So we covered grains and their inflammatory effects.
Today’s topic is Sugar, in all of its non-grain forms. Brown sugar, white sugar, honey, agave, maple syrup, AND artificial sweeteners, all of them, that I don’t need to name.
But before I get into that, let me issue another disclaimer about all this.
I blog because I like to, because it lets me organize my own thoughts, and because enough people ask me to focus on a certain topic. If you are reading this, thank you. But in this area, unlike my secular posts, these posts are not written to convince you. I am not knowledgeable in this area, not enough to be a valid source of information. This series of posts is written to explain what works for me. I am easily convinced that, in the area of nutrition, there is more than one way to skin that proverbial cat (gotta come up with a replacement for that horrible idiom).
So here’s the disclaimer: if what you are doing, nutrition-wise, is working for you, continue to do that! And by “work for you” I mean so many more things than just weight; there are markers for health that include answers to the questions How are you sleeping, and How are you feeling, and How are your bowels, and How is your sex drive, and How is your appetite? If you’re not happy with the answers to those questions, then maybe you’ll have an good experience with the Paleo concept. In addition to those self-check questions, there are tests your physician can do including triglycerides, cholesterol, blood pressure that are probably more related to our overall health than our size and weight.
Back to sugar. Here is a link I read just today, that is more on inflammation from the first post, but it applies to the inflammation caused by sugar as well as grains. He gets into fats a little, which is a later post, but his description of the effects of the inflammatory process is powerful.
Even nutrition scientists who don’t embrace Paleo agree on the sequence that occurs when sugar, in all its forms, enter the body (here’s a pretty sciency explanation). When my mother was diagnosed with diabetes 5 years ago, I wanted to make sure she understood the disease so she could be better equipped to make the best decisions for treatment. I asked her what diabetes was, and her answer was that her pancreas was not functioning correctly. To the contrary, I told her, your pancreas is functioning exactly as it should – it’s responding to the sugar in your bloodstream, and it’s working as hard as it can. And that’s just the problem – we’re overworking that poor little organ, and our cells get insensitive to getting the message to DO SOMETHING WITH THE EXTRA SUGAR! Insulin is a fat storage hormone, because the sugar has to go somewhere – it can’t stay in the bloodstream, so into the fat cells it goes to be used later. Over and over and over, every time we put in sugar (whether it’s in the form of cakes, cookies, pasta, pretzels, pancakes, popsicles, or bagels).
A secondary effect is that when we get on the blood sugar roller coaster, when we hit those lows, we know, even subconsciously, that the way out of the low is the big hit of sugar. There’s even evidence that artificial sweeteners, while they don’t have the same impact, because of their sweetness cause even a saliva response that begins an insulin response. Health experts even throw around the word addiction, although I don’t know enough about that phenomenon to know if our love of sugar qualifies.
And sugar is everywhere. Check the labels of products in your pantry, and look for sugar words like corn syrup, fructose, sucrose, cane sugar, and molasses. It’s relatively easy to refrain from adding extra table sugar to foods we eat, but it’s not so easy to avoid it in packaged products. So the Paleo position is to stay away from any pre-packaged, processed food items.
Sugar in fruit: yes, there is sugar in fruit, and there is also sugar in vegetables, some are even high in sugar. I will touch on this again when I write the post on healthy fat, because it will factor in again there. Until then, the general thought is to limit even fruit, especially those fruits high in sugar. Melons and berries are good choices, and you will be surprised at how sweet all fruit is when sugar is removed from your diet.
Next post: Vegetables!
Thanks for reading!