What my degree in IPE didn't teach me about baking, DIY, fitness, and life…
I’ve read a lot of articles lately on the evils of sugar. It’s not always easy to separate the good from the bad, so I thought I’d try and help…
If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that I like the sugar. I have a real sweet tooth. Ik ben een lekkerbek. Je suis une gourmande. I could go on (but why not just show you):
As you can see, cutting sugar completely is simply NOT an option. There is a great, albeit LONG article by obesity researcher, Stephan Guyenet, that happily confirms that I don’t have to, whohoo! Basically he says that sugar by itself is not evil. To really get that “bet you can’t eat just one” quality, a food has to hit the sweet spot, that perfect ratio of fat to sugar. Hit that and limiting yourself is going to be hard. We’re genetically wired to enjoy that ratio, so that we eat more of it, and avoid starvation. This thing is, that in the Western World food scarcity really isn’t the problem. So that sweet spot that once kept us alive is instead leading our society towards obesity, disease, and early death. Does that mean that foods in the “sweet spot” are evil? No. It just means that we’ll have to learn portion control. Back to the article, here are Stephan’s conclusions: (and I quote):
- Sugar, including fructose, is not inherently fattening relative to other calorie sources, and unrefined sugar is compatible with fat loss in the context of simple whole food diets.
- Sugar can be fattening in certain contexts, specifically if it is added to foods and beverages to increase their palatability, reward value and energy density.
- Sugar-sweetened beverages are probably one of the most fattening elements of the modern diet.
- Fruit is not fattening, and it may actually be slimming.
- In excess, refined sugar can cause body fat to redistribute from the subcutaneous depot (under the skin, where you want it) to the visceral depots and the liver (where you don’t want it). It can also cause insulin resistance in the liver and increase blood pressure, all components of the ‘metabolic syndrome’. This is caused specifically by the fructose portion of the sugar.
The implications (quoting again):
- Avoiding sugar-sweetened foods, and particularly sugar-sweetened beverages (soda, punch, sweetened coffee, cocktails, maybe fruit juice as well?) can prevent and to some extent reverse fat gain and metabolic dysfunction.
- I see no reason to believe that refined and unrefined sugars, used in the same context (e.g. muffins baked with white vs. brown sugar), would have different effects on body fatness. However, unrefined sugars may be less harmful to other aspects of health, because they contain other substances that may be protective. Mark Sisson discussed this idea in a recent post on honey (38).
- Eating fruit does not contribute to fat gain in most people, but instead probably favors leanness. Fruit is a whole food with a low energy density and a moderate palatability and reward value.
So, is sugar evil? No.
Should I limit it? Yes.
So, can I still have that cookie/piece of cake? If you can have just one… (most of the time)
What about fruit? Eat it. Eat a lot of it. Enjoy your sugar here – just don’t forget to brush your teeth =p
And what about me? Well, one of my resolutions this year (since I love to bake so much and don’t want to give it up) is to learn to have just one – one cookie, one piece of cake, one wonderful yummy serving. I’m trying to slow down and savour, and in doing so to discover the secret of having my cake and eating it too. It hasn’t been easy! In fact, it’s been down right difficult, but I’m learning and I’m getting there and it’s good. What about you? Do you have any nutritional resolutions this year? Any small changes that made a real difference? Leave a comment and let me know =)
Disclaimer – I am not a certified nutritionist or medical professional. I am a doctor, but unless your ailment involves political economy, I am not qualified to help. I am however really interested in health and nutrition and therefore make it a point to educate myself.