I cannot tell you how often I hear “I have a sweet tooth” or “I crave sugar all the time” or “I cannot stop eating sweets” or “I eat sweets when I am depressed” etc. Why do we have sweet tooth? Have you ever given that a thought? What does that mean? Does it mean anything? Indeed it does! So listen up!
I am starting with sugar substitutes and then move to sugar:
Are you eating sugar substitutes because you don’t want to gain weight, or because you have type 2 diabetes (T2D) and you crave sweets? Sugar substitutes can actually create T2D. Did you know that?
I read many books and articles on the subject of sugar being bad for you but most forget to explain 2 important things.
1) Insulin is released from the taste (smell, sight, and thought) of sweet and not sugar. Thus taking in sugar substitutes, because they are sweet, release insulin just like real sugar
2) Insulin resistance (same as T2D) develops from the insulin floating in your blood looking for sugar to deposit. Your body ignores insulin since because there is way too much to be put into the cells and they cannot handle it.
The job of insulin is to take the sugar in your food and deliver it to cells or convert it to fat, deposit it for later use in the body for energy. When the tongue tastes sweet, the body releases insulin immediately in search of finding the sugar and convert it for later use as energy. The problem is that since it doesn’t find any sugar if you eat naturals or sugar substitutes, sugar rash, excess insulin, as described above, kicks in plus you are hit with sugar cravings since your body thought it was getting sugar but it didn’t!
If you eat no carbs, no vegetables with carbs like potatoes, no fruits, your brain sees no sugar at all and it kicks in the sugar crave. If you eat/drink sugar substitutes, the more of those you eat, the more your craving for sugar will increase since your body is getting loads and loads of insulin that is takign the glucose from your blood, causing a sugar crash. So you need more glucose, which never comes!
This also kicks in the starvation mode by the brain so you will stop being active–it is not your choice; the brain is the control center here. The brain orders you to be resting because it has no sugar to keep your temperature constant, your heart beat constant, etc. The brain puts you into starvation mode, which reduces metabolic rate and that can lead to obesity. Smaller amount of foods will convert into energy in your body slower.
Now about the real sugar:
OK you say, I will now stop eating fake sugar and start eating the real one! But we have a problem. Table sugar is 50% fructose and 50% glucose. Fructose is found in fruits. Fructose is acceptable in small amounts for you as long as you eat it with fiber because it diverts it from the liver, where it is converted into ethanol (alcohol) and then triglycerides. causing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)–fructose is very unhealthy. Fiber is essential for the bacteria in your gut. If you are not eating fiber but drink fruit juice for example, the fructose just hits the liver full force, creating NAFLD. It is also problem for your gut since now there is no food for the bacteria (fiber) so they die off or the kind of bacteria that is not beneficial will increase, causing SIBO or candidas. So what do we now do? Definitely don’t eat probiotics (bacteria)!
You can eat good bacteria forever. If you don’t eat insoluble fiber, they will not survive. Insoluble fiber is the most difficult food to eat since they are hard and tough and are indigestible. Insoluble fiber is soft-bark and our digestive tract is not made to digest it. Another form of fiber is soluble fiber. Most fiber supplements are soluble fiber. They are “prebiotic” since they support bacterial growth though not fermentation, which is the most essential for us, humans.
So what kind of sugar should we eat? And is it something we should eat at all? There is no consensus on how much refined sugar or fructose without fiber (like fruit juice or peeled fruit) one can eat. Given that they end up in the liver as ethanol causing harm over your lifetime and build up (ethanol does not leave, most of it collects and stays there), my personal recommendation is NONE.
I too am addicted to sugar just like everyone else and am slowly cutting it out of my diet. But I dumped already all foods with added sugar. For any sweet cravings, I eat a piece of fruit with skin and high fiber–raspberries are great for that–or vegetables–carrots are great. I no longer eat processed food, no sweets of any kind, I don’t eat bread or crackers for the sweeteners they put into them. I drink no soft drinks at all, no alcohol at all (alcohol is fermented sugar!). I avoid anything added sugar like the plague. I go at least 10 feet distance away from any artificial sweeteners! I recommend you do the same!
Comments are welcome!
In bold you have written ‘Fructose is good for you until you eat it with fiber’. I’m confused because you later go on to say you only eat whole fruit because it’s better because it has fiber. Should it read ‘Fructose is bad for you until you eat it with fiber’ ?
Thanks Alison for the typo correction. I meant to write it the way you understood it. 😉 I will update it. I actually changed a TON in this article. This is 6 years old and it is extremely poorly written, and also much of what I wrote was nonsense. I updated it to retain its integrity but changed a ton as well. I edited out the most nonsense statements I made 6 years ago.
Actually another thought on this: there are countries where diabetes is rampant, like India by example. They love sweets, yes, but the main course is rice. Rice turns into sugar immediately upon absorption, does not it? Could we say, rice in large quantities and on a daily basis is almost as harmful as sugar? Any insights on this?
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Yes! Very much so! Anything that converts to sugar immediately in big quantities is a problem but it matters what you eat it with. The Chinese and Japanese do not have so much problem with diabetes and they too eat lots of rice but they eat a lot of meat and vegetables with fiber. Meat is essential with its high protein content to offset the “sugar crash” caused by simple carb foods, such as rice. Both the Chinese and the Japanese (and Thai, so forth) eat lots of meat with their rice but the Indian don’t.
Another thing Dominique, I have never been to India but I have a friend who is Indian and she and husband invited me over to lunch one day (this was in Northern CA and we went to school together) and every single meal served had sugar in it. I don’t know if this is typical for Indian food in general or if it was just this one household but if the Indian diet calls for lots of sweets in addition to eating white rice (brown is better they say but in China for example, arsenic is higher in brown rice than white… you can never be right!) that is double trouble. Hope this helps!
Angela, I have never had a sweet tooth, more like a “cheese tooth”, but about ten years ago, I completely switched to stivia extract and only used it only in my morning tea cup. I had no sugar of any kind, or honey, or maple syrup etc… or juice. I did this strictly for 6 months, on and off for another 5 years or so, meaning, I might grab one tea spoon of some sweet, here and there on special occasions. But never was attracted to sugar much. Now it is a habit, but stivia is starting to taste distasteful to me, now. I have decreased it. Even juices taste too sweet. I noticed improvements in my overall health, from this attitude. But i am almost worried now that sugar in any form seems to repel me. Any thoughts on that? Is stivia actually harmful in the long term?
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Hi Dominique! Nice seeing you on my blog! Here is what I see wrong with your switch: Stevia is a sugar substitute–not sure you knew that. It is made of a plant leaf and crystallized in concentration to make it sweeter than what it is in nature. It is not only artificial sugar but fructose like substance concentrated to be really harmful. So yes, the short answer is that Stevia is harmful for any length of time.
You do not need to eat any sugar at all! Your body is made to create sugar from the food you eat. You need to make sure you eat some carbs so that the body can easily convert some sugar but even the steak dinner you eat becomes sugar in your body. The best thing about insulin is that when used right (meaning no sugar is given) it is released only to convert the carb part into fat and then to sugar. Even meat has some natural sugar in it (like milk has lactose) that your body can convert to energy it needs. You can go without any sugar at all and do just fine!!
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