You hear about avoiding sugar everywhere these days. From magazine pages to grocery store shelves to Facebook memes, it's posh to avoid your sugar cravings. A blanket statement such as "all sugar is bad for you" is just as ignorant as saying "all fat is bad for you." It's all about context — type, processing, and what else makes up your diet. Like other dietary trends, there's always a fallout.
So read on, and find out the 5 reasons I'll never do a sugar detox!
1) The right kinds of sugar are very nourishing to the metabolism.
And I'm not talking about high fructose corn syrup, sugar substitutes (stevia included), agave, and other altered fake sugars. I'm talking about the real stuff- sugars from ripe fruits, fresh unadulterated fruit juices, honey, maple syrup, and a little bit of plain 'ole white sugar (non-GMO of course)!
Did you know that your liver stores sugar (called glycogen), and that you NEED a steady flow of sugar to keep glycogen stores topped off? Without a healthy storage of glycogen, your liver won't convert thyroid hormone T4 (inactive) to T3 (active form) — which FUELS your metabolism.
As Dr. Ray Peat, PhD puts it, "The liver provides about 70% of our active thyroid hormone, by converting thyroxine to T3, but it can provide this active hormone only when it has adequate glucose." A waking temperature of less than 97.8 degrees is a sign that your metabolism is lacking (and that thyroid conversion isn't happening like it should).
2) Sugar is easy to digest.
I'm personally a big fan of the sugars in ripe fruits, because when a fruit is fully ripened the disaccharide (double sugar molecule) sucrose is broken down into fructose and glucose (single sugar molecules) making it oh-so-simple to digest.
This makes sugar an especially excellent carbohydrate choice for those with digestive difficulties since the more complex the carbohydrate, the more digestive strength required. The same is true for the single sugars in honey, fresh juices, simple syrup (made from white sugar), requiring very little digestion!
3) Sugar is energy to feed your cells.
Your cell's most important job is to create energy. Glucose is needed to fuel this cellular energy production and to help meet the demands put on your body every day!
When your intake is not sufficient (often due to dieting, low carbohydrate diets and starvation), your body starts the inflammatory process of breaking down both fat and proteins to MAKE glucose. While your body CAN make energy from proteins and fats, it's less efficient, and puts added stress on your body.
4) Sugar makes energy easier than fats.
Your body is able to produce energy from both fats and sugars. Energy from sugar provides quicker and more efficient fuel. "Oxidation of sugar is metabolically efficient in many ways, including sparing oxygen consumption. It produces more carbon dioxide than oxidizing fat does, and carbon dioxide has many protective functions, including increasing Krebs cycle activity and inhibiting toxic damage to proteins," Dr. Ray Peat, PhD.
Dr. Peat even goes on to say that sugar can act as a safeguard; it increases your resistance to stress, and provides anti-aging benefits when it is used properly in the context of a nutrient dense diet. "The protective effects of sugar, and the harmful effects of excessive fat metabolism, are now being widely recognized, in every field of physiology." Dr. Ray Peat, PhD.
5) Sugar cravings are from the need for more sugar (no trickery here)!
Humans are hard-wired to desire sweetness; whether it's found in the crispness of an apple, the succulent richness of honey, or the candy-like concentrated sugar in dates. The body is not trying to trick you, it's trying to tell you how to survive and thrive. It does that by giving you taste buds that favor sweetness over tart or bitter.
“Any craving is a good starting point, because we have several biological mechanisms for correcting specific nutritional deficiencies. When something is interfering with your ability to use sugar, you crave it because if you don’t eat it you will waste protein to make it.” Dr. Ray Peat, PhD.
"But I read that sugar causes...."
I know what some of you are probably thinking "but sugar feeds candida and causes cancer" and yes, I am challenging that! I personally think that is a very flawed concept. Candida overgrowth is a sign your body is out of homeostasis, caused by a lack of nutrients to support proper balance and function. Eliminating real and natural sugar doesn't address the root issue, it merely eliminates symptoms. Sure, if you eat a diet high in refined, fake, processed sugar, combined with processed, nutritional empty foods, you've probably got a huge nutritional deficit going on. It's the nutritional debt that increases cancer risk, NOT the real sugar I'm talking about here.
When consuming sugar, it's important to remember 3 things:
1) Refined sugar (white sugar) should be non-GMO, in moderation, and in addition to a nutrient dense diet (NOT to replace meals, snacks, etc).
2) Eat CLEAN sugars, free of unnecessary processing and additives. Closest to the source is best (ie. fruit), since the further you get, the less nutrients there are attached to the sugar. That's why white sugar is better in moderation-- it's nutritionally empty, but calorically beneficial.
3) Eat your sugars with proteins and fats to help manage blood sugar. Doing this helps to slow the uptake of sugar into your blood stream. This is especially important if you have blood sugar issues.
Do you embrace or avoid your sugar cravings? Why or why not?
Glycemia, starch, and sugar in context by Ray Peat
Photo Credit: Depositphotos.com/Gromovataya