My good friend, best-selling author, presenter and wellness coach Andi Lew and I have had some passionate discussions about sugar. It’s something that we both believe strongly in educating people about. I love this chapter of her latest book Real Fit Food and wanted to share it. It is a great summary of why we should ditch the sweet stuff. One of the reasons that I love Andi’s books is that she encourages people to eat delicious food (even ice cream) but to create flavour using good fats, instead of refined sugar and processed additives. Her teachings were a huge light bulb moment for me and I hope they are for you too! Happy reading!
HEY SUGAR, WE ARE OVER
“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”
-Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own
Yes, you are going to shut out the sugar and finally end this addictive relationship!
You may even discover some alternative ‘loves’ with which to replace your sweet habit, but I think you’re ‘sweet enough’!
For every molecule of sugar you consume, it takes 54 molecules of magnesium for your body to process it. Madness, right?
Even the World Health Organisation (WHO) has taken a tough stand on the sweet thing with their statement made in January 2014 recommending that sugar should account for less than 5 per cent of what people eat each day if they are to avoid health risks such as weight gain and tooth decay linked to excessively sugary diets.
This organisation is the health policy unit of the United Nations and is the largest think-tank group of people that make decisions when it comes to definitions on what health is and how to achieve it. They provide evidence-based research and recently and finally acknowledged the work of the author of Sweet Poison, David Gillespie who believes that sugar consumption should be severely limited. A cardiologist on the panel, Shrinath Reddy acknowledged the links between sugar and diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease.
Given that sugar is hidden in so many processed foods and that the average Australian consumes around 35-45 teaspoons a day, this is a big call. Obesity in the developing world has quadrupled since the 1980’s.
Something else happened in the 80’s and that was the myth we were fed about ‘low-fat’ food. We were told to eat it and little did we know that these foods were laden with sugar! If low-fat worked, we would all be thin and we are not. It’s time to say goodbye for good to low-fat and high-sugar!
Even less than a third of the population in China and India are cottoning on to this ‘Western-world diet’ thing, so some big rises in obesity and other sugar related diseases are forecast there too! With billions of people riding the ‘chronic disease bus’ the world has finally started listening to the dangers of excess sugar consumption, despite what kickbacks U.S governments are getting from the ‘fast food’ industry. And oh yes they do!
The main concern is how highly addictive the processed ‘white stuff’ is. I’ve been asked over and over, just how do I stay inspired? How do I stay away from the junk foods and the sugary treats? I really believe that when you understand how the body works, it will help you to understand what’s happening to your body when you consume it and therefore you will be able to make better choices.
Most of the time we know something is ‘bad’ for us, but we still eat it. That’s okay. But how do we stop eating it often? Empower yourself with the knowledge on what your body does when it consumes sugar. It will make you think twice, I promise, once you get the gist of what happens to your brain and digestion. So here we go!
Let’s hear what Dr Natalie Kringoudis has to say about the sweet stuff!
“There are a host of issues sugar may cause but there are several specific ways that it affects fertility. Here is what’s at the top of my list:
Sugar disrupts your hormones
Hormones are the drivers of all our body functions, but the intricacy of our sex hormones is my primary concern as a natural fertility expert. Sugar consumption will drive our insulin too high, too quickly and only momentarily. This quick peak creates a high and then we drop faster than a hot pie, leaving far more mess. This is what’s known as the fight or flight response – the response of extended stimulation to the adrenal glands.
When our sugar levels drop, our adrenals release both cortisol and adrenalin to attempt to replenish sugar levels. Eventually this can lead to hormonal imbalance since progesterone (the main hormone required for ovulation to occur) and cortisol compete for the same receptor binding sites in the body. And cortisol is the bossy hormone – it will always win over progesterone. Should this continue for a period of time, the entire endocrine system will be upset and will lead to disruption of all sex hormones – oestrogen, progesterone, the androgens DHEA and testosterone for both sexes.
Sugar is inflammatory
Inflammation is simply our body’s response to damage, be it from infection, illness or allergies. Sugar is inflammatory, mostly because our bodies aren’t designed to consume the quantities we see in modern Western diets and our gut goes into a frenzy trying to cope. Inflammation is a normal body response toward recovery. This is especially appropriate for women who suffer from endometriosis. Most women who cut sugar out of their diet will notice substantial changes and in some instances total recovery from endometriosis. When it comes to fertility and conception, endometriosis can be an issue as it affects the uterine lining and making implantation of the embryo difficult.
Sugar leads to insulin resistance
Insulin is released by the pancreas to convert sugar to energy. However, the more sugar we eat, the more insulin the pancreas releases, eventually leading to insulin resistance. Insulin resistance can be to blame for issues with ovulation, maturation of the egg and implantation of the embryo into the uterine lining. What’s more, these women are at a far higher risk of miscarriage than the average. Many women who have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) have insulin resistance.
Sugar consumption can make PMS worse
Not only because of the inflammation already spoken of but also because of the hormone disruption also mentioned – and let’s not forget, fertility isn’t just about the babies! Feeling well all month round is part of having healthy, happy hormones.
Sugar zaps your vitamin and mineral stores
This can be a massive fertility factor. Our hormones require specific amounts of vitamins and minerals to be well-fuelled. The pill severely depletes our vitamin and mineral stores, as does fructose. When our stores are low, our entire body is compromised, which contributes to amenorrhea, irregular periods, lower immunity, increased infection (which can be a factor in miscarriage too), increased anxiety, depression, irritable bowel syndrome and the list goes on. Very often, the end ‘diagnosis’ is unexplained infertility. Because of this, it also ages us. Cutting out sugar could have you looking younger, sooner than you may think.
Rather than reaching for another pack of biscuits as you digest this information, perhaps think about how you can begin to lessen sugar in your diet. Our bodies aren’t designed to tolerate much sugar especially of the refined, processed variety. But also for many women, high sugar natural foods like fruits can too be troublesome.
When you consume sugar you suddenly raise your balanced ratios past their ideal levels. This can cause the adrenals to become active and gets the liver active to try and store these excessive sugars as glycogen. But like a sponge, there is only so much that the liver can store and only so long it can keep working before it is exhausted. What I’ve described can lead to ‘the sugar hit’ we have all had and then the crash when the adrenals are exhausted, which is very unhealthy and also toxic.”
So it’s actually not good fat that makes you fat. Sugar makes you fat! Low calorie foods may well be low in just that – the calories, but it’s the type of calories that are more important to us. If the food is high in sugar and low in nutrition and good fat, you will put on weight. You can read more about this in the next chapter which is all about fat!
Get your body to use sugar so that you don’t store it
You’ve got to get your body to use sugar straight away if you don’t want it to be stored as fat. This seems pretty simple to do, but why aren’t we doing it then? It’s because we are not eating REAL sugar. This is where we need to focus once again on eating REAL FOOD. The white processed sugar, or even raw sugar, has been processed and the body doesn’t recognise it as REAL FIT FOOD.
So Dr Damian Kristof who has the know-how on nutrition and chiropractic, understands how the digestive system and nervous system (brain, spinal cord and nerves) work together to make this happen. He explains it this way: when sugar goes into the blood stream, the blood sugar levels increase. The brain registers this increase in glucose and sends a signal down the spinal cord to the pancreas. The pancreas recognises that message and sends out insulin. This process assists with the uptake of sugar, in combination with thyroid hormones.
Cells within the body that require sugar, but don’t need insulin, like the brain for example (and yes your body does require sugar), are already taking up sugar and will be using sugar straight away! However this sugar has to be in the simplest form. This is glucose which can come from fructose in fruit or lactose, sucrose, galactose and all different types of sugars. These get broken down to become the glucose. The body has to be using it at a certain speed though, or it becomes toxic by storing it. The brain then malfunctions. This is what happens when we have diabetes or obesity for example. It’s when our body stores sugar because we are not using it straight away.
In a nutshell, when you eat any kind of sugar, the brain registers that there is an increase in blood sugar and sends a message out to the pancreas to secrete insulin and insulin helps the body use sugar. If it’s not used immediately, it will start to store it.
Now everybody has hormones that help us have an ‘on-off’ switch through our genes that help us understand when we are satiated so we can stop eating when we are nutritionally satisfied. There are only a handful of us that do not get that message – about 5% of the population have that genetic defect.
However, if a food source becomes more and more highly processed, the less information is attached to that food product. Dr Damian uses the term ‘information’ to define the amount of nutrition in that food. There are macro-nutrients, which are proteins, fats and carbohydrates and micro-nutrients, which are the vitamins and minerals that come from that food source. Vitamins and minerals are the information that satiate the brain. These nutrients get stripped away, the more something becomes processed.
Here’s an example with the star of this chapter, sugar! Sugar comes from sugar cane. This is a whole food in its entirety. It’s raw, whole and unprocessed. If we chewed this cane, it would be a little sweet but not too sweet. It also has other nutrition in it, because it is a whole food, for example fibre. If we had to take the juice out, it would be sweeter. If we then dried the juice out of it, it would be sweeter again, because we took the water out of it, which would have diluted it. If we continued the ‘process’, hence the term ‘processed sugar, we would get raw sugar, then white sugar, then castor sugar, then icing sugar as it becomes finer and sweeter and more highly processed.
If it is heated, we burn off all the nutrition. It’s not longer a real food or a whole food. It is now highly processed, the form has been concentrated and as a result it has lost its micro-nutrients which is what we need to keep us full. All the nutrition has now been lost. Had we chewed on the sugar cane, we would have had more satiation and would have felt fuller quicker. There is no off-switch working in our brains anymore when we eat processed food, because there’s no ‘information’ (aka micro-nutrition) to help us feel full and satiated.
Another example are the juices you may buy for your kids. These juices often contain only 5% fruit juice; the rest is sugar. There may be the same amount of ‘calories’ as a full freshly squeezed orange juice, but because there’s only 5% nutrition, the brain doesn’t get any information from the intelligence in the food that was normally there when it was a whole food in its entirety. That’s why the kids just can’t get enough and are still hungry and possibly moody. They have missed out on what their brains need. We, as adults, are no different.
So the more real and whole the food is, the more you help your brain and body to work better and the more you do this, the fuller you will feel. So ditch the processed sugar and eat more sugars from other sources, because we need them too.
We need sugar from fruits. The only reason we may be intolerant to things like fructose or lactose is because our digestive system is no longer working well and cannot naturally use the sugar. Real sugar from fruit is mixed with other vital micro-nutrients like potassium or vitamin C. If we have trouble with digestion of the fructose or lactose, which is what can be known as IBS or irritable bowel syndrome, it can be from the gut not working well from stress or from overuse of medications.
This is where we lose the natural flora and fauna in the gut. So this is why it’s great to work with natural healthcare practitioners like wellness chiropractors, naturopaths, Chinese medicine doctors and nutritionists, who are interested in restoring gut and nerve system health. When that part of you works well, you are well. And here’s the answer: you can use sugar, not store sugar.
No-sugar, man-made foods are just as dangerous. They are usually the ones made with chemicals like aspartame. So far from our roots, and even more distant to being natural, is this very notion that if we eat artificially sweetened foods then we will also lose weight. We were oh so wrong.
Want more?? Real Fit Food is available in all bookstores and via www.andilew.com