The Not So “Blissful” Truth Behind Added Sugar

Milk, milk products and fruits are natural and nutritious sources of sugar. Unfortunately, added sugars are the most common source of sugar in the standard American diet. They are used to add sweetness, preserve food and alter foods’ texture and appearance. While foods with natural sugars such as fruit promote health and wellness, too much of this added simple carbohydrate can be detrimental to your health.

Sugar intake has several negative effects on the body including promoting overweight/obesity, tooth decay and can increase the levels of triglycerides in the blood which is a risk factor for heart disease.

Excess added sugars can contribute to weight gain and increase the risk of becoming overweight and obese by adding “empty” calories to foods, meaning they provide calories with no nutritional value. In addition, they metabolize quickly, leaving you hungry shortly after eating. The average American currently consumes about 22 teaspoons of added sugar each day. Just one 12 ounce can of regular soda contains almost 10 teaspoons of sugar!

Sugar can cause tooth decay whether it is naturally found in foods or added. When bacteria in the mouth come into contact with starches and sugars, an acid forms and erodes teeth, causing cavities. Soft drinks are especially damaging because they already contain acids that erode teeth.

Added sugars include ingredients added to foods during processing, preparation, or at the table.

Here are the most recent recommendations for added sugar from The American Heart Association.

Women: no more than 100 calories a day (25 grams), about 6 teaspoons per day.

Men: no more than 150 calories a day (37 grams), about 9 teaspoons, per day.

Having the ability to identify added sugars on ingredients lists makes it easier to avoid foods with added sugars.

Here is a list of common names of added sugars that you may find on ingredient labels:
anhydrous dextrose
brown sugar
confectioner’s powdered sugar
corn syrup
corn syrup solids
high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
invert sugar
malt syrup
maple syrup
nectars (i.e., peach nectar, pear nectar, agave nectar)
pancake syrup
raw sugar
white granulated sugar

Other names for added sugars that you might see are evaporated corn sweetener, crystal dextrose, cane juice, liquid fructose, glucose, fruit nectar, and fruit juice concentrate.

Here are some simple ways to cut back on added sugar:

– Replacing sugar in recipes with extract such as almond, vanilla, orange or lemon.
– Eliminating sugary beverages and drink water.
– Buying cereals with less than 5 grams of sugar per serving and sweeten with cut up bananas, berries, dried fruit, cinnamon or nutmeg.
– Opting for jams, jellies, syrups and beverages with reduced or no sugar added.

By eliminating added sugar, you can cut back on calories without sacrificing foods with nutritional value. Not only will you notice an improvement in your health, but you will begin to realize that the less sweets you eat, the less sweets you crave!

Sugar Effects

Most people agree that sugar and starches are the most satisfying “treats” of all foods in a menu. However, these elements actually are the most prevalent cause if obesity. Fats may play somewhat of a role, but sugar “addiction” is the most insidious problem we have that undermines our good resolve toward overall health. Sugars are of course available in many forms indulging high fructose corn syrup, honey, and at least fifteen other forms which can be added to foods. It is widely known that an over abundance of sugar in the bodies system wreaks havoc upon the insulin levels, thereby often becoming the main cause of diabetes. It is also widely known that a large amount of sugar in the body causes chemistry upset leading to nearly all human systemic ailments.

A person becomes aware and dependent upon sugars and starches as they experience the syndrome of high and low mood swings. These “swings” are directly associated with the levels of serotonin in the brain. Low serotonin can become an acquired condition but sometimes genetics are an original cause often going hand in hand with obesity. The body will use most anything edible, and break it down into sugars which the body uses for energy. However, it is the additional sugar in desserts and snacks which become broken down faster and then sent to the cells. This will happen before longer acting sustaining foods can be broken down. Therefore, because simple sugars are used first by the body, we feel filled up faster and may eat less of the protein, vegetables and fruits, which give a more lasting effect; this effect often leads people to be satisfied with sugared foods, thereby causing more of a craving for these foods. This syndrome can lead to most of our major diseases. This syndrome also leads to dependence upon the sugared food which causes a short rise in blood sugar and elevated mood, then a quick drop in these levels which cause an abrupt decline in mood. People experiencing this syndrome become addicted to sugar.

Proteins, vegetables and fruits take longer to breakdown, therefore eating this menu will have a much longer sustaining power and keeps us from feeling hungry and craving the sugars. Starches such as potato, rice, peas, beans corn and grains (including alcohol) also break down nearly as fast into sugars which are utilized first by the body. Again, this leaves less time and room for the proteins, vegetables and fruits to do their part.

Breaking the sugar starch habit is very difficult for most people. This is why diets don’t work. The body never gets “detoxed” from its dependence on sugar. Only a carefully prepared and constant eating program will solve this problem. Thirty days of a proper menu devoid of sugars and starches are necessary to make a permanent change. Happily, it only takes three to four days to begin enjoying the effects. Thirty days of this plan can become permanent. People will soon find that sweet items are overly sweet and starches are unwanted.

It is totally essential to continue the practice of eliminating sugar in order to enjoy permanent weight control and optimum health throughout life. Interference of any type of stress can cause a loss of resolve and lead to breaking the habit of avoiding sugars. This may be due to the sudden loss of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is quickly replaced by sugars; and becomes nearly a biological need. In spite of the cravings caused by this need, it is possible to fend off the cravings with careful adjusted supplements of Tryptophan, an amino acid which bolsters the serotonin and produces stable mood and satisfaction. Tryptophan, found in proteins, will ease the effects of stress by boosting the serotonin without causing a need for sugar to do it. Depression, lack of sleep, irritability and cravings will disappear and the feeling of satisfaction control and general well-being, will happen. Levels of serotonin can also become increased naturally with certain herbs and foods such as amino acid rich proteins in meat, chicken, beef, pork, turkey, and eggs, and soy.

Eating a menu high in proteins, vegetables and fruit is considered the best way to keep chemical balance in the body. This way of eating automatically eliminates our need for sugar. It is interesting to realize that strictly keeping this menu also is satisfying and sustaining.The over indulgence of sugar, will create a chemical imbalance which will cause “sugar shock” and lead to disease, loss of focus and depression.

Chinese Approach to Digestive Health

Chinese medicine is based on the concept of balance and harmony between “yin” and “yang.” Chinese medicine has a different approach to digestive health.

In Chinese medicine, the liver stores the blood, that is, it regulates the amount of blood in circulation. Hence, the health of the liver is dependent on the sufficiency of blood for nourishment.

Additionally, the spleen, in contrast to Western medicine, also plays a pivotal part in the circulation of “qi” and blood. “Qi” is the internal life energy that courses through the body through the meridians to different organs and parts of the body, thereby instrumental in bringing oxygen and nutrients for nourishment and maintenance of digestive health. Blood is responsible for the circulation of body fluids within the body.

Because Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is about movement and transportation of food and drink in the digestive system, the spleen therefore has a critical role in the digestive health with respect to digestion and digestive disorders.

In addition, sufficient spleen produces constructive spleen for nourishing the muscles and flesh, especially in the four limbs, and therefore conducive to mobility and body movement, which facilitate digestion.

In Chinese medicine, pensiveness or over thinking affects the general health of the spleen, resulting in loss of appetite, abdominal bloating after meals, and indigestion in general.

In Chinese medicine, “dampness” (both internal and external) may damage the spleen and weaken its functions. For example, foods, such as sugars and dairy products, create internal “dampness” in the spleen.

According to Chinese medical theory, the spleen’s main function in the digestive system is to separate the pure from the impure part of the food and drink. Specifically. on the one hand, it transports the pure part of the food and drink upwards to both the lungs as “qi” and to the heart as blood; on the other hand, it also transports the impure part of the food and drink downwards to the stomach and the small intestine for elimination to optimize digestive health.

When the spleen and the stomach are healthy, the spleen “qi” moves upwards, while the stomach “qi” moves downwards in a balanced and coordinated manner. Chinese medicine places much emphasis on the importance of balance — the balance of “yin” and “yang,” which is the basis of Chinese medicine.

However, if there is imbalance in the upward movement, belching, constipation, epigastric distention, and nausea may result. Concurrently, the imbalance may also affect the downward movement, leading to abdominal distention and diarrhea.

The liver may play an indirect but, nonetheless, critical role in digestive health. The liver is affected by our emotions. In life, we cannot do everything we want to do and when we want to do. Delaying gratification is tantamount to emotional distress: when we cannot have what we want to have, our liver becomes unduly stressed. An obvious sign of dysfunctional liver is anger or irritability.

Overwork and improper diet, too much thinking or worrying, inadequate physical activity (sedentary work) may weaken the spleen.

According to Chinese medicine, the root cause of IBS is disharmony between the liver and the spleen. Accordingly, the liver controls the spleen because the efficient functioning of the body’s “qi” mechanism is dependent on the free flow of liver “qi.” Therefore, if the liver becomes depressed, the spleen is adversely affected; conversely, if the spleen is weakened, it may cause the liver to become depressed too. In other words, they are inter-dependent in terms of digestive health and overall wellness. In conclusion, it is important to optimize the health of the liver and the spleen to maintain good digestive health.

Cooking is predigestion of food outside the body. In Chinese medicine, the majority of all food should be cooked. This is the reason why you do not find salad bars in Chinese restaurants. Although cooking may destroy some vital nutrients, cooking facilitates the absorption of the rest of the nutrients. Frozen foods and drinks impair the health of the spleen, and hence detrimental to digestive health.

Sugars and sweets directly damage the spleen, because “dampness” is damaging to the spleen, and sugars are dampening agents. They do harm to digestive health.

Flour products, such as bread, noodles and pasta, are dampening, because wheat (as opposed to brown rice) is dampening by nature.

All oils and fats are also dampening by nature, and hence spleen-damaging. By the same token, all milk products are dampening. They do not benefit digestive health.

Avoid dampening foods that damage the spleen. The best diet for the spleen is a clear, bland diet of unrefined grains, such as brown rice and beans, and low-fat meat, with lightly cooked vegetables. Good digestive health is optimum overall health.

Copyright (c) 2009 Stephen Lau

What Causes Tooth Decay: The Role Of Sugar

Although sugar is one of the first things that comes to mind when we talk about what causes tooth decay it is almost always for the wrong reasons. As I have already dispelled the myth that teeth decay from attacks on the exterior surface in another article, on what causes tooth decay, I won’t go into it here.

Nevertheless, even though tooth decay is, as I have pointed out, a result of a reversal of dentinal flow, sugar plays a major role in creating the mineral imbalance, which causes the reversal. Sugar in any form, be it fruit, honey, carbohydrate or refined has a dramatic effect, even in minute quantities.

I know that this is not good news for most of us, but the alternative of tooth decay and dental work is even less appealing. What is really quite remarkable is that this knowledge, which originated in the work of two prominent dentists and has been known for many decades, has been largely ignored.

We have been led to believe that sweets are OK as long as you brush and floss right away and regularly. Yet with all of the products and services sold for dental care people’s teeth continue to degenerate at an alarming pace. Go figure.

As I pointed out in the earlier article if the serum phosphorus level drops below 3.5 the dentinal flow reverses causing decay. Dr. Page a student of Dr. Weston Price, both historical figures in dentistry, in experiments conducted in the first half of the last century, found that sugar could reduce the phosphorus level.

This reduction of phosphorus blood levels, in turn produced an increase in calcium levels in the bloodstream. Yet the excess calcium could not be used by the body because of the imbalance with phosphorus and could even become toxic.

Dr. Page found that when he took his patients off of sugar and put them on a whole food diet not only did their dental woes begin to fade away, many other problems did likewise. He ran more than 2,000 blood chemistries to study the relationship between calcium and phosphorus levels and tooth decay.

He found that obtaining a 2.5 ratio of calcium to phosphorus would halt the resorption of bone. In other words, at that ratio cavities would not form. Further, he determined that maintaining a blood sugar level of 85, plus or minus 5, would sustain the necessary calcium to phosphorus ratio, all other things being equal.

The caveat here is that the patients were on diets providing the required levels of calcium, phosphorus and other necessary nutrients. Note that there is a plus or minus range for our optimum blood sugar level. Hence, sugar is not only an essential nutrient for our bodies, but also for our oral health.

Sugar is one of the body’s most important fuels and is the preferred source of energy for our brains and muscles. The problem is, these days, more than 50% of Americans consume 180 lbs per year compared to an average of 4 lbs per year in 1700.

Researchers have found sugar to be something like 4 times as addictive as cocaine. The historical rise in consumption supports this. The most deadly form, high fructose corn syrup made from GMO corn, is in just about every edible packaged product lining today’s chain grocery outlets.

Most people don’t have a clue as to how much sugar they consume every day. The addictive quality comes from the rush experienced consuming refined sugars including white flour due to the surge of glucose in the bloodstream as I explained in an article on whole grains.

Some suggestions to break free from this nutritional trap include only eating whole grains including the germ. Best to mill the kernels yourself. This is a complex carbohydrate requiring the body to work to break it down. This way our bodies get the required sugar without the addictive rush. I can’t recall ever hearing anyone say they were craving a slice of whole wheat bread.

In weaning myself from excess sugar I threw out refined and bought organic cane sugar. I then began displacing that with natural sweeteners like honey and maple syrup. I have all but eliminated sugar proper from my diet.

Then, what I found really helpful to cut way back on even natural sweeteners was, in a manner of speaking, tricking my body. As I lowered the amount of natural sweetener I increased spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, which my body associates with sweets. This works surprisingly well.

Another helpful, healthy measure was to eat a variety of fermented foods like kefir, sourdough and sauerkraut. As some of the names imply, these foods have an attractive sour tang to them, which, by the way, grows on you.