We all know sugar is bad for us, yet we eat it practically every day. Some of you might think, no I almost never eat sugar. At least that is what my dad a type 2 diabetic says, and he is right in a sense, he doesn’t eat sweetbreads or candy, yet he is having a hard time stabilizing his blood sugar. Sugar is hidden in many forms of our modern day diet, foods we thought were good for us are loaded with sugars.
Where does sugar come from?
Many years ago when I was hiking in the mountains in Kenya (too long ago that I can remember the exact location), we walked passed a sugarcane field. The locals in the group cut off a piece of the stalk and gave me to chew on. It tasted like sugar mixed in water it was very juicy.
Sugarcane is a tall perennial true grass native to the warm temperate of tropical regions of South Asia. The sugar comes from the stalk and measures anywhere from 6 to 9 feet tall. The main product of sugarcane is sucrose which is then extracted and purified in specialized mill factories. It is used as raw material in human food industries or fermented to produce ethanol.
Sugarcane accounts for most of the world’s sugar production, the rest is made from sugar beets. (1)
The sugar beet consists of the root and a rosette of leaves, the root is where the sucrose is extracted from. The plant is grown in regions with a moderate and subtropical climate. The main producing countries are France, Germany and Russia. Sugar beet like sugarcane is mainly used in the food industries. USA exports the sugar beet pulp as animal feed to the EU. (2)
How is sugar made?
First the sugar cane is washed and cut into threads. Next huge rollers press the juice out of the pulp. Then in order to clean out all the plant material they add milk of lime (limewater) and carbon dioxide to the mixture. The next step is to concentrate the juice by removing the water from the juice in multiple stages under a vacuum. Now the juice has become clear, rich brown syrup. The last step is to crystallize the mixture which is done by extracting the remaining water under very tight controls in a vacuum pan. The crystals are then moved to a large basket spinning machine (like a washing machine) where they are spun and dried forming raw sugar.
To further refine raw sugar into the pure white table sugar it is mixed with a solution of water and sugar to loosen the molasses around the raw sugar crystals. It then heads into another similar process as before to extract the juices and waters out of the crystals to create pure white sugar. To read further on the process click here
How does sugar affect my body?
Sucrose consists of glucose and fructose. Glucose is essential for our bodies with just about every cell in our body that can metabolize glucose so much that if we don’t get glucose from our diet we produce it from proteins and fats.
Fructose on the other hand is not essential and the only organ that can metabolize fructose is the liver. When you over consume on fructose most of the fructose turns into fat. On top of that you are at much higher risk of developing Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver disease as over time the fat builds up in the liver. (5). (6)
Most of the fat generated in the liver is shipped out as Very Low Density Lipoprotein particles. These particles are rich in triglycerides and cholesterol. A high fructose diet can lead to increase in triglycerides, LDL along with higher fasting glucose and insulin, decreased insulin sensitivity and increased abdominal fat. (7)
Too much sugar can make us insulin resistance leading to type II diabetes. When the cells become resistant to the effects of insulin the beta cells in our pancreas make more of it. Eventually the pancreas can’t keep up with enough insulin to keep the sugar levels down creating chronic high blood sugar which can lead to type II diabetes. (8) (9)
Insulin is essential in controlling excessive cell growth and multiplication or in other words, cancer. For this reason many scientists believe that sugar causing high insulin levels can contribute to cancer. Not to mention inflammation another potential cause of cancer. (10) (11)
Saturated fat has been blamed for heart disease and increased cholesterol for decades. New studies are now coming out showing that saturated fat is harmless and instead it is sugar that is the main culprit. (12) (13) (14) Not to mention cardiac surgeons are now coming out writing articles about the real cause of heart disease. This one has a great explanation on what happens to the arteries.
No sugar got it!
Then how did my dad who couldn’t care less about sweets and drinks coffee and water over soda get type II diabetes? Now things will get complicated as I will go against the recommended American Standardized Diet.
Heart Healthy Whole Wheat
If you are reading this while munching on a whole wheat sandwich, be prepared to spit it out! Maybe you don’t need to go to that extreme, but what you thought was a healthy lunch is actually spiking your blood sugar in the same way as if you would have chosen white bread. The reason being is how we process modern day flour. Whole wheat is white flour with a little bit of added fiber. Actual whole wheat stores very badly lasting only days after milling which makes it not very profitable. The glycemic index (a marker of how quickly foods elevate blood sugar levels) of the average wheat bread is 71, the same as white bread. (15)
Most cereals are very sugary with glycemic index ranging from 55-93. Cheerios for example a common heart healthy low sugar cereal has a glycemic index of 74. (16)
Potatoes are a great example of starches and as I don’t want to say too many bad things about them their glycemic index is very high ranging from 82-111. (17). Potatoes are good for you, but if you are suffering from a metabolic syndrome you should go another route, and most certainly not eat them every day.
Fat Free Products
When the fat has been removed from foods that essentially requires fat they taste awful. So the food industry had to come up with something to make them taste better. The most common substitute is sugar, sodium or other fat substitutes our bodies have a hard time digesting. Try looking at an ingredient list of a fat free food and see for yourself.
There are other things we think are good for us that are spiking our blood sugar, but I am not going to go into details in this article, it is long enough as it is already!
Hopefully now you understand how someone like my dad ended up with type II diabetes. Throughout the years his diet consisted of bread, potatoes and processed foods such as hot dogs and frozen meals. Just with drastically reducing bread out of his diet his insulin control got much better.Google+