There are lots of things in the standard American diet that we could do without. Anything that turns something whole and real into what Michael Pollan so aptly calls “edible food-like substances,” is doing nothing for our health or our waistlines. Today I want to focus on one of these in particular: sugar.
Sugar is, in my mind, one of the evilest substances in our diet. For one, it’s ubiquitous. Every time I do a full-blown sugar cleanse it shocks me (even me, and I know lots about this stuff) how sugar is in EVERYTHING. We all expect it in dessert, but in meatballs? From your sauces, salad dressings, bacon (yes, almost all deli meats, including bacon, have some form of sugar), yogurt, condiments, and cereal, all of them contain sugar. The only place that’s safe (unsurprisingly) is whole, real, fresh food.
Sugar was once a rarity – only consumed by the wealthy and on special occasions. In 1700 we only consumed about four pounds of sugar per person per year – that’s not a lot. Now, more than half of Americans consume a half-pound of sugar daily. That’s 180 pounds of sugar per year. Egads.
Sugar’s omnipresence wouldn’t be such a big deal if it weren’t so bad for us. Eating sugar, or any meal dominated by starchy carbohydrates for that matter, causes a spike in blood glucose which causes a spike in insulin.
Basically, insulin’s job is to take the excess sugar out of our blood and store it for later use. When our blood sugar spikes too quickly (you know, the sugar high we love so much), that insulin does such a good job that our sugar levels then dive down too low (that oh-my-god-I-need-to-eat-or-I-might-punch-someone feeling of the sugar crash), and what do we do? Reach for more sugar, or a cup of coffee (a subject for a whole other post) to bring us out of that funk. And the cycle repeats.
One of the real kickers in this is that with the sugar high, we store excess sugar as fat, and then in the subsequent sugar crash, we’re NOT able to burn that fat, but are actually craving and reaching for more sugar. At that point of crashing, our body’s in a state of emergency and can’t mobilize the fat quickly enough. So it goes something like this: eat sugar >> woo-hoo sugar high! >> store fat >> uh-oh sugar low >> emergency! >> eat more sugar/drink coffee >> sugar high >> and the cycle repeats.
This cycle leads to metabolic dysfunction, weight gain, immune dysregulation, energy crashes, sleep disturbances, and hormonal imbalances. And it’s a direct path to diabetes and a host of other sugar-handling problems.
Sugar damages our bodies in so many ways:
- it’s highly acidifying (an environment in which diseases thrive)
- it’s inflammatory (think of all those inflammation-based conditions we struggle with: all the ‘itis’s” – arthritis, colitis, bronchitis…)
- it contributes to depression and other mood disorders
- it’s addictive
- it’s a major factor in messing with our cholesterol levels and increasing triglycerides (those numbers your Doc is watching closely)
- it suppresses your immune system
- it can cause digestive distress and headaches
- it can promote the development of cardiovascular disease
- it can promote the development of type 2 diabetes
- it’s associated with the development liver lipid accumulation, dyslipidemia, decreased insulin sensitivity and increased uric acid levels
- it can increase body weight and fat gain
And I could go on, but you get the point.
So, what is the one most powerful thing you can do for your health? Cut the sweet stuff. It can be that simple. And… we recognize that it’s not that simple. It sounds easy, but getting sugar out of your diet is quite the process. For this reason, we created a starter program to help you cut the sugar by crowding it out with delicious, healthy, whole foods: the 21-day Real Food Reboot program.
If you need a little help and want to kick your sugar habit to the curb, our 21-day Real Food Reboot program is specifically designed to help you balance your blood sugar levels naturally through diet alone. It’s an excellent way to break up with sugar, lose weight, and get your energy back – all through the power of real food! This is the starting point for all of our clients and we had such great results with it, we made it available to everyone. Check it out here.