Simply Well Nourished – Sugar

Sugar kills

Sugar, goodness where do I start?  Sugar certainly is a hot topic at the moment.  I have delayed addressing this controversial topic…I’m not sure why?  On one hand I’m all for a little sweetness in life and on the other, I fully appreciate the highly addictive and damaging nature of this sweet poison.

I have at this point in my life become very wary as I’ve discussed previously, of “diet” trends, especially those that eliminate large food groups.  But  all avoiding refined sugar does is simply removes all processed foods and foods we are all better off without.

I quit sugar too
I have used myself as a guinea pig for many years.  I’ve at different times throughout my life, eaten a vegan, vegetarian, gluten free, dairy free, alkalising, grain free diet.  I’ve detoxed, quit coffee, quit alcohol, I could go on and on!  Comes with the territory of being a naturopath for over 18 years (yes the fun police appear every now and then)!  Most recently however, I quit sugar, fructose to be exact.

Just to truly punish myself, I started before Easter (to really test my will power!).  What was I thinking?  Now I have always tried to moderate my sugar intake and largely ate whole food sugars like fruit, dried fruit, honey, maple syrup and rapadura.  But when I quit, I quit fructose which according to current research is the most damaging, addictive and insidious form of sugar.  In fact, there have been recent calls by some medical experts, given the addictive and damaging nature of fructose, for products containing sugar to have a health warning  (much like alcohol and tobacco).

The verdict
I have to say, of all of the dietary changes I have made in my life time, this is the most profound.  I thought that avoiding fructose would be simple given I didn’t eat a lot to start with.  Think again!  I also thought, considering I’m a very health conscious person that I’d not feel too different.  Definitely not the case at all!

What I have noticed with quitting sugar is that I no longer have any form of energy slump in the afternoons as I often used to.  I wake up always feeling refreshed and I have much better focus and concentration (with less sleep).  I have tested myself a few times by eating a bit of sugar (on holidays, dessert at a nice restaurant or at a party because I hate to seem like a rude, do good naturopath)!  For the following day or so I have felt lethargic and just really foggy.

My hormones behave themselves a little better and I am less moody (though my husband may beg to differ)!  I just feel a whole lot better all round.

To begin with..
Yes, I stopped eating all fruit for a few weeks, just to break the addiction fully.  Now I have got through the testy phase where the cravings are strong, I do eat fresh fruit.

Let me get a few things straight.
One, not all sugars are the same.  Different types of sugar exert very different effects on the human body.  I am not going to go into the biochemistry of these changes.  I’ll leave this to the experts and over the coming weeks I will share some links to fascinating research and investigations which will fully and articulately explain why fructose is so very damaging and addictive.

Two, the only good reason for eating any sugar, is for the taste of it.  No form of refined sugar or sweetener is going to significantly benefit your health and you, or your children, definitely do NOT need sugar for energy (quite the opposite actually).

Which brings me to the sugars you will notice I use in my recipes…

  • Raw honey – as a sweetener is about half fructose so you might consider eating it in moderation if you like it.  If you plan to avoid fructose, you will need to also avoid honey.
  • Maple syrup – the real stuff only please, is also about half fructose and also will need to be avoided if you intend to avoid fructose.  Otherwise moderation.
  • Dates – offer some fibre and other nutrients, but you guessed it, contain a lot of fructose.
  • Rapadura – is raw cane sugar juice dried.  It is much more nourishing than regular sugar containing the full spectrum of vitamins and minerals found in the raw juice (these have been stripped from processed sugar).  It is still however a sugar, containing fructose and should be used only in moderation.
  • Rice malt syrup or brown rice syrup – made by culturing brown rice with enzymes.  It is gluten free and fructose free and is an excellent substitute for honey, maple syrup and golden syrup.  You will see I use it in many of my recipes (always my preference).
  • Stevia – is derived from the super sweet leaves of a small leafy shrub.  It is also fructose free, but personally I find it very sweet and difficult to balance flavour and the bitter after taste it often produces.

So that’s it for now on sugar.  I’m sure many of you sugar fiends would rather I didn’t share this with you?  As always, the choice is yours.  But know this…you can not rely on health regulatory bodies to protect your health, you need to seek to inform yourself.

I have some amazing literature and media reports coming your way, so I hope you take the time to inform your food choices.  I will present scientifically validated information that just can’t be ignored.  Whilst at risk of sounding dramatic, your life, your children’s lives depend upon it.  You will gain a much better understanding of food, health and wellness from this information.

If I’ve sparked your interest and you are after more information on quitting sugar (including instruction on how to do so) see Sarah Wilson’s ‘I quit sugar’ website here.  This is NOT a sponsored post of any kind, I just respect Sarah’s journey and health information.

David Gillespie’s book “Sweet Poison” is also well worth a read.  Find out more about this and Davids other fabulous books here.

Most of my recipes offer sugar free variations, so if you are fructose free or planning to become fructose free, check them out here.

 

Have any of you quit sugar too?  Love for you to share the experience by posting a comment below. 

 

More of my Sugar posts you might find interesting…
Toxic Sugar a Catalyst report – this 18 minute ABC Science TV Catalyst video will answer many questions about sugar, weigh gain and the burden sugar places on our health.  Not to be missed.  Also check out the CBC doco, frightening, fascinating, compelling – crazy if you miss it!

 

All of the content here at Well Nourished is FREE.  But you can help me to build a healthier world, please  Share this post with a friend Share this post with a friend

 

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  • Zoe

    Hi Georgia,

    I recently read an article stating that fructose can be beneficial to our bodies.

    What do you think?

    http://www.thenutritioncoach.com.au/anti-ageing/defending-fruit-and-other-noncomplex-carbs/

    Zoe

    • http://www.wellnourished.com.au Georgia Harding

      Thanks for your question Zoe.

      After many years in the ‘health’ industry, I have come to realise that where there is research to prove a theory, you’ll find another piece of research to disprove it. The complexities of medical research are mind blowingly complex. That is why I try to not to confuse my readers with vast lists of research, rather just offer my experience or theories that just make ‘sense’ to me (doesn’t mean I’m right, it’s just how I read the play).

      What I knew was that I felt like something sweet often, a little honey or a sweet treat. I understand the addictive drivers of sugar cravings. So that’s why I stopped eating fructose, to just see how I would feel personally (I can’t help but test a theory). I feel the best I have in many years, so that’s why I now choose fructose free sweeteners (I can enjoy a little sweetness, but feel satisfied and good afterwards). Where as I used to have a little honey etc, feel unsatisfied, just want more and became fatigued too (even if it was part of a balanced meal).

      Also after growing my own produce I realised that for every orange my garden produced, it produced many, many times more vegetables. I just always come back to what nature provides and I feel that one of the key problems with fructose has a lot to do with dose rather than the compound itself. I have a few investigative pieces to share with you on Thursday. I hope they may help you to understand this topic a little more clearly. G x

      • Zoe

        Hi Georgia,

        Thank you for the explanation. It always comes back to what is best for your own body and what nature provides doesn’t it?

        Thank you :-D

        Zoe

  • http://oneflewover-oneflewover.com/ Kate

    Such a great post!

    I embarked on sarah’s i quit sugar program about 5 months ago and it has has such a positive impact on my health.

    I class myself as refined sugar free and sweeten deserts with rice malt syrup mainly but I sometimes use dates. I know they are high in fructose but i use them so rarely that I figure every now and then is ok!

    Very much looking forward to your future posts on this issue.

    • http://www.wellnourished.com.au Georgia Harding

      Thanks Kate for sharing your ‘sugar’ story. Like you, I mainly sweeten with rice syrup too, but occasionally throw in a date or a tiny bit of rapadura (just a fraction of what I may have used in the past). I feel ok doing this, though I think when trying to quit initially it is important to stay clear of fructose all together, just to ‘break the habit’. G x

  • Sally

    I jumped on board the Sarah Wilson train and quit all forms of sugar and fructose four weeks ago. I agree that the results are quite amazing, I have more energy, my skin looks great, I am clearer and more focused and am generally a nicer, calmer person to be around. Oh and the old PMS symptoms have toned down quite considerably too = happy husband!
    I thought I ate quite well, I’m not overweight and exercised regularly, surely the odd Tim Tam, dried apricot or a bit of jam wouldn’t do any harm? And fruit is healthy right? How wrong could I be, I did the sums and on most days was consuming up to 20 teaspoons of sugar a day. OMG, I was addicted!
    So…..I quit sugar cold turkey and am so glad I did. My husband has done the same and the kids have (unknowingly and slowly) decreased their intake by about 75% . We too favour brown rice syrup and really like the flavour, it’s great to bake with also. My daughter actually complains now if something has lots of sugar in it….never thought I’d hear a child of mine say something is “too sweet”!
    Thanks for the post G, am looking forward to more supportive research findings just to reassure myself that I’m not totally insane ;)

    • http://www.wellnourished.com.au Georgia Harding

      Well said Sally. It’s amazing, even when we’re generally healthy, how sugar just creeps up on us. I think if most people did a calculation they’d be shocked by how much they are consuming. It’s quite insidious but because we do have a biochemical addiction, we are very good at ‘justifying’ rather than ‘quantifying’ our consumption. G x

  • Katkinkate

    Hi everyone. I’ve been low sugar/fructose free (mostly) for several years now, except for the occasional treat and whole fruit. I’ve noticed my blood-sugar swings have smoothed out as well as my appetite fluctuations and food cravings resulting in some weight loss and it’s still slowly coming down.

    A cheaper (I think) and easy to find alternative to the rice syrup is powdered dextrose (glucose only disaccharide). You can find it in the home brew section of the major supermarkets. It’s about $4 per kilo and can be used as an easy replacement for table sugar in any recipe or your drinks. The only difference is it isn’t as sweet as sucrose, but after you’ve been off sugar for a while you’ll be used to the lesser sweetness and it won’t be a problem. It looks like icing sugar and can be used as icing sugar if you want. Of course, if you’re diabetic you’ll have to limit it’s use anyway as the glycaemic index is 100, being pure glucose, or make sure there’s lots of fibre, fat and/or protein to slow down it’s absorption, just like normal sugar.

    Even if, in a couple of decades, the scientific consensus finds that fructose isn’t as bad as some say it is now, it has still been worth limiting its intake, even if just for all the other thinks it’s forced me to give up as a regular part of my diet (biscuits, cake, icecream, lollies and more) that has resulted in better health, as I had to replace a lot of those calories with better foods (fruit and vegetables mostly) and I feel much better for it. I couldn’t go back to eating as much sucrose as I did before.

    • http://www.wellnourished.com.au Georgia Harding

      Thanks so much for your comment. It seems everyone so far ‘feels’ the difference of avoiding fructose from processed and refined foods.
      I haven’t tried baking with dextrose. I do prefer rice malt syrup as my fructose free sweetener as I don’t fully trust the process of producing dextrose. From what I understand, dextrose is produced commercially by the enzymatic hydrolysis of starch (like corn, rice, wheat, cassava or sago), depending upon the location in the world. The starch in suspension is gelatinised, then liquefied and then treated with bacterial alpha amylase to make ‘maltodextrins’. This is heated. These are then hydrolysed by using glucoamylase or a fungal alpha amylase enzymes to make soluble sugars.
      I just don’t fully understand the biochemistry of the processing so I stick with rice malt because it is very simply brown rice fermented. Happy to have my mind changed if any one has an opinion on the two? G x

  • http://www.thewholefoodmama.com.au The Wholefood Mama

    Great post Georgia and good discussion to follow in the comments. I too quit sugar in all its forms for 3 months as part of a medically supervised detox – no wheat, dairy, alcohol, caffeine, salt or sugar. I was very irritable for about 6 weeks and then the most noticeable benefit was my increased energy. I have two young sons who were age 2 and 5 when I did the detox and I found I still had plenty of energy at the end of the day when normally I would be slumping. I 100% agree that the vast majority of people consume more sugar each day than they realise and would benefit from having an awareness about hidden sugars and about eating unprocessed foods, however I am not a fan of the emotive language that surrounds the quit sugar movement and I think that for some people banning sugar has potential to set up an unhealthy relationship with food that takes the form of abstinence followed by binging. I think that if people move away from eating processed foods and are eating a wholefood diet ie. cooking from scratch and eating plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables and good protein and if it agrees with them whole grains and legumes then baking a cake or muffins with rapadura sugar is fine it is about bringing sugar back into perspective, the pendulum has swung to saturation point it needs to swing back into balance. Thanks for opening up this discussion. Love your blog by the way. Nikki x

    • http://www.wellnourished.com.au Georgia Harding

      Thanks Nikki for sharing your experience. I agree that we absolutely need to just eat real ‘whole’ food! I think the quit sugar movement should be renamed ‘I quit processed foods.’ I also agree that deliciousness in life is critical; food stress is a waste of nervous tension! But unlike gluten or dairy or grains etc, sugar does stimulate additive pathways in the brain so it is an ‘all or nothing’ food for many. To begin with to ‘break’ the habit it needs to be avoided entirely. Yes after that a little sugar, as part of an unprocessed treat is somewhat nurturing. Keeping it in context and dose is everything – but the hardest thing to convey in a blog. I try and thanks for your support! G x

  • nancy

    I’ve tried very hard to give up all forms of sweeteners but I’m wondering if Billingtons unrefined molasses sugar is outside of the no-no group. This company (on the Mauritius Island in the Indian Ocean) has been producing unrefined sugar for a very long time and claims that all the chemicals which are part of refining sugar are not used in their product and all the naturally good qualities of sugar-cane are left in tact. It can be used much the same as any other sugar. I find it delicious but I do think that the calorific count is probably the same as that of any other sugar. Nancy

    • http://www.wellnourished.com.au Georgia Harding

      Hi Nancy, you know I’ve never come across this product before. I have just looked at the website and it reads the same as rapadura. Yes it seems to be as close to nature intended and a nice ‘whole’ food sweetener, but the problem (as with rapadura) is that is it high in fructose. As such it is associated with all of the metabolic disorders refered to in the Catalyst report (you can watch it here if you’ve missed it). What I’ve found with consuming even whole food fructose based sugars, is whilst consuming them it is very hard to moderate your intake and break the craving cycle (fructose is highly addictive). After a period of avoiding fructose, you will find that you just won’t want sweet things and if you do feel a little sweetness is necessary, much less satisfies. So if I bake with a little rapadura every now and again, I feel ok. If I overdo it, I just feel very sleepy and foggy. Trial and error really – I, like many just feel like I’m firing on all cylinders when I largely avoid fructose. Hope that helps, G x

  • Katrina Tocco

    Great post Georgia, we quit fructose about 18 months ago and I couldn’t agree more with the change in energy levels and general feeling of wellbeing. To avoid rebellion we do allow a treat day per week where “naughty” chocolate is allowed but honestly we are all so used to my fructose free recipes and home made chocolate, often that’s preferred to the shop bought treat anyway!

    Thanks for discussing such an important issue, it wasn’t till I researched it that I discovered fructose is processed by the liver into fat ….yuck!

    David Gillespie’s Sweet Poison book is fantastic for those wanting the motivation to quit, so is his BIG FAT LIES book….

    xx

    • http://www.wellnourished.com.au Georgia Harding

      Thanks so much Katrina for sharing your experience – seems I’m not the only one feeling so much better for avoiding sugar. Yes David Gillespies books are easy, worthy reads on the topic of sugar and oils. G x

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  • Natalie

    Hi Georgia

    I was doing an internet search to find out how to use rice malt syrup in baking and I came across an article saying that it is high in arsenic. What are your thoughts on that? I have a 12 month old baby so am now feeling reluctant to try it.

    Thanks for all our your advice! It’s made a big difference to how we eat and we’re much more aware about what is on the food we eat.

    Natalie

    • http://www.wellnourished.com.au Georgia Harding

      Great question Natalie.
      There has been some concern about arsenic contamination in all rice products, especially baby rice cereal, formula and rice milk, but also including regular rice, and rice malt syrup (a US based study, with US based product). I have done a fair bit of research on the topic, but to keep it short, best to hear it from the supplier I choose (see Pure Harvest’s statement at the very end of this link).
      Also another chance for me to stress the importance of organics, especially for baby. This is a good little explanatory article here (last paragraph addresses your concern).
      Hope this helps you to make a decision and good on you for taking the time to ask questions to safe guard your baby. I wish more people were willing to make educated decisions. G x

  • casey

    I have just stumbled across your website and am hopping from article to article. Thank you for being so open and honest and non preachy.
    I recently discovered coconut sugar and have taken to using in my baking. .. I have a delicious banana bread made with coconut oil, coconut flour and coconut sugar (I know the banana has fructose but. … its the healthiest banana bread I know lol) anyway I have been trying to get information on the coconut sugar but am finding conflicting information regarding fructose content. Do you have any information? I understand it b is coconut blossom sap simply dehydrated and therefore the only processing is dehydration and that it has many health benefits (all Hail the coconut)
    I would love your take on this.
    Thank you

    • http://www.wellnourished.com.au Georgia Harding

      Yes, I have investigated coconut sugar in the past. I’m with you, it tastes great as does anything coconut! It is also the most sustainable sweetener in the world and also low GI which is great. It also has an impressive mineral content that would make me class it as a nutritious sweetener (ie, not just empty calories).

      BUT it has roughly the same amount of fructose as cane sugar or honey (40-50%). Prior to understanding the impact fructose has on the body, I would have recommended it happily as a great choice (alongside raw honey, maple syrup and rapadura). Now I personally stick with rice malt syrup and I do like my banana bread too occasionally (I don’t eat a lot of fruit but don’t get hung up on absolutely avoiding it) – just where I feel I’m at at this point of my life. I think banana bread is sweet enough without a sweetener (or just a little rice malt syrup added). Your call as always, what ever feels best.

      PS: Just don’t touch agave as a sweetener (90% fructose) and just not a good choice at all.

      Happy you are enjoying WN and thanks so much for your feedback and a great question. G x

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