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Let’s face it. For most of us, the taste of “sweet” is the center of the universe. It is the very root of pleasure, the reason to continue on and even perhaps the matrix of creation. The bees, ants and humming birds love it. Deer, elk, horses and cattle love it. Puppies and human babies love it.
The taste of sweet is a universal force to be reckoned with because its power transcends the momentary burst of excellence on the tongue. Sweetness stimulates the pleasure centers of the human brain with dopamine, a hormone that makes us want ever more. Molecular sweetness, delivered to the blood, wields as much power as the most potent of addictive drugs. Perhaps this is why sugar has morphed from condiment to dietary staple, providing about 15 percent of total calories consumed by Americans. The average US adult consumes 20 teaspoons per day of high fructose corn syrup while the average teenager inhales 34 teaspoons per day (close to ¾ of a cup).
According to the latest science, our embedded love for the taste of sweetness requires as sturdy a harness as any other wild thing with potential to charm, but also harm. Experts have compiled a list of at least 75 ways that heavily refined sugar—depleted of life force, vitamins and minerals—can ruin our health. Topping a long list of the sugar blues are: obesity, diabetes, heart damage or failure, free radical production, depletion of brain power, cancer cell stimulation and a shortened lifespan.
Sugar is part of the carbohydrate family. The body needs carbohydrates for survival. So the challenge is to enjoy the pleasure of sweetness and obtain the metabolic energy of wholesome carbohydrates by making wise choices in a world full of temptations. The baseline of wise choosing is understanding that the body cannot properly utilize sugars, carbohydrates and starches unless proteins, vitamins and minerals remain intact within these foods.
Refined sugars are non-foods. Nothing valuable from nature remains in them. Commercial sugar crops are grown with an abundance of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and then eviscerated with processing chemicals. High fructose corn syrup (HFCS), found in thousands of commercial products, is processed via a method that includes mercury, which remains residual in many foods. This is why the “naked calories” of refined white sugar and high fructose corn syrup injure organs, deplete our tissues of minerals and create an acid terrain in the body. One study of human volunteers found that those who consumed high quantities of HFCS developed risk factors for cardiovascular disease in only two weeks.
Equally dangerous are artificial sweeteners including: saccharin (Sweet and Low), sucralose (Splenda) and aspartame (Nutrasweet). Diet sodas, sugar-free sweets and low-fat snack foods are loaded with at least one of these artificial poisons, each of which has a long list of documented health risks. Saccharin is linked to cancer in test animals. Sucralose interferes with good bacteria, pH levels and protein metabolism while it promotes weight gain. Aspartame breaks down in the body as formaldehyde and it is infamous for inducing neurological disorders, including seizures. It’s good to read food labels because these toxins are often tucked into products that are not even sweet.
There are many kinds of sugars. Dextrose is derived from corn, maltose from malt, lactose from milk, fructose from fruit and sucrose from sugar cane and beets. HFCS is a combination of sucrose and fructose. Glucose is a natural sugar found with other sugars in fruits and vegetables. All plants and animals need glucose for metabolism. The body converts many natural foods into glucose, which is always found in our bloodstream and is thus called “blood sugar.”
Understanding how the body utilizes glucose helps us make healthy dietary choices and understand the changes we see in our bodies. When we eat carbohydrates, glucose is released into the bloodstream. This signals the pancreas to produce the hormone insulin, which makes glucose available to the cells for immediate energy. Insulin also converts glucose to a starchy version called glycogen, stored by the liver and muscle tissues where it can be retrieved quickly when blood sugar levels start to fall. Excess glucose is stored in tissues as fat.
This process works well when blood sugar is released slowly into the bloodstream, ensuring a controlled release of insulin. However, some carbohydrates, especially the simple sugars, are so quickly converted to glucose that they trigger very high bursts of insulin. This excessive insulin causes blood glucose levels to drop sharply, bringing on fatigue and cravings for more carbohydrates. If this happens continually because of a high sugar diet, we develop a cascade of problems:
• Insulin levels remain high to deal with excess glucose, much of which becomes fat.
• Cells develop insulin resistance over time and are unable to use sugar effectively, while excessive blood glucose leads to a toxic overgrowth of sugar-loving yeast and fungus.
• Glucose not converted to fat circulates in the bloodstream, inducing degenerative glycation and wreaking havoc on the heart, kidneys, nerves, eyes, and blood vessels.
• Glycated end products in the blood appear as foreign invaders to the immune system, which flares into inflammatory responses that cause a multitude of allergies, illnesses and disabilities.
No bigger than a walnut and weighing less than a grape, each of our adrenal glands sits like a tiny pyramid atop a kidney. These miniature machines modulate the function of every tissue, organ and gland in the body in order to maintain homeostasis, respond to stress and keep us alive.
The adrenals are heavily involved in the utilization of what we eat—proteins, fats and carbohydrates. The adrenal hormone cortisol works with insulin to maintain healthy levels of circulating blood glucose. Stress normally causes the adrenal glands to produce extra cortisol, which helps raise blood glucose levels so that cells have more energy in high-stress situations. The elevated blood sugar, in turn, requires higher levels of insulin to get the glucose from the blood into the cells.
Because life presents so many stressors, millions of us develop adrenal fatigue. Tired adrenals have a lowered ability to produce sufficient cortisol. In this case, blood glucose may become insufficient during stressful times, which propels the body into hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). The body then craves a big hit of sugar which causes blood glucose and insulin to rise again astronomically.
This is how chronic or repeated stress contributes to high levels of glucose and insulin circulating in the blood, insulin resistance and ever more adrenal fatigue. Some experts believe that these destructive stress-cortisol-insulin cycles, along with adrenal fatigue, are a likely precursor to exhaustion of the pancreas and type 2 adult onset diabetes.
The moral of this story is that keeping stress to a minimum is critical for maintaining strong adrenal glands and balanced blood sugar levels.
Sometimes the body does need a quick burst of sugar energy in emergency situations. But generally, the best thing for the body is slow and steady glucose absorption. Carbs from low-sugar, unprocessed, plant-based sources take longer for the body to process. These provide all the good nutrients that carbs have to offer but minimize dramatic changes in blood sugar levels.
The glycemic index (GI) is a food rating system based on the speed at which carbohydrates break down into glucose into the bloodstream. Foods with a high GI rating are those which are digested and absorbed so rapidly that they induce marked fluctuations in blood sugar levels. Low-GI foods, by virtue of their slow digestion and absorption, produce gradual rises in blood sugar and insulin. Studies from the Harvard School of Public Health indicate that diseases such as type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease are strongly related to the Glycemic Index of the overall diet.
GI values are divided into three categories: slow absorption speed is rated at 1-39, medium speed is rated at 40-69 and high speed is rated at 70-100. Raw carrots, for example, have a GI value of 35. This means that if we eat enough carrots to consume 1.8 ounces (50 grams) of digestible carbohydrates (sugars and starches), our blood glucose level after eating the carrots will be only 35 percent of what it would be after eating 1.8 ounces (50 grams) of pure glucose.
Low GI diets improve both glucose and lipid (blood fat) levels in diabetics and help prevent insulin resistance. Low GI diets are also great for weight control because they help control appetite and delay hunger. Foods with soluble fiber tend to have lower GI values. Fibrous foods include pectins and gums in fruits such as apples, oranges, passion fruit, mangoes, avocadoes and berries. Vegetables with ample soluble fiber include Brussels sprouts, sweet potato, eggplant, carrots and asparagus. Fruit salad, eggplant dip and garlic-spiced baked vegetables provide soluble fiber. Lentils, soy beans, kidney beans and split peas are also low glycemic and they slow down digestion in both the stomach and small intestines. It is easy to find online a GI food list that can help us select the edibles most amenable to balanced and healthy blood glucose levels.
While avoiding the sugar blues, paramount for maintaining vibrant heath and vitality, we are blessed with many delicious and nutritious options for satisfying our sweet tooth. Non-heated honey, organic maple syrup, sugar made from coconut, organic date sugar and Xylitol made from birch bark or corn cobs are among favorites. Erythritol is a naturally occurring sugar found in some fruits and fermented foods. It does not raise blood sugar or cause tooth decay and it is considered highly digestible.
Stevia, with anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral properties, is a great sweetener. It is the diabetic’s best friend because it contains zero calories and it does not spike insulin. UNI KEY offers SweetLeaf Stevia, enhanced with inulin, a premium soluble fiber to nourish friendly bacteria and support immune function. Sweet Leaf has no bitter aftertaste and can be used in all foods and drinks.
Stevia and the pre-biotic inulin provide the taste of sweetness in UNI KEY’s Body Protein, ideal for smoothies. It contains pea and rice powder rich in sulfur-bearing amino acids to provide a balanced protein and carbohydrate meal that keeps the body feeling energized for hours. It is ideal for times when a busy schedule tempts us to grab empty calories that would trigger a destructive sugar high.
UNI KEY’s Weight Loss Formula is an excellent metabolism booster and liver detox supplement that supports balanced blood sugar and optimum energy levels. It keeps cravings at bay with 400 mcg of chromium polynicotinate, an essential mineral that the body cannot produce on its own and which is lacking in conventional diets. Bioavailable chromium works with insulin to improve the transportation of glucose out of the blood and into cells. Also included is Oregon grape root, a natural source of berberine shown to control blood sugar and lipid metabolism as effectively as common diabetes drugs. Combine this formula with Body Protein Powder and say goodbye to the sugar blues.