I don’t believe in diets. Not even the Keto diet. I believe in choosing to eat foods that nourish your body, give you energy, make you look and feel your best, and being able to sustain this lifestyle for extended amounts of time. Not just your six-month fad diet. I don’t believe in diets because even when they work, they don’t last. People get tired of calorie counting, get tired of never being able to eat out, or are sick of feeling guilty when they “cheat.”
Michael Pollen said it best when he said, “Eat real food, not too much, and mostly plants.”
So when I talk with people about changing their health and looking at their diet in a new way my first recommendation to their diet is to eat less sugar and aim for only complex carbs (think brown). However, sugar is a complex nutrient, and knowledge is power. Learn about what sugar is, how it affects the body, and what the different kinds are, and you can make better decisions for yourself without having to be told what to eat.
Glucose is one of the three monosaccharide sugars meaning that it is only one type of sugar. (Fructose and sucrose are the other two). Once digested in the small intestine, glucose is absorbed through the intestinal lining into the bloodstream where Insulin is triggered. From the pancreas, the hormone insulin sweeps the blood picking up glucose and carrying it to cells of fat, liver, and muscles to feed the mitochondria in those cells which creates energy.
When too much glucose is put into the bloodstream, our bodies can become insulin resistant which leads to diabetes. This is from overproducing insulin or the cells losing receptors to take in the glucose. Magnesium found in leafy greens can help in regulating your insulin sensitivity which is just one more reason to be eating your vegetables. Another risk of having too much sugar in the blood is that it damages the vessels and carries too much oxygen to the organs causing even more damage. This damage leads to heart disease, heart attacks, strokes, kidney disease, nerve damage, and weight gain.
The excess sugar that is cleaned from the blood and can’t be used for energy (since the other glucose hasn’t been burned) is then taken to the liver and muscles to be stored. This is why you start to gain more weight in your belly when you overeat sugar; it’s turned into glycogen and stored as fat until your body needs it and can convert it back into energy through the liver. And when you can’t lose the fat that’s been built up you are having to burn glucose instead of fat. When insulin is present, it’s job is to get the sugar out of your body, making it impossible for your body to burn fat.
Fructose, like glucose, is a monosaccharide sugar. It does, however, bond with glucose to be digested and is more water-soluble than glucose (which is why you find it in fruit). Unlike glucose which is converted by muscles (including the brain), the liver and fat cells, fructose can only be converted into energy by the liver which can be taxing on your main detox organ. This also means that it doesn’t sit around in your bloodstream and takes a one-way ticket to the liver.
Your liver takes in the fructose and converts it into glucose where it is stored as fat. Keep in mind that when consuming fructose in the form of fruit, you’d have a hard time saving enough to make you overweight. The fiber in fruit will make you full and is nature’s way of telling you that you’ve had enough. However, in soda, processed food, sweets, etc. fructose can overwork the liver depleting it from uric acid, which leads to gout, kidney stones, and high blood pressure. Additionally, it creates more stored fat and keeps the liver from breaking down other vital toxins such as used hormones, environmental pollutants, and other toxin foods. High-fructose corn syrup is made of 55% fructose and 45% sucrose, explaining why it can be so harsh on your body.
While tasty, fructose does provide less energy, is sweeter, can raise your cholesterol, and will give you those afternoon sugar crashes that leave you running to the coffee pot. (A whole different health problem).
What Sugar Should You Eat?
Here’s the good news, I’m not going to tell you that you shouldn’t eat sugar. Sugar is needed for the body to produce energy. But like most things, too much of a good thing is a bad thing.
When it comes to your lifestyle and diet, balance is everything. Glucose will always be the better source of sugar, especially when eaten in complex carbs containing fiber. This helps release the glucose at a slower rate helping you to avoid crashes, and fiber triggers the release of the hormone Leptin which makes you feel full. However, your fruits and veggies are crucial to a healthy diet and therefore shouldn’t be forgotten. While a bowl of fruit in the morning will have you crashing soon after, the micronutrients you are getting and the extra fiber will help feed your gut and take care of many other aspects of your health.
What you shouldn’t eat are the things you already know; Simple carbs, sugary drinks processed food with added sugar. Basically, if it contains added sugar, corn syrup, high-fructose-corn-syrup, or any artificial sweeteners, you should probably keep it to a minimum.
If you’re trying to lose weight, weight loss happens during the time between meals when there is no insulin in your blood. And fat doesn’t affect your blood sugar levels at all while still feeding the brain and providing you with another source of energy. This is one of the reasons the Keto diet has become so successful (more on that to come).
Sugar like most nutrients is complicated. It comes in many different forms and it makes a huge difference in our bodies. If you come away with one thing from learning about sugar, it should be – everything in moderation. There is no need to deprive yourself of a piece of chocolate every now and then. It’s really about looking at food as a way to make you feel better. A sweet treat once a week is a great way to make your soul feel better.
“Eat real food, not too much, and mostly plants” and live your best adventure.