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The Truth About Sugar

Updated on November 4, 2011

For some time, I’ve been hearing stories about the negative effects of sugar on health and as a precaution (especially with someone with a penchant for chocolate and pastries), I have started consuming any processed sugar sparingly. Truth be told, during my long visit with my parents last year- both eat healthy and organic foods- I gave up sugar. At first, I had strong craving…fantasizing about chocolate and thinking how a pastry with coffee would make my afternoon so much more enjoyable. Well, it all boils down to habit. I was used to ritually having a small sweet per day, and when I suddenly changed my habits, it felt like something was missing. But, the most surprising fact about the whole no-chocolate and pastry experience was that after a few weeks, my cravings disappeared. I would enter a store with the most delicious sweets and wouldn’t even desire them. The bottom line is that one’s body is so used to sugar, that cravings arise to signal withdrawal- a sign that one's body is addicted and expecting the daily sugar buzz.


Recently, I discovered a very informative lecture on the effects of sugar on the body and liked the way the lecturer, Dr. Lustig, presented the content by explaining causality through his knowledge of biochemistry. The most interesting fact in the lecture is that fructose is metabolized by the liver in the same way as ethanol (alcohol) and the effects of the two substances on the liver are the same.

But before you watch the lecture, keep in mind that just because sugar is an unhealthy substance, sugar substitutes are not any friendlier. Instead, they are even more detrimental to health than sugar (if you must have sweet…definitely go for sugar over artificial sugars). Indeed, aspartame found in Sweet & Low and other sugar substitutes (artificially created) is known to actively kill brain cells and a movement to ban it has been active over many years.

So what is a good alternative for those that want some sweetness in their lives (especially for diabetics who need alternatives)? The best and healthiest options available in the heath community are raw honey (for non-diabetics) and the natural sweeteners Xylitol and Stevia. Many sugar free gum packages found in natural stores contain Xylitol, and they taste just like sugar-free Orbit (without all the additives). A worthy substitute! My dad is an avid user of the herbal sweetener Stevia. Stevia is a natural sweetener made from stevia flower leaves. The plant is found in tropical regions of North and South America and the sweetener is significantly (up to ten times in the comparative amount) sweeter than sugar. It also has a licorice-y after-taste and is great to use for cooking in small amounts.

Watch Dr. Lustig’s lecture and then check out the recommended website for more information on sugar and health!

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