Considered one of the most energy-depleting foods, studies have shown sugar to be as addicting as cocaine, and linked to causing serious dental, mental and physical diseases and ailments. Sugar is a modern gustatory obsession mistakenly used to reward children for good behavior, a celebratory treat, a love token and a customary way to end a meal.
Here’s a primer on this toxic sweetener to help you navigate your way through a healthier world of unrefined complex sugars. (Look for Part 2 of this Sugar Wars column in the Feb. 27 issue of
La Jolla Light
Death by sugar
The worst culprits include refined simple sugars and high fructose corn syrup (particularly those in sodas and baked goods). These sugars compromise the immune system and create free radicals. They also cause irritability, anxiety, hyperactivity and tinker with children’s ability to focus.
In adults, they’re associated with memory loss and a foggy brain. They contribute to hypoglycemia and diabetes, along with obesity, tooth decay, periodontal disease, ulcers, gallstones, high cholesterol and constipation.
Furthermore, they reduce the body’s ability to ward off bacterial infections, rob the body of vital minerals and make eyes susceptible to macular degeneration and cataracts.
They also injure the pancreas; weaken cellular elasticity; contribute to premature aging, varicose veins and osteoporosis; feed candida (yeast infections); trigger pounding migraines, fatigue, inflammation, mood swings, depression, hormonal imbalances and exacerbate PMS symptoms. Enough?
Since there were no processed sugars in the Paleolithic era, cave dwellers satisfied their sweet teeth with fruits, berries and some roots. Today the average American chugs down approximately 100 pounds of addictive sugar in a year.
Most simple refined sugars are derived from the sugar cane plant grown throughout the tropics, with the white sugar cane stripped, bleached and separated, leaving empty (and harmful) calories. It would be best to redirect the sweet craving toward more nutritious alternatives:
, an herb indigenous to South America, has been used for hundreds of years in its native land and Japan. Three hundred times sweeter than sugar, a little pinch will do you. This zero-calorie sweetener with no glycemic impact, can be used safely by diabetes and dieters.
, a five-carbon sugar (most sugars have six), puts the skids on bacteria growth, making it an ideal ingredient in chewing gum and toothpaste to prevent cavities. Xylitol is naturally occurring in fibrous fruits and vegetables, along with some hardwood trees, and is sold in commercial packages.
, unlike refined sugar, is dried, unrefined cane juice produced by a separation of the molasses and sugar streams, then recombined to form a coarse, granular product preserving natural trace minerals. Sucanat metabolizes at a slower rate than sugar, avoiding that sharp, sugar rush. This makes it a great sugar substitute in baking and iced and hot beverages.
, similar to sucanat, is a whole food cane juice extracted from sugar cane with a press, evaporated over low heat, stirred with paddles strained to form a granular, organic sugar without chemical agents.