Sugar has been demonized in our current society and you can even hear people comparing it to cocaine. But is sugar really the culprit behind obesity, diabetes and other degenerative diseases?
The thing is, all the cells in the body, including our energy-expensive brain, run on sugar, i.e. glucose. We have a sweet tooth for a reason. I seriously believe that Nature does not make mistakes.
The problem is not the sugar. However, I have to face the fact that sugar may become a problem if:
a) the wrong form of sugar is consumed;
b) sugar is used in a wrong combination with other foods.
So let’s explore what are the right and wrong kinds of sugar, plus what combinations of food you should avoid.
The Wrong Form of Sugar
Some people assume that all sugar is created equal, however refined concentrated sugar is indeed detrimental to one’s health, in a way that naturally occurring sugars are not. It is way too acidic for your body to process, especially in large quantities; it also causes inflammation of joints and organs, and is empty calories, devoid of nutritional value.
It’s important to note that refined sugar and sugar in fruit are two completely different things.
Usually people who say that fruit is bad for you, support their claim by saying that fruit contains fructose, and excess fructose is apparently bad for us. However, a study shows that industrial, not fruit, fructose is associated with liver damage and health issues.
It seems that the buzz about fruit being bad for you is based on the false assumption that, because refined fructose is bad for your health and fruit contains naturally occurring fructose, therefore all fruit is bad for you. However, the study has shown that for weight loss achievement, a moderate natural fructose diet was superior to a low-fructose diet.
Fruit contains fibre which slows down sugar absorption into the bloodstream, without causing blood sugar spikes, as refined sugar (or any other concentrated sweetener like honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, etc.) would do.
One study which was conducted for 24 years with almost 3.5 million people, concluded that the consumption of whole fruit actually lowered the risk of type-2 diabetes.
There is another study by Harvard University also showing that whole fruit consumption lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes. This indicates that fruit has a positive effect on balancing blood sugar levels.
Whole fruit contains water soluble and water insoluble fibres, antioxidants and other chemical compounds which slow down the sugar absorption into the bloodstream. They also contain copious amounts of antioxidants which are vital for cell protection and free radical neutralization. On top of that, they are full of vitamins and minerals that are so important for our bodily functions.
We’re supposed to eat sugar, but in the form of whole food, not the refined kind. All the cells in our body, including our brain, run on glucose. So we need carbohydrates (such as sugar in fruit or starch in vegetables, legumes and whole grains) for proper energy production. If you do not provide enough carbohydrates (again, the kind matters; refined carbs like flour, pasta, white rice, etc. are bad for our health, while whole fruit, vegetables are great), then your body will have to use less suitable macronutrients (protein and fat) for energy production. Which may cause low energy, cravings for coffee and sugary snacks, etc.
So avoid refined sugar (white, brown or in the form of high fructose syrup) at all costs. I also advise avoiding so-called “healthier” alternatives like honey, maple syrup, agave nectar and coconut sugar. However, out of these alternatives coconut sugar and maple syrup are less harmful, so you might allow yourself to use it occasionally (in a birthday cake recipe, for example), but definitely not on a daily or even weekly basis. It’s still a very concentrated sugar, so sweeten your desserts with ripe bananas, mangoes, dates and dried fruit instead.
The Wrong Combination – Fat and Sugar
I believe that the weight of evidence currently available points to the conclusion that it is the combination of too much fat and too much sugar in the bloodstream that creates adverse blood-sugar levels. It is this combination, which is so prevalent in today’s processed foods and diets, that contributes most to modern day weight gain and diet related illness.
The big food manufacturers seem to know this, and exploit the fact that the special potency of the ratio 50/50 fat/sugar in food is highly addictive, because it seems to stimulate a basic biological reward system in our brain.
During our long evolution, when food was often scarce, we became ‘programmed’ to seek the highest calorie sources, and a sugar-fat combination is the highest calorie source possible. This combination is not found in nature, only in many manufactured foods. It triggers chemicals in our bodies and brains that override the natural mechanisms which normally tell us when we have eaten enough. The effect of this is to prompt us to eat more than our bodies need, and make us feel good doing so. That is why this type of food is called ‘comfort food’.
The biggest problem with high fat – high sugar combination foods is that they cause blood sugar imbalances. When there are too many lipids (fat) flowing in the bloodstream, the glucose cannot be transmitted to the cells efficiently, therefore too much sugar (glucose) accumulates in the blood. The pancreas releases even more insulin in response, which then leads to a drop in blood sugar. These imbalances and surges may cause you to have low energy, crave sugary food and drinks, and suffer mood swings. Also, in the long term, they may cause insulin resistance which leads to type-2 diabetes.
What I Ate To Lose 40 lbs.
Studying nutrition and then conducting thorough independent research about blood sugar regulation and human metabolism, cleared my fear of fruit and made me realize that sugar is not the enemy, blood sugar swings are.
So if you eat a low fat, high fibre, refined sugar-free and oil-free diet, it’s very easy to balance blood sugar levels, regulate appetite, have high energy levels and burn fat.
However, only knowing the “right recipe” for long-term health and a slim body is not enough. I faced many challenges along the way and it wasn’t always easy to give up my old habits. Experience has shown me that you must also address your mindset, as there are always underlying reasons why your body wants to hold onto excess weight. And unless you dig deep to find and resolve them, your weight loss efforts will require immense willpower, and will continually encounter resistance in your body. It will not only feel like you’re constantly swimming against the stream, but the weight loss results will also be temporary. As soon as your willpower runs out, as it invariably does, you’ll retreat back to your old habits and gain all the weight back. Plus some, just to be safe.
I started changing my lifestyle in 2010, adding more raw food to my diet, limiting alcohol, animal products and processed junk food consumption. The first 22 lbs fell off pretty easily, as I was very excited about changing my lifestyle and learning about raw food and health. Then my weight plateaued at 143 lbs. and, even if I made changes in my diet and exercised from time to time, my weight remained stable for a couple of years.
Then in 2013 I started working on my mindset, released the blocks that were holding me back and changed the limiting beliefs that were not serving me anymore. As a result, I got inspired to take on a new challenge: follow a 100% raw food diet and exercise regularly. I lost another 18 lbs in three months. I felt stronger and healthier than ever!
I’ve lost a few more pounds in the last two years. I exercise regularly and eat a low fat vegan diet, that is high in raw fruits and vegetables, but not 100% all of the time.
I love sharing my journey and experience with others, therefore I’ve created a free video training series at Lovetarian Detox where I show everything I did to lose 40 lbs. of fat and keep it off. I also openly share my progress pictures on my website at Become The Best of You!
Choice of food is important, but first and foremost you need to discover the underlying reasons why your body feels the need to cling on to excess weight, and refute them. Once you’ve done that, then you’ll find yourself craving healthier foods, because your body will have shed its old illusions. You will start noticing that you have more energy to exercise, and feel more motivated overall to make a lasting change.
And yes, you can do it! If a girl like me, with so called “fat genes”, slow metabolism, addiction to junk food and a ton of other bad habits (smoking, excess caffeine, wine to name a few) could do it, then you can do it too! I believe in you.