Registered Holistic Nutritionist Lisa Kilgour of InspireHealth contributes this guest post. InspireHealth is a not-for-profit provider of knowledge, tools, and services to support overall health during and after cancer treatment.
I’m a self-confessed lover of sweets. I love everything sweet and for years the refined, sugary foods in my diet caused many health issues. From body pain to foggy thinking, I knew my love of sweet foods was to blame.
But why is refined sugar so hard on the body? White sugar and high-fructose corn syrup have been stripped of all the trace minerals the body needs in order to digest them properly. So instead they use the body’s nutrient resources to break down these sugars. In particular, they steal the B vitamins and magnesium from the body, nutrients needed by the adrenal glands to handle and manage stress. Through this adrenal stress, high sugar intake can increase feelings of anxiety and leave us feeling overwhelmed.
Refined sugar is usually mixed with low-fibre, refined flour and this potent combo can cause a spike in your blood sugar that leads to a blood sugar drop a few hours later. A drop in blood sugar ramps up our craving for sweet foods, which creates another spike and another drop, and so on and so on. Many of our food choices are made during these blood sugar drops, and instead of grabbing a healthy snack we tend to need something fast, easy, and sweet right away. It’s a hard cycle to break, particularly if your first sweet treat is in the morning.
But, not all sugars are the same. The good news is that whole, unrefined sugar affects the body very differently than refined sugar. Let’s take a look at the different types of sugar.
White and brown sugar (sugar cane or sugar beet)
These sugars have been fully refined and stripped of all nutrients. Brown sugar has been refined as well, but some of the molasses removed in the processing is added back in. Sugar beet is also a highly genetically-modified organism (GMO).
High fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
This highly refined sugar is made in a lab behind closed doors. Very few people know how this sugar is processed. Due to its very cheap price it has been added to all sorts of foods, from drinks to yogurt, and even to some seemingly healthy processed foods. HFCS has been linked to weight gain, diabetes, and liver issues … stay away from this sugar! It's also known as glucose/fructose and corn sugar.
All artificial sweeteners
Research is finding a link between these sweeteners and metabolic issues. Artificial sweeteners have even been linked to more weight gain than refined sugar. Be especially careful when these sweeteners are added to drinks.
Our body loves fruit in its whole form. Its fibre slows down the release of the naturally occurring fructose, and it's full of vitamins and antioxidants. Be careful not to drink too much fruit juice, which lacks fibre and contains more sugar than whole fruit.
Raw, local honey is a healthy and healing food. Unprocessed and low in fructose, it won’t cause the liver issues that agave and other fructose sugars can. It also has anti-viral properties and works wonderfully to soothe a stubborn cough.
This whole sugar contains all of the trace minerals needed to be properly digested and it is delicious on oatmeal and other breakfast whole grain cereals.
Sucanat (unrefined cane sugar)
This is a great substitute in any recipe that calls for white or brown sugar. Same flavour, but unrefined!
Coconut sugar/palm sugar
New on the market and quite popular, this sugar is easy to use in all recipes and won’t cause blood sugar fluctuations.
Life can be sweet! Take a look at your diet and find anywhere you can switch refined sugar for whole sugar. Put sugar in your coffee? Try honey instead! Like brown sugar on your oatmeal? Maple syrup tastes fantastic! You’ll feel better, have steady energy, and you won’t even think about going back to refined sugar.
Lisa Kilgour is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist who loves to help others find balance and be happy. She works at InspireHealth, Southern Interior - Kelowna.