The White Devil
Unless you’ve been completely disconnected from reality, you know that the sugar skeleton is finally out of the nutrition closet. It’s worse than gluten, it’s worse than dairy, and yes, it’s even worse than fat.
According to Frank Lipman, MD, sugar is the true forbidden fruit, the devil’s candy we should fear most. He even likens it to drugs: “Sugar is the devil. I’ve been saying that forever. As I see it, sugar is a socially acceptable, legal recreational drug. And similar to other recreational drugs, it can lead to mood highs and lows and can destroy your health over time.”
And as it turns out, a New York Times article revealed last September that in the 1960s, several Harvard scientists were paid off by the sugar industry to hide this inconvenient truth from the public. And in the meantime, for over half a century, we’ve been getting sicker and sicker.
So why is sugar so bad for us?
Well it turns out that sugar isn’t just bad for our teeth. Sugar – not fat – is the biggest culprit when it comes to weight gain and the obesity epidemic. Sugar sends you on a roller coaster of cravings, spikes your blood sugar, and increases inflammation, which in turn suppresses immune function.
And it turns out that caffeine isn’t the only dietary culprit behind poor sleep. A study conducted by Columbia University Medical Center’s Institute of Human Nutrition found that diets low in fiber and high in sugar and saturated fats were associated with disrupted, lighter, and less restorative sleep patterns.
Sleep quantity and quality impact overall health significantly. Poor sleep is increasingly recognized as a contributor to the development of chronic disease, including hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
Sugar – even the fructose found in most fruit – causes spikes in stress hormones like cortisol and encourages the liver to convert it straight to fat. On top of this, it messes with our metabolism and causes blood sugar spikes, resulting in a downward spiral of sugar cravings and consumption. We literally become addicted to the white stuff.
Unfortunately, it’s not just the white refined stuff we have to watch out for. Sugars from honey, molasses, maple sugar, and coconut sugar, for example, retain many nutrients that are stripped from plain white sugar, however the body reads it just the same: as sugar.
Our ancestors consumed an estimated 4-6 teaspoons of sugar per day; today the average Western diet anywhere from 22-40 teaspoons per day. Check out what happened to this Australian man when he consumed 40 teaspoons per day for 60 days. Spoiler alert: it wasn’t pretty, and was downright alarming.
New guidelines from the World Health Organization call for a dramatic reduction in free (added) sugars from our modern daily diet, down to 10% of total calories, and ultimately down to 5%, or about 6 teaspoons – back to the levels of our ancestors.
Sugar and cancer
All this is to say that the science community is finally catching on to what holistic and traditional practitioners – particularly in the cancer community – have been saying for ages: sugar is BAD. Really, really bad.
My research into anti-cancer diets last year kept leading back to one main idea: cut sugar. The concept that sugar feeds cancer is not widely recognized or acknowledged in traditional cancer treatment, but I was determined to heal as quickly as possible, so I did everything in my power to kick it quickly.
That meant cutting sugar, because cancer loves sugar. I had done my research into alternative and supplemental healing, and diet was key, and cutting sugar was the foundation. Because cancer cells take up sugar 10-12 times faster than normal cells; PET scans rely on this basic fact to detect cancer in the first place. Sugar is also highly acidic, and cancer cells thrive in lower pH environments.
Crucially, immune function is significantly impacted by sugar consumption. One study found that immune function did not fully recover for a full 5 hours after subjects consumed a moderate amount of sugar.
So why am I talking about the evils of sugar?
The fact is, I’ve always had a bit of a sweet tooth. My eating habits have always erred on the side of more healthy than not – I only consume dark chocolate, for example, and the darker the better – but I have always adored my treats and indulged in dessert. And sometimes life happens and it’s hard to avoid completely.
For several months earlier this year though, I was on a zero-sugar diet in order to rebalance my gut. Literally no sugars, no carbs, not even fruit aside from lemons (which do not contain fructose). The past couple months I’ve eased up a bit and added back squashes and some beans and lentils, and a bit more dark chocolate.
But the past few weeks I was away, which always makes it a bit trickier to stay on track with a specific diet, but not only was I away, I was celebrating: in back-to-back weekends I had a bachelorette party, a college reunion, and a wedding. I consciously made the decision to allow myself to indulge a bit more. Because 1) I knew I could get back on track 2) everything in moderation and 3) life is meant to be lived and celebrated, so a little pie and cake here and there is nothing to worry about.
But the fact is, a few bites turned into a few more and before I knew it I’d consumed substantially more than I’d intended. Still nothing to fret about, but I definitely saw the slippery slope in action, right before my eyes, with my own self as the test subject.
So I am back home and back on the sugar detox and I’m actually excited about it, because going sugar-free doesn’t mean a life without sweetness or without treats. It means a life with more energy, improved moods, sounder sleep, stable moods, a happier gut, and a streamlined body. Wins for days if you ask me!
Plus you know I am all about healthy hacks in the kitchen, so I’m pretty excited to keep experimenting with sugar-free low-carb alternatives to yummy treats, and whip up a few of the tried-and-true recipes I’ve already come up with, like my completely sugar-free fudge bites, my completely sugar-free mocha avocado mousse and key lime mousse, and these scrumptious raw brownie bites, sugar-free of course. Deliciousness for days!
Stay tuned for more posts about sugar and what it does to the body, as well as details on sugar swaps in the kitchen and the low-down on sugar alternatives.
I’m curious to hear about your struggles with sugar cravings and cutting sugar, as well as what has worked for you! If you want to discuss the sugar issue further or think you might need a little hand-holding, get in touch!