar-free diet are in fact the result of imbalances in brain chemistry. If you were to avoid sweetness altogether, the imbalance and cravings would increase. ‘So what’s the solution?’ The best one’s out there are to supplement sugar with organic natural sugar alternatives – such as stevia and xylitol. I use stevia in my recipes as a substitute for sugar and find it to be one of the healthier alternatives. The best stevia to choose is natural green leaf stevia.