Ah, yes – we all love the sweets. It’s only natural of course. We have a built-in taste for sweetness because our body needs sugar (glucose) to live and function. Food is converted to glucose and absorbed into the blood. Then the glucose is used to make ATP, which is the fuel the cells of the body use to do everything they do to keep us up and running.
Now I’m going to turn this sweet story sour. Maybe you have heard – the news is everywhere (finally): refined sugar in our diets is a major cause of health problems today. So, why is sugar so bad when it is absolutely necessary for bodily function? Well, that has to do first with quantity, and second with what food manufacturers do to the foods before we eat them – the refinement process.
White sugar goes through 37 processes of refinement – 37 different steps that alter the natural food in some way. In the refinement process many of the essential vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and essential fatty acids are removed, leaving only the devitalized, empty calories. Our cells need all these nutrients to be able to unlock the energy in the sugar and also to be able to build new cells for repair and replacement of damaged and worn out cells.
Food manufacturers use phrases like “enriched” to make you believe that their processed food has more nutrients than the natural food. The reality is that less than half of the nutrients removed during refinement are added back in, and those that are added are usually synthetic vitamins. Synthetic vitamins have been manufactured in a lab and are not real, live nutrients. So, when you eat processed, refined foods (which includes fast foods and anything that comes in a box or a bag in the grocery store) you are getting lots and lots of sugar and very little nutrients.
With so much sugar (glucose) dumped into the blood, the pancreas is overloaded and unable to produce enough insulin (the hormone that allows your cells to be able to use the glucose). This means the glucose stays in the blood too long and causes inflammation. We call this diabetes, but it should be called a health crisis. The overload of glucose damages your arteries, which can lead to heart disease and the many debilitating blood vessel disorders that accompany diabetes. If your pancreas is still producing enough insulin but the cells don’t need more glucose, the sugar is stored as fat. This is called insulin resistance, which is a precursor to diabetes.
Now you may be wondering what you can eat if you eliminate everything that comes in a box or a bag. Well, your best bet is whole foods – good ol’ fruits, veggies, meats, nuts, and seeds. One of the worst nutritional habits we have in our society is drinking soda. Soda is just chemicals and sugar. Many people believe they are doing something good by drinking diet sodas, but (I hate to burst your bubble) there are even more harmful and dangerous chemicals in diet sodas.
It takes time to change your tastes, so if you want to cut out sugar, do it slowly. Take away one soda a day or remove one refined food a day. Let your taste buds get accommodated to the absence of refined sugar and the presence of the nutrient-rich, natural sugar in whole foods. I promise that if you do it slowly enough and are persistent and patient, you will come to like real foods!