Last Updated: April 1st, 2019

We have been hearing a lot about sugar lately and how it can be detrimental to your health. Why is sugar so bad for us?

I’m so glad you asked this question. I really enjoy educating my patients so they can take control of their health. Here’s the scoop on sugar: Sugar (the white granular or powered stuff that we put in coffee, baked goods, and many packaged foods and beverages) in large quantities triggers an ever-increasing insulin response by the body. At some point your cells will stop responding to the high levels of insulin (known as insulin resistance) and your pancreas may even stop making so much insulin (known as diabetes). When sugar is not able to get into your cells it’s instead turned into body fat, leading to weight gain, and/or can attach on to tissue in your body causing damage to your eyes, kidneys, blood vessels and more.

It seems that so much of what we eat contains sugar. Any tips on identifying the foods where sugar is lurking to keep intake in check?

My first suggestion is to look at the nutrition facts on your product labels. You will see “carbohydrates” and then you will see “fibre” and “sugar.” Carbohydrates are in starchy vegetables, grains, fruits, nuts and seeds. Although carbohydrates are broken down by your digestion into sugar molecules (glucose and fructose), you don’t need to avoid them completely during a sugar detox, but it’s helpful to keep carbohydrates to a minimum and in balance with protein. I recommend keeping to no more than 15 grams of carbohydrate each time you eat and to balance out the carbs with a similar amount of protein (7 to 15 grams), plus healthy fats.

“Sugar” on the label indicates actual sugar. If you see that there are grams of sugar in the product, then look at the “ingredients list” to find out what that sugar is coming from. It could be actual sugar, or it could be sugar disguised in another form so don’t only look for “sugar” on your food packaging, but also the following:

» Beet sugar
» Brown sugar
» Brown rice syrup
» Cane sugar or juice
» Dextrose
» Dried or raw cane sugar
» Evaporated cane juice
» Glucose
» Maltose
» Malt sugar
» Sucrose

Fructose, which is in fruit and vegetables, as well as agave, honey, and maple syrup, will also show up under “sugar” on a product label and can be a problem as well, especially when highly concentrated, such as in high fructose corn syrup. It doesn’t trigger insulin, but is instead a direct issue for your digestion, liver and metabolism when consumed in large quantities. Watch out for fructose in these forms:

» Agave
» Corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
» Honey
» Maple syrup
» Molasses

Is it true that sugar is addictive?

Yes, sugar is addictive! Soon after you eat it, your body releases “feel good hormones” such as the neurotransmitter dopamine. So at first it seems to make you feel better. As your blood sugar level rises, you may experience an increase in energy, focus and mood, but not for long. As insulin moves glucose out of your blood and into your cells, and subsequently your blood sugar levels fall, you’re more likely to feel down, low energy and irritable. Then of course, at that point, all you can think about is eating sugar and returning to the previous state of a sugar high.

What are your recommendations for changing our sugar habits?

The best way to change your sugar habit is to embark upon a sugar detox. I suggest trying a 21-day detox and avoiding sugar completely. If 100 percent avoidance is not possible, then try reducing your sugar intake for up to three weeks and notice how you feel. You might feel so much better that you will want to keep sugar in check moving forward.

Are there any other nutritional  considerations to keep in mind for readers who try the sugar detox?

As your body adjusts to a diet with no or low sugar, I recommend following my HAMPTONS CLEANSE™ which also eliminates dairy, eggs, soy and gluten to help reduce inflammation, improve digestion, and eliminate toxic exposures.

Read more on this topic in FOR THE LOVE OF SUGAR: Natural is sweet when sweet is natural>>

Doni Wilson, N.D. (Dr. Doni) is an award-winning Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine, natural health expert, nutritionist, and midwife. For nearly 20 years she helped women, men and children overcome their most perplexing health challenges and achieve wellness goals by crafting individualized strategies that address the whole body and the underlying causes of health issues.

image: Doctor talking to patient via Shutterstock