If you go to the Amazon.com website and search “sugar” in the books category, you get over 35,000 hits!
These dozen titles tell you a whole lot about sugar:
- Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, by Michael Moss (2013);
- Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease, by Robert H. Lustig (2013);
- Sugar Blues, by William Dufty (1986);
- The Sugar Lie: Carb and Sugar Addition, by Tobias Goldman (2013);
- The 21-Day Sugar Detox: Bust Sugar & Carb Cravings Naturally, by Diane Sanfilippo (2013);
- Lick the Sugar Habit, and Suicide by Sugar: A Startling Look at Our #1 National Addiction, both books by Nancy Appleton, Ph.D. (1988 & 2009);
- Sugar Nation: The Hidden Truth Behind America’s Deadliest Habit and the Simple Way to Beat It, by Jeff O’Connell (2011);
- Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar–Your Brain’s Silent Killers, by David Perlmutter, MD (2013);
- I Quit Sugar, by Sarah Wilson (2012);
- Sugar Shock!: How Sweets and Simple Carbs Can Derail Your Life– and How You Can Get Back on Track, by Connie Bennet (2006);
- Sugar Addict: How Your Carb and Sugar Addiction is Killing You, by Eve Gordon (2012);
- Overcoming Sugar Addiction: How I Kicked My Sugar Habit and Created a Joyful Sugar Free Life, by Karly Randolph Pitman (2013);
What dangerous, addictive white powder that can be found in abundance throughout this country? It is not illegal; it is readily available on playgrounds, schools, and workplaces. It is in practically everything we eat and drink, and once we are hooked on it, the cravings can be overwhelming.
This white substance of abuse is sugar.
It is literally being called a gateway drug. Empty carbs, especially sugar, are destroying our brains. Sugar is bad, but even whole grains can cause dementia, ADHD, anxiety, chronic headaches, depression, and much more. Grains of any type turn to sugar in the digestive process. When our brains encounter the main ingredient of our “daily bread” and in our fruit bowls, they are particularly damaged, because our brains thrive only on fat and cholesterol. Many of our most feared maladies can be mitigated or reversed by diet alone; a diet with a whole lot less sugar from any source.
People often forget that digestion breaks starch into glucose, a form of sugar. Even if we don’t eat foods that have sugar on their ingredient labels, it’s there in every bite of bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, and corn, quite aside from the cereals, cookies, cake, candy, and muffins we seem unable to live without. To understand why something so ubiquitous could be so harmful to us, we must remember that human evolution was almost entirely “carbo-free” for hundreds of thousands of years. Then came agriculture, only evident from about ten thousand years ago.
Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar–Your Brain’s Silent Killers, by David Perlmutter, made the New York Times Best Seller’s list on October 6th, after only being available for a couple of weeks. (The first I heard about this book was when I compiled the list above, about 2 weeks ago. I immediately bought it.) This is big news! He cites many, many recent and old publications proving the great danger to public health caused by sugar, in all its forms, including grains, fruits and alcoholic beverages. At the same time, he completely exonerates quality saturated fats and shows how they are essential for a healthy brain and a healthy body. He follows in the footsteps of some other researchers who have published books saying essentially the same thing; but it appears his book will be the one that actually breaks through to the general public. Paradigms are shifting.
Whether a grain is highly refined or “ whole,” its food value is negligible or negative after accounting for the damage done by sugar and gluten. Like sugar, the stickiness of gluten (you do see the word glue in gluten for a reason) jambs things up in the blood vessels, especially the very small ones. Your extremities, eyes, ears and your brain are hardest hit: diabetes, neuropathy, blindness, deafness and dementia are not uncommon results of excess sugar. Then there is the whole “gluten sensitivity” issue: gluten is a primary trigger for myriads of autoimmune diseases. Grain Brain a “must read” book for people with autoimmune issues.
My next blog will be review of Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food, by Catherine & Luke Shanahan. The primary author, Dr. Cate, is a practicing physician in California who has been way ahead of the curve on discovering the truth about healthy foods. Let me preview that next blog by sharing what the Shanahans wrote on page 204 of their book:
“Ever notice how licked lollipops and half-chewed taffy have a tacky feeling? Sugar feels sticky because, once dissolved in water, it reacts with proteins on the surface of your skin to form easily breakable chemical bonds. When you pull your fingers apart and feel the sticky resistance, you’re feeling the tug of those bonds being broken. The process by which sugar sticks to stuff is called glycation. Glycation reactions are reversible, but with enough heat or time, the temporary bonds become permanent due to oxidation reactions. The products of these later oxidation reactions are called advanced glycation end products, or AGEs. That that’s a useful acronym, because AGEs make you age unnaturally fast.”
The whole chapter, Sickly Sweet, describes the overall effects of sugar efficiently and understandably, and this paragraph will stand in for a lot more information than I can possibly include now. Sugar, especially teamed up with trans fats, has almost everything to do with “clogged arteries.” That saturated fats have been blamed for cardio-vascular disease is totally unsubstantiated by facts. (Shanahan and Perlmutter are in complete agreement on this, and everything else.)
We know that sugar is bad, but we like sweet things. Do we turn instead to artificial forms? In short: NO! None of them are “good for us.” Most are worse than sugar itself. The trick is to go cold turkey off of sugar, as with any drug. In my first article I recommended cutting sugar and grain in half each year for a few years. That had enormous benefits for me, so it isn’t bad advice. However, I think the better advice is to just cut those empty carbs dramatically all at once: get them out of your kitchen by throwing them away and quit buying them. I recently quit gluten entirely; unless I go to weddings with gluten free cake, I am confident I can forgo it.
Those who have trouble quitting smoking sometimes use Nicorette products. I cannot recommend using any Aspartame, Rebiana, Saccharin, Sucralose, or sugar alcohol (like sorbital or xylitol) products. People who give up using these fake sugars sometimes gain huge benefits: people diagnosed with MS found out that they didn’t actually have it. Stevia has a somewhat better reputation as a replacement for sugar. I suppose it could serve as a short-term bridge to kicking a bad habit. Still, like all the other substitutes, Stevia is “sweet” on the palate, so the body assumes it is receiving sugar and primes itself to do so. When glucose clears from the bloodstream and blood sugars drop, no real glucose is provided to the body to compensate, so adrenaline and cortisol surge to mobilize sugar from other sources in your body (your liver and muscle tissues, for example) to bring blood glucose back up. It’s not nice on your adrenal system. Re-setting taste buds is clearly the best strategy to significantly limit sugar.
I now sometimes mix or bake a small variety of gluten-free desserts containing very little real sugar, and these are completely satisfying. With reset taste buds, just a little bit of sugar (or even the natural milk sugars in cream) can go a long way to satisfying a sweet tooth. (I’ll have more on this and other good things to take the place of all these empty carbs in future posts.)
When you think of sugar, it actually helps to remember that it was sugar that kick-started slavery in the New World. It was called “White Gold” back then. Remember the “Triangle Trade” you learned about as a kid? Starting in 1505 and going strong for three centuries, sugar slavery was part of a network whereby slaves were sent to work on New World sugar plantations, the products of their labor was sent to Europe and sold for a huge profit, then a few European manufactured goods were taken to Africa to trade for more slaves (exploiting Africa was a given). What kind of taste does this leave in your mouth?
I leave you with a link I found today about Cate Shanahan’s work with the L. A. Lakers, who are using diet to increase their performance on the court. What makes healthy people stronger obviously can make sick people stronger too… good advice for everyone: