Thursday, January 6, 2011

Sugar - the Good - the Bad and the Ugly

This time of year it's pretty hard to escape sugar. I have a fabulous box of homemade fudge on my kitchen counter that is calling to me all day long.  Then there are the endless cookies, breads, pastries, and pies that go along with the holiday season. So we indulge and we vow to be better come January 1st, but is it possible to avoid all sugar? Better question - should we avoid all sugar?

Did you know that some sugar is actually good for you? Xylitol for example has been shown to prevent tooth decay, stabilize hormones and regulate insulin. Twenty-five years of research shows that chewing gum with xyitol reduces tooth decay by up to 40%. One brand I found is Spry and it comes in lots of flavors. More research shows that a solution of xylitol in a nasal spray greatly reduces sinus and ear infections when used regularly.Might be worth a try.

Another 'good' sugar is D-mannose which is found naturally in cranberry and pineapple juice. This sugar is particularly good at preventing harmful e-coli bacteria from sticking to the walls of the bladder.  So that's why your mother told you to drink lots of cranberry juice when you get the pesky bladder infections.

So what about sucrose (table sugar) and fructose (fruit sugar)? Let's start with 'high-fructose corn syrup' (HFCS). Research done at Princeton confirmed that a diet including HFCS leads to more weight gain - especially in the form of abdominal fat - the most dangerous kind of fat. HFCS consumption has been shown to cause more weight gain than consuming a high fat diet. Please read labels and know that HFCS goes by other names like chicory, inulin, iso glucose, glucose-fructose syrup and fruit fructose and crystaline fructose.

Then there is good old table sugar or sucrose. Sugar can do several things when consumed in even moderate quantities.
  • Increase blood acidity 
  • Decrease body's ability to fight disease
  • Increase dental carries
  • Increase triglycerides
  • Increase hyperglycemia
  • Increase visceral (internal organ) fat
  • Increase insulin resistance
Fructose, or fruit sugar, can have many of the same effects. The simple solution is to eat fruit - not just the sugar from fruit. That way you'll get all the benefits of phytonutrients, fiber, antioxidants and more that you don't get when you just eat fructose.

Dr. Jonathan Wright has done some interesting research on sugar. Read some of his articles here.

When you do make sweet treats for your family, try stevia - a natural sweetener with none of the ill effects of other sugars. It's easy to find in the grocery store or online.

It all comes down to eating real food, eating more of the good stuff (fruits, vegetables, grains, fish, beans and lentils) and finding joy in the incredible bounty of mother earth.

Be well and happy ~

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