Friday, July 16, 2010

Food for thought Fridays - 6 reasons to give up refined sugar

As I told you on Monday, I've been reading Nourishing Traditions and it has encouraged me to change my diet to be less processed and full of more natural, whole foods. Some of the changes have been easy - switching margarine to butter and canola oil to olive oil - but my greatest challenge will be to give up sugar.

Sugar. My greatest friend and enemy. The food I turn to in the good times and the bad. How do I give it up? Why is it worth even trying?

6 reasons to give up refined sugar (slightly paraphrased from Nourishing Traditions)

1. Refined sugar depletes the body's store of vitamins and minerals.

In nature, sugar is linked together with vitamins, minerals, enzymes, protein, fat and fibre - all the things a body needs to digest the sugar while also repairing and energising itself. In its whole form, sugar supports life.

However, refined sugars are devoid of these bodybuilding elements, so digesting them calls on the body's own store of vitamins, minerals and enzymes for proper metabolisation. Refined sugars are not just empty calories, they are negative calories as they withdraw nutrients from the body without depositing new ones in.

2. Eating too many refined sugars can lead to Type II diabetes.

Our bodies regulate the level of glucose in our blood through a finely tuned mechanism involving insulin and hormones. When sugars are eaten in their natural, unrefined form, as part of a meal containing nourishing fats and protein, they are digested slowly and enter the bloodstream at a moderate rate over several hours.

But when we eat refined sugar, particularly without fats or protein alongside, it enters the blood stream in a rush, causing a sudden increase in blood sugar. The body then floods the bloodstream with insulin and other hormones to bring blood sugar levels down to an acceptable level. Repeated onslaughts of sugar will eventually disrupt this finely tuned process, resulting in blood sugar that remains either higher or lower than the narrow range under which the body is designed to function. A person with abnormally high blood sugar is a diabetic.

3. Sugar consumption is positively associated with cancer in humans and test animals. 

Tumours are known to be enormous sugar absorbers. 

4. Eating refined sugars can lead to a number of other diseases.

Sugar consumption has been linked to coronary heart disease, obesity, kidney disease, liver disease and shortened life span.

5. Sugar consumption is detrimental to growing children.

Sugar consumption has been associated with hyperactivity, behaviour problems, lack of concentration and violent tendencies.

6. Sugar consumption is the cause of bone loss and dental decay. 

Tooth decay and bone loss occur when the ratio of calcium to phosphorous in the blood varies from four parts phosphorous to ten parts calcium, the ratio at which blood calcium can be properly utilised. Sugar consumption causes phosphorous levels to drop and calcium to rise. Calcium rises because it is pulled from the teeth and bones. The drop in phosphorous hinders the absorption of this calcium, making it unusable and therefore toxic.

My plan to kick the sugar habit

I've got to admit, the list above sounds rather grim, so now I want to share my plan for giving up refined sugar. It basically comes down to replacement. I will attempt to replace refined sugar with other, less detrimental sweet foods like:
  • Rapadura - dried sugarcane juice
  • Jaggery - dried sugarcane juice
  • Stevia - a sweet herb
  • Molasses - a byproduct of sugar cane processing
  • Honey - a sweet syrup bees make with the nectar from flowers
  • Maple syrup - a sweetener made from the sap of sugar maple or black maple trees
  • Cinnamon - the spice obtained from the bark of a cinnamon tree
  • Vanilla extract - macerated vanilla beans 
  • Fruit - fresh, dried, preserved and frozen
I'm hoping that if I do this long enough, I'll be able to kick my sugar addiction so I don't crave it anymore - or at least crave it less strongly than I do now.

I'll let you know how I get on.


  1. You're so brave Emma! I could not give up my chocolate or sweet treats - limit them, yes, but give them up? Don't think so!

    I've heard good things about Agave Nectar but I don't know how available it is in NZ.

  2. good plan Emma, but how do I make my apple crumble tonight with no sugar in it?

  3. i am very impressed! I have a question about tomatoes. often in recipes when you use pureed tomoato (like canned etc) it calls for a little sugar to sweeten and help with flavour. Which replacement would best suit this do you think?

  4. Hey Heather - the apple crumble I made had a couple of tablespoons of honey and the juice of one lemon stirred through the apple part. I also melted some butter and honey together to mix with the topping ingredients and used extra desiccated coconut and flour to replace the bulk missing with the sugar.

  5. Hey Andie - I would probably use rapadura for that, because it's such a small amount and rapadura has more nutrients than refined sugar. I've just ordered a whole lot of rapadura from Chantal -

  6. Yay for you Em! The weekend was a major resolve-derailer for me! Heavenly chocolate cake at Anna's made me realise that no amount of substituting will compare to the real thing. BUT! The evidence for a sugar-free life is still compelling so I will stick at it!

    xx N

  7. Hey N.

    Be encouraged! The choice is always ours as to what we eat. We're just choosing to eat the foods that will best nourish our bodies. I got inspired by you and made afghans today with mashed banana, coconut and 2T jaggery. They are yummy!

    Also, I was checking out Naturally Knocked Up some more and Donielle suffers from PICOS, which is how she became interested in nutrition in the first place.

    Em xx

  8. Hi Emma! I just discovered your blog on KMB and am excited to have found you! I've been ignoring the sugar issue for a while now, and you've inspired me to start on a path of eliminating the processed stuff. I'll be following your blog and looking forward to reading more! :)

  9. Hi Paris, the sugar issue is so hard. I have to admit, it has me beat at the moment. Although I still try to do baking with better sugar alternatives, my daily chocolate habit is not so good. Good luck to you. I'd love to hear how you get on with this.


Thank you for visiting Craving Fresh, and for taking the time to comment. Your feedback is so important to me.