If you’re contemplating a cleanse, or any other major diet change that eliminates sugar, you’ll find that both psychological and dietary preparedness are vital to your success. Part of that preparedness involves coming up with a plan that you can stick to, and putting that plan into action; ideally before the program start date. Without a workable plan unique to your lifestyle and habits, you lack the ability to make good decisions in those unplanned situations or events, increasing the chances that you’ll cheat or fall off the wagon altogether . . . again.
In the wake of breakthrough documentaries like Fed Up, articles in The New York Times propounding the toxicity of sugar, Dr. Robert Lustig’s impassioned viral video on the chronic toxicity of fructose, and the growing body of peer-reviewed articles pointing towards sugar’s effects on our expanding waistlines and chronic diseases, many have begun to feel even more empowered to kick sugar to the curb.
Yet mental prep will only carry your success so far without accurate knowledge of the monster you are up against. As much as we all know how terrible sugar is for our health, there is still an overwhelming amount of contradictory information clogging up cyberspace, making the task of sugar elimination an all but impossible task. The following facts are meant to empower you with the cold hard truth behind sugar and its deceptively not-so-sweet cousins; rather than simply guide you to the finish line with tips for how to quit, this list will hopefully rip away the sweet illusion thickly coating all the sugary treats once loved so much. By seeing sugar for the destructive substance it truly is, you may find your love affair coming to a grinding halt.
The Seven Deadly Truths of Sugar:
1. By nature, sugar is duplicitous.
Let’s first define sugar. Typically when we talk about “sugar,” we are referring to table sugar, primarily derived from sugarcane or beets. Table sugar is also called sucrose. Sucrose is made up of 50% glucose and 50% fructose. Glucose and fructose are important to differentiate because the two get processed very differently in the body, which as you’ll find out, has seriously different ramifications on our health.
2. Fructose = Fat.
Glucose is the sugar that gets processed in our guts during digestion and can ultimately be used by every cell in our body. Fructose, the sister carbohydrate in sucrose, bypasses the gut completely and goes straight to our livers. Some of it gets stored as glycogen, but some of it also gets turned into triglycerides, which is a fancy term for fat. Yes, fructose = fat. This wouldn’t be a big deal, but food these days is loaded with sugars—including fructose, which in its purest form, happens to be 70% sweeter than table sugar, making it more addictive. According to a 2012 Mercola article, we should be consuming no more that 25 grams or 5 teaspoons of fructose per day. If someone is overweight or at risk for any of the diseases mentioned below, then they should curtail their intake to 10-15 grams or 2-3 teaspoons of fructose per day. However, we are on average consuming upwards of 55 grams, or three times that amount, on a daily basis!
3. Sugar is addictive.
Sugar alters our biochemical pathways in our brain and tampers with our dopamine receptors. In order for us to get the next dopamine spike, however, we need a greater dose of sugar. That’s why out of the 600,000 food products in America today, 80% are laced with some form of sugar, and more specifically fructose, because it’s cheap and keeps us addicted.
4. Fructose is a chronic liver toxin.
Eating too much food with fructose is now correlated to a number of chronic diseases. This includes; slower metabolism, higher cholesterol (indicative of widespread inflammation in the body), heart disease, fatty-liver disease or cirrhosis, hypertension, obesity, hepatic insulin resistance and even gout due to the overproduction of uric acid in the body. Fructose also can cause leptin resistance, which is the hormone that tells your body whether you are hungry or full. If you break that switch, then chances are you’re going to be on a one way road to fat town.
5. Stripping fiber from food leads to increased sugar to our system.
Normally plants with fructose are equipped with fiber. Fiber, something we’re not consuming enough of, acts as a safeguard. It not only fills us up and slows digestion, but it also helps slow down the absorption of fructose into our bodies. However, nowadays with juicing and smoothie crazes (which destroy fiber), the stripping of fiber from foods (think white rice, puffed wheat and white or wheat bread), and the breeding of fruits for more sweetness and longer shelf life, we’re ruining our chances for healthier bodies.
6. “Natural” sugar is misleading.
Fructose may be naturally occurring, meaning that it is present in whole fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds — but that doesn’t mean that it’s good for you. (Just ask Socrates who was sentenced to death by drinking hemlock.) When we futilely discuss about which sugar is better than another, we rarely ever look at fructose levels. Here’s a short list of nine “natural” sweeteners to give you an idea of what percentage of fructose is commonly found in each; variations in levels are often due to different brands and how sugar is processed:
Percentage of Fructose in Common Sweeteners
Agave nectar = 56-97%
High fructose corn syrup = 42-90%
Tapioca syrup = 55%
Table sugar / cane sugar / beet sugar = 50%
Honey = 38-50%
Coconut sugar = 38-48.5%
Yacon syrup = 35%
Maple syrup = 30%-45%
Molasses = 23%
7. Just because sugar has a low glycemic index (GI), it doesn’t mean it’s good for you.
The GI is misleading for a couple reasons. The scale was created to see how high your blood glucose rises after ingesting 50 grams of carbs of a specific food. Firstly, fifty grams of carbs is quite a lot. A common example I see thrown around is carrots. They are high on the GI, but to get 50 grams of carbs from carrots, you have to eat 1.3 lb! You have to look at glycemic load, which tells you how much food you need to eat to obtain those 50 grams of carbohydrates. But as you have just found out, sugar is oftentimes more than just glucose. In most cases, it also consists of fructose. So GI and glycemic load aren’t useful tools for measuring fructose levels in the body. That’s why calories from sugar, to a certain extent, don’t matter. All sugars weren’t created equally; they are metabolized very differently in the body, each having their own ramifications if eaten too liberally.
Now that you have the facts about sugar, what is the best way to cutting it out of your life? Eliminate it altogether! Sugar is a drug that leads to addiction, and as any addiction therapist or help group will tell you, the only way to beat your addiction is to completely eliminate the drug from your life. Eating clean all week just to kick off your Saturday morning with a giant syrupy-flavored mocha is not the way to kick the habit. Even little bit can set you back dramatically, if it doesn’t derail you completely.