While visiting family, I shared a delicious pancake syrup recipe that contains maple syrup. Upon placing the syrup on the table, it was said that the syrup was “sugar-free”. Totally perplexed, I responded that it wasn’t because it contained maple syrup and I didn’t want to lead others into thinking it was sugar-free. Sure enough, this led to a conversation about how it was a sugar-free syrup because maple syrup comes from trees and is 100% natural. Surprised at the certainty of this idea by everyone in the conversation except me, I’m hear to clear the air on what is considered sugar, sugar-free, and natural sugars. There is major confusion on this topic so I’d like to share truth on this subject matter. 🙂
Let’s dig into the basics, and then I’ll share what I wish I’d known about sugar long before we started eating a real food diet.
There are only 2 types of sugar:
- NATURAL SUGAR 2. ADDED SUGAR
The “natural” word gets thrown around and has become sleazy. In fact, most of the times it’s used incorrectly especially as marketing labels on food products. The BIGGEST difference between these two types of sugars is the way the are absorbed and digested within the body. SO, forget the names and begin thinking about how they are absorbed in the body to know if it’s a natural sugar or added sugar.
The ONLY natural sugars are in:
- and the lactose in dairy.
That’s it! They naturally occur without any type of human interference or processing. In addition, the are absorbed slowly into the blood stream because of the fiber and natural synergy that comes from eating unprocessed food. BOTH of these reasons make them Natural Sugars.
Added Sugars (the sugars you “add” into something) are sugars that have some form of processing (even if minimally processed) AND are absorbed and digested quickly into blood stream.
Examples of Added Sugars are:
- white sugar
- brown sugar
- powdered sugar
- maple syrup
- corn syrup
- coconut sugar
- and every other type of sugar
All of these Added Sugars are absorbed the same. They all raise your blood sugar levels, make you feel fatigued, increase your insulin, and cause disease. But, here’s where things get tricky…Some of these Added Sugars are much better to use than others. Why? Because of the depth of processing…
The more processed the sugar is, the more adverse health effects immediately and long-term. Period the end. It’s the difference between eating homemade mashed potatoes and Twinkies. Neither is great for you, but one is a LOT better to consume than the other. Replace the highest processed sugars, like white sugar, with less processed sugars like honey. Then, stop adding cupfuls in your cooking and baking. No doubt, these were some of the best changes we made that had the greatest impact on our health.
5 Things I wish I’d known about Added Sugars:
1.) Inflammation is the root of all disease and Added Sugar is the #1 contributor for inflammation. Artificial sugars are no exception.
Not all inflammation is bad. Chronic inflammation due to poor diet, stress, food allergies, and a sedentary life is bad.
2.) Added Sugar is added into more than 80% of the food at the grocery store (all of it in processed food). This includes food items like hot dogs, crackers, yogurt, spaghetti sauce, spaghetti o’s, etc. No wonder so many of us are going WAY over the recommended daily allowance of sugar every single day. This would be impossible to avoid if you consume a diet mostly of cereal, frozen foods, fast food, and packaged food.
3.) It’s addicting! Have you ever eliminated all Added Sugars from your diet for a day or two or three? If you regularly consume these sugars (aka processed foods), you’ll experience withdrawal symptoms that are so unpleasant. I used to think maybe I had some kind of condition with my blood sugars, but no. It was all sugar related. I used to get shaky if I got too hungry and would get very irritable if it’d be too long since I’d had something with sugar in it. I had no idea it was all because my blood sugar levels were so unstable due to a sugar addiction. I was clueless. SO grateful to know and understand my body now.
4.) It makes me moody and emotional. No doubt. I’m more emotional, irritable, and moody when I’ve over-consumed sugar. For me, it’s always the next day or two and not so much the day of. Start recognizing patterns in your body. It will show you what makes it feel well….
5.) It makes depression worse. As a spouse to someone who struggles with depression on and off, he will attest to the fact that sugar and processed food sends him downhill faster than almost anything else. For him, it’s “do I want to feel well in a couple of days?” And, isn’t that the question for us all whether it’s depression or something else? Do I want to have energy? Do I want to fit in my pants? Do I want to have chronic fatigue? Do I want to be at risk for disease, like type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, etc.?
You are so worth the extra effort to learn about your food and body. You are unique, gifted, and here for a purpose. Nobody is else is like you! To use your gifts and talents, you have to feel well. And when you take care of you, then you can serve and participate in the things you love to their fullest. <3
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