Kitchen Stewardship | A Baby Steps Approach to Balanced Nutrition

A Sweet, Sweet Summer: Why is White Sugar Bad For You?

July 22nd, 2011 · 72 Comments · Food for Thought, Science of Nutrition

sweet sweet summer

We put it in coffee, get tempted by it in desserts, and hardly even know how often it’s added into savory processed foods. Sugar certainly makes life sweeter, but is it also the underlying villain in nutrition?

There are plenty of reasons white, refined sugar will hurt you when you eat it. Some describe it as nothing short of a poison, while for others, it’s a compromise food to be eaten in moderation. Surprisingly, this site even deems sugar as not bad for you at all, just a source of carbohydrates, a “basic fuel for the body.” Perhaps that site is funded by the sugar companies…or the U.S. Government.

One of my goals in the Sweet, Sweet Summer series is to explore whether there really are “more natural” sweeteners and “healthier” sweeteners than refined white sugar. Before I tackle that big issue, which has intimidated me for a long time, I think it’s important to lay the foundation of why we’re even asking those questions.

Is White Sugar Bad for You?

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photo source

Let me count the ways:

  • Sugar may increase your risk of many cancers (dare I say “cause cancer?”). Sources: 1, 2 (says to make sure to eat sugars with sources of fat, protein and fiber to reduce insulin production), 3, 4,
  • However, this large research study from the Netherlands discredits the face that sugar is linked to cancer at all.
  • My favorite article on the subject of sugar, period, is this one by Gary Taubes in the New York Times. Way down at the bottom, after a very thorough investigation of the subject of sugar and disease, he says:
    “The connection between obesity, diabetes and cancer was first reported in 2004 in large population studies by researchers from the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer. It is not controversial.” Therefore, if you can accept that sugar increases obesity or diabetes, then sugar increases one’s risk of cancer. It’s a really good article, but not for the faint of heart.
  • Sugar contributes to candida, a yeast overgrowth in the body.
  • Sugar is addictive
    • Why is this? Lisa Byrne explains it in her workbook Break the Sugar Habit: Refined, white sugar acts more like a drug than a food in our system…but it started as a whole plant. The sugar cane and beet plant in nature come complete with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals like any other plant. And they have carbohydrates like any other plant in the form of [sucrose]. When sugar is refined they strip the sugar cane plant or beet plant of all its natural components, except the [sucrose]. Then [sucrose]is concentrated into what we know as table sugar.This means we take [sucrose] out of its natural balance found in plants…and that is an important part of understanding why it impacts our body so differently.

      When [sucrose]is part of the whole food it acts like a food in your body, entering our system calmly, breaking down slowly and providing a range of nutrients in addition to energy.

      When [sucrose]is isolated, sugar acts like a drug in your body. Too much refined sugar creates a cycle of intense highs and lows, keeping our blood sugar, hormones and neurotransmitters out of balance.

    • Some may tell you that sugar’s not addictive, but I dare you: cut out all refined sugars for a few days. Just see if you don’t have cravings and possibly even withdrawal symptoms! Better yet, cut out all sweeteners. I dare ya.
  • Sugar cravings are related to stress and self-sustaining. (Meaning when you eat sugar because you’re stressed, you’re going to end up wanting more sugar when the stress returns.)

The bottom line is this: either sugar is an empty food that gives us nothing healthy (and therefore, why bother – except for taste, and certainly in moderation) OR sugar is a toxic poison causing any number of physical and emotional diseases and ailments. Either way, it’s worth cutting down in your diet.

Really Cool Resources to Beat the Sugar Habit
Beet Sugar vs. Cane Sugar

A reader asked me to look into the difference between beet sugar and cane sugar. As it turns out, chefs around the country find a HUGE difference in how they act (beet sugar won’t caramelize properly, ruining many a Crème Brule), but their makeup is only about 0.5% different. The cane sugar apparently has slightly more minerals, as beet sugar molasses is not edible for humans (they feed it to cows, of course). This is not going to cause a significant nutritional difference, however.

If you want “local” foods, beet sugar is more widely produced in America. If you want better tasting baked goods, use cane sugar. If you want to be healthy and nourished, skip them both.

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How often do you use white sugar? Do you think of it as a poison or just something to be eaten in moderation?

Quick Summer Sale

imageOne of my favorite natural body products companies, NaturOli, is having a special “Summer Head to Toe” sale from now through Monday, July 25th at midnight. Check out the “Summer Splash” category for all the sales, including 35% off their soap nuts shampoo, the best sale ever!

Although I use the no ‘poo shampoo method, I’m anxious to try the NaturOli shampoo for when I need to have some suds once every week or two. I like their shampoo bars but would rather have the liquid! Shop here if you’re curious!

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Kitchen Stewardship is dedicated to balancing God’s gifts of time, health, earth and money.  If you feel called to such a mission, read more at Mission, Method, and Mary and Martha Moments.

Disclosure: I am an affiliate for NaturOli and Lisa Byrne and will earn commission from those links. See my full disclosure statement here.

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72 Comments so far ↓

  • Jeanne G.

    Thanks for looking into the cane sugar/beet sugar thing, Katie! You rock! I still will continue to do beet sugar (in much moderation) because I’m not likely to make creme brulee anytime soon, and because it is local.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Barefeet In The Kitchen

    I’m new (within the past year) to eating whole foods. We have really loved the changes we’ve made so far. However, I have yet to give up my sugars and/or flours. For us, moderation is the plan for the moment.

    I will agree wholeheartedly that sugar is an addiction. I am guaranteed a horrid headache by the end of the day if I somehow go that far into the day without a sweet. That alone convinces me that I need to further reduce the amounts we are using. I’ve gone completely sugar free for months at a time in the past and felt fabulous doing that. I’m just not there right now.

    I’m really looking forward to learning more about the alternatives through this new series you are putting together.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Kathryn

    Well, i’m coming off a 6 week diet where i have no sugar, no starches from grains or potatoes, etc. (And i lost 17 pounds! I’m doing another round soon.)

    It was too early to have sugar, but my ILs had were here this past weekend and i’d put an organic, minimally-processed cane sugar on some strawberries. They didn’t all get eaten and i wasn’t about to throw them out, so of course i ate them. I developed the first full-blown migraine that i have had since beginning the diet.

    This shocked and dismayed me, because i LIKE sugar! But i probably won’t add it back in. I have used stevia for sweetening tea and yogurt thru the diet, and yesterday i blended some organic dates with something to sweeten it.

    So, i’d vote for poison, but that is how my body reacts. My body is reacting to just about everything severely these days (Splenda put me in the ER). Since the migraine i’ve done a lot of reading on sugar. Our culture consumes far too much. Think about The Little House on the Prairie days when the whole family had maybe 2 pounds for the entire year. Laura Ingalls Wilder lived to be 90.

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    'Becca Reply:

    Uh, about Laura Ingalls Wilder: She and two of her sisters were diabetic. She was the only one of the four sisters who managed to have a child who survived infancy and the only one who lived to an advanced age. They ate a terrible diet at times, with no fruits or vegetables at all for months at a stretch. Although they limited consumption of WHITE sugar because it was expensive, there are many mentions in the books of their eating brown sugar and maple syrup, sometimes in enormous quantities. Probably less sugar than a typical modern diet, because they didn’t eat processed foods with hidden ultra-refined sugars, but still, I don’t think it was just 2 pounds a year unless you count only WHITE sugar.

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    louiseallana Reply:

    ‘Becca, that information about Laura Ingalls Wilder is very interesting, thanks for the info. Being Australian The Little House On The Prarie mythology isn’t part of my heritage, but I do come across it on the internet in spades. (Us, we have aboriginal Australians as our food heritage; nomadic subsistence living in often desert conditions doesn’t exactly inspire imitation.)

    I don’t think it is useful or necessary to demonise refined sugar. I think it is enough to say that there are alternatives that might offer us more health benefits as well as that awesome taste.

    It *is* useful to identify what is in processed foods, and where sugar is hidden in order to make them tasty and desirable to our bodies over and above more nutritous foods even when our brain knows better. And as someone else has said in these comments, everything in moderation. If you eat a lot of refined white sugar and replace it with honey etc, you’re still eating a lot of sugar!

    One of the best things I can say about unprocessed sugars apart from how good they taste, is that I find my body reaches its limit more quickly; I reach that point where I say ‘no more, I’m done’ sooner, so I think unprocessed sugars do help me to regulate my sugar intake better than refined white sugar.

    PS I hesitate to use the word ‘natural’ sugars and chose ‘unrefined’ sugars instead, since it seems strange to me to describe something as basically organic as refined sugar as ‘unnatural’! Perhaps that’s because in Australia our sugar comes from the sugar cane we grow and the sugar plant right next to the cane fields, and it seems pretty closely connected to nature to me.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Reply:

    Becca,
    Wow, and I always think of those books as good examples of “traditional foods.” Crazy. They did eat plenty of white flour, too, though, except when “brown bread” was ALL they had to eat in “The Long Winter.” Wow. Thank you for that note! :) Katie

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    Katie Reply:

    Kathryn,
    Holy cow, the ER? What happened? Good to hear that stevia doesn’t affect you, because I’m pretty sure I’m behind that particular sweetener as “natural” AND “okay to eat”. Phew- it’s amazing how some folks’ bodies make things so very clear… :) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

    Kathryn Reply:

    Splenda is not natural at all, tho the ads imply it is. It is “made from sugar” but they add 3 chlorine atoms to the sugar molecule. Therefore, most people’s bodies don’t recognize it and the claim is that it passes thru, inert.

    But some folks’ bodies break this down, and then you have the free chlorine swimming around. I’ve had Splenda 3 times (all by accident). The first 2 i had an allergic reaction where my lips and face swelled. The third time i had the WORST migraine, ever. Shoot me please. Went to the ER for Demerol (and i don’t normally even take OTC things anymore). I wanted to die.

    I don’t trust much of anything anyone else makes these days, as most folks don’t differentiate between natural, whole foods and the cr** that is processed and sold. I often can’t tell the difference until i’ve had an allergic reaction.

    Laura Ingalls Wilder may have developed diabetes late in life, but she still lived until she was 90. Considering “life expectancy” (which is a mess of playing with statistics) was about 47 when she was born, that is saying quite a bit.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • AmandaZ

    I use white sugar VERY VERY rarely – although its taken me a long road to get here. There are two things I still use white sugar for – my great grandma’s sugar cookies (which I might make 2x a year) and my aunt’s White Christmas Pie (coconut, cream, eggs, and yes… sugar – again, maybe 2x a year).

    I’ve been using maple syrup, sucanat, sweet sorghum syrup, molasses or raw honey as sweeteners, when I use any at all.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Jessica

    I’ve read the poison articles in the NYTimes and they make a good case; I tend towards believing them. But alas I’m a moderation person, moderation even in moderation; sometimes we splurge and sometimes it’s necessary to purge. Also I recently learned that agave nectar has higher fructose levels than corn syrup, so although it’s more natural and less refined it’s not any healthier; in fact, it could be worse. So although I find it important to make the best choices I can with the knowledge I have at hand, I’m hesitant to jump on any extreme bandwagons. Thanks for posting on this issue, it was a good reminder about why I try to keep sugar low in our family’s diet; in the hub-bub of life I sometimes forget. Thanks again! – Jess (at) OlyMomma

    [Reply to this comment]

    Hari Reply:

    Apples, peaches, grapes, mangos, and most any fruit, also have high fructose content.

    Fructose is fruit sugar.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Robin

    Katie-In your sugar investigations, you might do some reading over at http://www.180degreehealth.blogspot.com, as he recently did a whole (month long?) series on sugar (and a lot on the research of Ray Peat). I was incredibly skeptical at first, but after watching some of the videos and reading some of his info on the topic, I have maybe relaxed my stance on the sugar issue. He kind of makes the point that at its most basic, it is just a form of energy, but that maybe some people just aren’t able to process it very well for various reasons. Interesting stuff. And Matt is most definitely not paid by the sugar industry, just likes to question everything, even if it’s controversial…:-)

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Reply:

    Robin,
    Thank you! I’ll look into it! :) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Lady Kay

    I never buy white sugar but I usually have a stash of sucanat to bake with. I’m looking forward to any posts you write on that! And instead of sugar I put honey in my coffee and tea. Having said that, I still buy ice cream on occasion and I gladly eat dessert if I’m a guest at someone’s house or wedding.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Laura

    In May I started using rapadura (or sucanat/whole cane sugar). I haven’t used white sugar for our family since. I talked with my children about the change, showed it to them, had them dip their finger and taste it. They all thought it was great! I use it in place of sugar in my regular recipes (along with using whole grains and healthy oils). I have noticed that the foods I use it in are better tasting. They aren’t sickeningly sweet, but are sweet with a more complex flavor. I made some blondies for a friend one night with white flour and white sugar and when I tasted one to test it I found it to be way too sweet. Of course, I also made a batch for my family using rapadura and whole spelt flour and the difference was incredible. I ended up taking the healthier (because blondies aren’t healthy) batch to them. They didn’t even notice!
    After switching to rapadura, I am slowly cutting back the amount of sweets we make. It seems to work best in baby steps- get rid of white sugar and replace it with an unrefined sweetener, then cut back on sweets altogether. This way, we aren’t suddenly giving up something we love. I don’t miss white sugar at all!

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Mrs. Graham Gardens

    So, Katie, are you saying that the bulleted list of “bad” effects of eating sugar only applies to white sugar? Not honey or sucanat or maple syrup?

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Reply:

    Now that’s a good question! Since I’m looking into the others individually, I suppose some of the answers will be contained in those posts. Sucanat is a big question mark for me, and it’s coming next week. I’m guessing that some, but not all, of the bullets apply equally to sucanat. But we’ll see when I really dig into it! Great question!!! :) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

    Amelia Reply:

    I’m curious about that as well. I avoid sugar generally, but for those truly occasional treats, is a whole cane sugar significantly less unhealthy than plain sucrose?

    I also wonder what the difference is between rapadura or sucanat vs. refined sugar + blackstrap molasses added back in. Would the latter end up being at all different nutritionally than the former, provided that the correct sugar:molasses ratio is used? I can’t think of any reason it wouldn’t but I really don’t know much about the refining process.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Reply:

    Amelia,
    I’ll definitely be addressing most of these questions as the series goes on – sucanat/rapadura is up next, in fact! (And I often ask the same question as you about whole cane sugar, so I’ll be digging into that for sure.)
    Thanks! :) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Reply:

    Amelia,
    I’m not sure about adding molasses back into white sugar, but I’ll look into all these questions for you in the next 2 weeks of the series. :) Katie

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  • Kate @ Modern Alternative Mama

    I have white sugar on rare occasions if I am away from home. I don’t buy it or bake with it myself. I won’t say it’s exactly poison but it sure isn’t nutritious.

    I notice that if I eat any form of “sugar” that I will not feel well — that includes sucanat. But not honey or maple syrup. So I do tend to use those more often.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Alis

    Hi Katie! I’ve been lurking for months but this subject is near and dear to my heart. If you’re interested in some more of the hard science behind why table sugar is bad for most people (and table sugar is actually sucrose not glucose) you should watch The Bitter Truth by Dr. Robert Lustig. Dr. Lustig is a UCSF Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology with a special interest in childhood obesity and he makes many arguments against the use of sweeteners and then backs them up with data that everyone can understand. The thing to remember when you’re choosing, though, is that whether it’s rapadura, sucanat, white sugar, agave, molasses or honey they are ALL either a blend of glucose and fructose or, as with agave and honey, almost entirely fructose. The only redeeming qualities of the less processed versions of sugar is that they contain trace minerals that table sugar (white sugar) does not. Otherwise they all affect our systems the same way. One upside to using honey or other fructose sweeteners… fructose is twice as ‘sweet’ as sucrose so we may actually end up using less overall. So, in a cup of tea or something where the sweetness cannot be camouflaged by fat it is likely that you’ll actually use less sweetener, the only question is is less still too much. Thanks for your awesome blog! Back to lurking now. :)

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Reply:

    Alis,
    I’m looking it up now! Hopefully on You Tube… ;) Thanks for coming out of lurking for this subject, and I do hope that if something else in the series piques your interest or you have more to add, you won’t lurk forever! Happy to have you around either way… Thank you! :) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

    Sara Reply:

    I’ve watched it, and it’s really informative! It is on Youtube
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Beth @ Turn 2 the Simple

    We use sucanat as our only sugar in all baking; raw honey in raw stuff. My husband notices a huge difference in how he feels and we notice a big difference in our daughter as well. As always we try eat few sweets and use a whole, natural sugar when we do and for things like baking bread!

    [Reply to this comment]

  • sara

    Good post! I started eating primal about a month ago, and I’ve totally eliminated sugar, except for the fructose found in fruit, which I eat sparingly (stick mostly to berries). White sugar, brown sugar, hfcs, and raw honey are things of the past, along with artificial sweeteners :) I feel so much better now, and I’ll never eat sugar regularly again. I’ll be following your sugar series with interest!

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Tammy R.

    Great article! The only thing I would add is I always buy the cane sugar now (only for Kombucha, of course!) because from what I’ve read most of the beets in U.S. are now GMO beets! geez, it’s always something to watch for isn’t it?

    [Reply to this comment]

    Teresa Reply:

    I am not convinced that the sugar is all eaten up in kombucha and water kefir even though the probiotics are good for us..I would like to be reassured..

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Reply:

    Teresa,
    Most of the sources I’ve seen, including Cultures for Health where I got my water kefir grains, say that after 48 hours fermentation, at least 80% of the sugar is gone. All of it? I don’t know. Kelly the Kitchen Kop tested the alcohol content of water kefir, which was pretty fascinating: http://kellythekitchenkop.com/2009/10/kefir-sodaan-alcoholic-beverage-real-food-wednesday.html Maybe she’ll do sugar, too! ;) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Katie Bertino

    Katie,
    Thanks for doing these articles and I look forward to more. I will be linking to your posts when I do the same on my blog.

    Sugar is poison. I lost my father yesterday to a horrible battle with cancer and I know there were a lot of factors in him getting sick, but sugar was definately part of the equation.
    Any research on how to heal yourself naturally from disease will tell you sugar is by far the number one thing people say to eliminate in your diet to help your body get rid of disease. It not only aids is causing cancer, but it FEEDS it. What makes me so sad (and a wee bit angry) is that when I talk to people about diet that have cancer and have chosen to follow doctors order and do chemo and radiation, they almost always say, “well my doctor says I can eat all the sugar I want.” That makes me sick.

    Keep spreading the news Katie (and all you other girls out there!). We can change this very messed-up system.

    All that being said I believe natural sweeteners like maple syrup, molasses, and honey are okay is moderation. Proverbs 25:27 says it simply, “It is not good to eat too much honey…”

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Linda

    Tammy beat me on this point. I was going to say I haven’t bought white sugar in at least a year since going organic, but now I am making kombucha and the recipe says to use white sugar. I bought some today and it felt very strange.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Ms. Smoochy

    Great post. I can’t wait to hear more on this. We only use maple syrup, honey, and rapidura. I hope your research reveals there is some benefit to those sweeteners compared to white sugar!

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Catherine

    As a diabetic, I stay away from refined sugar already, but I also steer clear of honey and maple syrup becaus of their effect on blood glucose. I use Stevia and Splenda (which is controversial in whole foods circles). I’d love to see you address the artificial sweeteners from a neutral standpoint, bearing in mind that I find it unrealistic for diabetics to go without ANY sweetener.

    Thanks for addressing this issue!

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Reply:

    Catherine,
    I have tons to say on stevia and have road-tested many brands in our house, and I’ll definitely do a week on artificial sweeteners as well. ;) Did you see the maple syrup post? I was pleasantly surprised to find some research about real maple syrup being good for diabetics. Certainly in moderation, but it was interesting!
    :) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

    Mrs. Graham Gardens Reply:

    Katie,

    I’ve read the research about Maple Syrup and diabetics.

    While there are myriad nutritional benefits to using Maple Syrup, I personally believe that those benefits hardly outweigh the dramatic increase in blood glucose for a diabetic (or any other individual with blood sugar issues.)

    I would be careful to recommend Maple Syrup, Honey or Sugar to any diabetic, pre-diabetic or gestational diabetic, as the results could be very confusing.

    For the healthy person, it’s a different story, of course.

    What do you think?

    I use a lot of stevia, so I’m excited to read your upcoming research!

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Reply:

    Gina,
    I just read your email/post over at Kelly the Kitchen Kop by chance today – you make some excellent points, and I’m glad I read it before I push my MIL to use our real maple syrup instead of her sugar-free yucky stuff. Hmmmmmm…I wish I knew everything, don’t you?!?

    I’m pretty in favor of (some) stevia – what brand do you like?

    Thank you for the important warnings…sounds like honey and maple syrup aren’t good subs for diabetics, and that’s really vital information! :) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

    Mrs. Graham Gardens Reply:

    Katie,

    It’s a hard place to be in. Her “sugar-free” syrup is loaded with weird chemicals and fake food. Real maple syrup will send her sugars to the moon. Both scenarios have bad outcomes. Unfortunately, you are forced to “prioritize” between the two and it doesn’t feel good, does it?

    Believe me, I know.

    She’s type 2 right? That means that her insulin making cells are on their last leg. Their pooped. Tired. Can’t handle the stress of metabolizing the carbs she consumes. What would make them poop out sooner? Diets high in carbs that require a huge boost of insulin. What’s the result? Eventual loss of insulin function altogether. What would keep them running (albeit imperfectly) longer? Lower carbs, carefully selected foods with minimal sugar impact so that they can keep up with the demand.

    Is the danger of weird chemicals and fake food “closer in” than the dangers of high blood sugars and loss of insulin-making ability? I tend to answer this in the negative.

    But, I don’t eat syrup at all. Or any foods that you would have to put syrup on – they’re all very high in carbs.

    I use Now Stevia. It’s the sort that’s liquid because it’s in glycerin. I avoid sweet things except nips of dark chocolate candy bars :) and use the Stevia in my coffee. I purchase and feed my family that nectar that is Maple Syrup, but I don’t imbibe.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Reply:

    Interesting perspective on “the worse of 2 evils” for sure. I wish I could get stevia in all those products so people didn’t have to make such a choice – although good point about the foods under the maple syrup being high-carb anyway! I think my MIL is type II…she doesn’t have to do shots or anything and did develop it later in life. That’s II, right? Sigh. So tough.

    I don’t think I tested Now Stevia. Sweetleaf is my favorite thus far – you’ll see more reviews next week (or the week after, perhaps…).

    Thanks for more good insight! :) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

  • lisa

    We have been moving away from sugar and anything processed or GMO (most all soy, peanut, and corn products) foods for about 3 years now. It has made a big difference but we still have a way to go. We do not have flour or white sugar in our house, only succanut and honey and maple syrup.
    I also read a book AntiCancer which is VERY enlightening regarding Sugar and Cancer.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Amy

    Interesting article. I’m currently of the sugar-is-not-evil camp, myself…. but all things in moderation. We use both white sugar and sweeteners in my house, but like I said, both in moderation. I’ll be interested to read the rest of this series.

    One thing I’d like to point out in regards to the NYT article… it’s important to differentiate between Type I and Type II Diabetes. (Although I must thank you for not making it a huge bullet point that sugar causes diabetes in general… I’ve seen that on other blogs- argh!) Eating excess sugar may indeed be related to developing Type II, and controlling one’s diet may be very helpful in that situation. Type I, however, has nothing to do with diet– it’s caused by a pancreas that doesn’t work. As the mom of a Type I, I’m always getting questions/ accusations along the lines of “did she eat a lot of sugar”…. which is pretty insulting to any parent, let alone the parent of a child who did nothing to cause their disease. So, any time I can educate someone on the differences, I do!

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Reply:

    Amy,
    Thank you for that note to help us all be more well-informed! :) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Jessica

    Oh, how I want to give up sugar and just rely on honey and maple syrup for special treats. Honestly, I think the biggest obstacle is finding a new repertoire of special foods, quick breads, etc. that I can make my family using natural sweeteners instead. Its had to throw out all those recipes that everyone loves.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Reply:

    Jessica,
    Isn’t that the truth? It is soooo hard to give up favorite recipes, and sometimes adjusting them just doesn’t work as well. Hard to have a treat “out” for sure, too! :) Katie

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  • Shauna

    Personally, I’m a believer of the “sugar is evil” philosophy. So many of the diseases in this country didn’t come about, or didn’t increase to the point that they are, until our consumption of white sugar increased so dramatically. I’m new to the whole foods thing and eating healthy, but I’ve tried to do without white sugar in my cooking/baking for awhile now. I use raw sugar, honey or raw sugar. I’m still trying to get away from sweets (just decided to cut out chocolate, and a dear friend gave me 3 bags of it for my birthday… hmm, I think my sister would love it!), but that too is a work in progress. Ultimately, I would like to cut out all sugar, but… baby steps, right? Thank you Katie, so much, for your research into this highly controversial subject!

    [Reply to this comment]

    Shauna Reply:

    Oops, sorry, I meant to say that I use raw sugar, honey or evaporated cane sugar.

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  • Katie Bertino

    …also,

    anybody out there use raw coconut nectar? I’ve been trying it out because it’s suppposed to be low in fructose. It does sweeten things up well but it’s a relatively new product so I don’t know how much research has been done on it.

    http://www.coconutsecret.com/nectar2.html

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Reply:

    Katie,
    That’s a new one for me, but I’m curious now… :) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

    Kathryn Reply:

    I’ve been buying a chocolate bar that is sweetened only with coconut nectar. It is really good (tho pricey) but only if you have developed the taste for dark chocolate. If you like milk cho. it might not quite do it.

    Since i’m working at not doing any sugar (including my beloved honey) for now, i’ve been taking some unrefined coconut oil, adding some coconut cream and organic cocoa powder with either vanilla stevia or regular stevia and vanilla or almond flavoring. Mix it all. Yum! It is better than the expensive bar with coconut nectar. The coconut cream is slightly sweet naturally, so it doesn’t take much stevia. If i’m missing Almond Joy i will add a bit of unsweetened coconut and eat it with almonds or pecans.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Real Food on a Real Budget | Thankfully Thrifty

    [...] It’s no secret that sugar is bad for you. There’s the whole weight issue. But what about ADHD? Diabetes? Cancer? Check out this quote, originally from  Gary Taubes of the New York Times. It refers to the relationship between disease and sugar. “The connection between obesity, diabetes and cancer was first reported in 2004 in large population studies by researchers from the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer. It is not controversial.” [...]

  • RoseAnneH

    Thanks for the article – this is a subject that is near and dear to my heart as I have spent hours, days, weeks, months in research trying to combat my husbands Type 2 and bring his glucose levels to normal with minimal medication.

    A point I would like to make – The Netherlands study only proves that added sugar has no greater affect on colon cancer than other carbs. If you read the study you will realize that the total amount of carbs was not that far different in any of the quintiles. What you must understand is that starches (which make up the the bulk of most peoples carb intake outside of added sugars) are simply long chains of glucose which, as soon as they are ingested, are broken down into glucose. So potato, rice, bread, grains, pasta, etc. simply become sugar in our system. So all of those people in the Netherlands were still getting a lot of sugar.
    All of this simply points out that all carbs become sugars. The only difference is that your body uses a little (emphasis on little here) more energy to cleave the more complex ones (starches etc.) into the sugar. I do not believe there is any difference to your body between all of the different sugar-type sweeteners (honey, cane, maple, molasses, etc.). They all have a toxic quality but that toxicity is not much worse than the toxicity of all the starches we put in our body. The majority of people (expect those with metabolic problems such as diabetics) could enjoy any of these things in small quantities, but we are doing ourselves and our kids a disservice if we try to find ways to serve cookies, breads, puddings, ice cream, etc every day without endangering our health. It would be better to severely limit all of these things t0 less than 25% of our diet.

    I also recommend the video “Sugar – the Bitter Truth” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Reply:

    RoseAnne,
    Thank you for this info! Makes sense – white anything becomes sugar quickly (I’m breaking that down correctly, right?). Have you found that whole grains, legumes, etc. are any better than refined sugars/starches? We’ve been grain-free for a month or so here and there, so I’m no stranger to pulling most starches (we kept potatoes) from the diet. My MIL has diabetes, too, so I’m always curious to hear more about that topic.

    Have you tried any of sweetener possibilities that don’t raise glucose levels (stevia, xylitol, other -ols)?
    :) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

    RoseAnneH Reply:

    As for the -ols or any other sugar substitutes, my take is that not enough research has been done to make me comfortable. Thirty years ago they said fructose was great because of its low GI compared with sucrose. Then they realized that it has a low GI because it is metabolized differently (instead by the liver) and that it causes the creation of triglycerides and plaque, so it is no longer recommended for diabetics. (BTW – fructose in the whole fruit is different because it works in tandem with other things in the fruit.) So I don’t trust any sweetener that has been okayed only on the basis that is doesn’t do the same harm sugar does – perhaps it is worse. It has only been in the past few generations that people have come to believe that we must have sweet things everyday (desserts, granola bars, sweet drinks, etc) and those same generations have seen the rise in diabetes, cancer, heart disease, etc. I believe we do ourselves and our children a disservice by perpetuating the sweet addiction. Something sweet once or twice a week is more than enough – then I think it is safer to use sweeteners that are as least refined as possible.

    In regards to legumes and grains – right now my husband and I are on an extremely low-carb diet (good fats, proteins, salad veggies) in order to get his glucose levels (GL) in control. At the beginning of the summer they were around 300 – now they average in the 130′s with few sugar spikes. Our plan is to start introducing fruit (berries) a little at a time and see what happens with his GL with each addition. Whatever he can tolerate we will keep. We will do the same thing later with legumes and eventually grains (starting with quinoa and similar). I doubt he will tolerate much in the way of grains, but we will see. I think we (as a culture) eat far too many grains anyway (thanks to the USDA). Most healthy people can tolerate some grains a day, but the diet should not be based on them.

    A great resource for diabetics is http://www.phlaunt.com/diabetes/index.php . They have the most sane approach toward the disease.

    I’m sorry if I have taken over your blog post. I just don’t know quite when to stop. 

    [Reply to this comment]

    Kathryn Reply:

    Oh, but what you said is so accurate! Thank you.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Katie Reply:

    Great resources, thank you, RoseAnne! This is what the comments section is for! ;) Katie

    [Reply to this comment]

    Mrs. Graham Gardens Reply:

    Katie,

    Unfortunately, legumes & whole grains, while wonderfully nourishing for a healthy person, are extremely hard on a diabetic. The sugars are more complex, which spreads out their effect on blood sugars over time (lower glycemic index.) For example. Eating a bit of white table sugar will quickly (w/in 10-15 mins) raise my sugars but will be very short-lived. Starchy legumes or whole grain bread will raise the sugars (not quite as sharply, but more of a steady climb) and will keep the sugars at a high point, longer. It’s just so hard on the islet cells (insulin making cells) to keep up with a heavy load of starches. I don’t think “there is no place” for legumes in a diabetics diet, but they must be carefully accounted for, just like any high carb food.

    “Whole foods” are not always better for people with diabetes, unfortunately.

    [Reply to this comment]

    Mrs. Graham Gardens Reply:

    RoseAnne,

    This is spot on.

    As a diabetic, people think that I should never be caught with a piece of candy but feel that rice is “healthy” diabetic food. Fact is, as soon as it hits your mouth, your saliva is starting to break food down into its components so that it can get what it’s after. The body is VERY efficient at this . . . making a 1/2 cup of rice about the same as a Hershey’s chocolate bar in regard to the load of sugar it presents to the body.

    Loved every word of your comment.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • bugladynora

    Wow, the comments are as interesting as the post. I starting just cooking all our food three or four months ago and cutting out most processed foods, so we are still using some white sugar/white flour. Although I have been replacing white sugar with honey wherever possible and am planning on buying some trying some more kinds of flours. I am looking forward to learning more about other sweeteners. Not sure it is evil, like I feel about artificial flavors/dyes, but certainly something I need to eat much much less of. I am more conscious of how much we are eating since I am buying it and using it instead of buying processed foods.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Good Reads

    [...] are here: Home / Linky Love / Good ReadsGood ReadsJuly 30, 2011 By Jo-Lynne Leave a CommentA Sweet, Sweet Summer: Why Is White Sugar Bad for You? :: Kitchen StewardshipThe bottom line is this: either sugar is an empty food that gives us nothing [...]

  • Emily

    Sugar upsets the acidity/alkalinity balance in the body, contributing to mineral deficiencies. This is what it certainly CAN contribute to cancer (and everything else!) if consumed regularly to excess.

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Amanda

    My family has been sugar free for 5 months now, we use only stevia, xylitol or coconut crystals/nectar. I can’t wait to hear the rest of your investigation!!

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Sugar – Cravings and Addiction | two sisters gluten free

    [...] Why is White Sugar Bad for You? – Kitchen Stewardship [...]

  • Amanda

    I’d urge you to read this article- http://junkfoodscience.blogspot.com/2008/03/do-you-fear-sugar-might-cause-cancer.html

    I really love this website because she takes a critical look at studies and what the media reports regarding them. To me, the bottom line is that most sugars are virtually the same in that they really have little to no nutritional value so it’s best that we eat it in moderation, but subbing honey or any number of these other sugars is just overcomplicating your life. It’s not about subbing other things, it’s about cutting back period! The vitamins/minerals that are present in different types of sugar are negligible at best. So, in short I do not believe that sugar is evil and I do not even believe that HFCS is evil either, GASP!

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Darcy

    All if that is scary. But to comment on the statement another had made ;) sugar may Not be found in the human body naturally however, sugar cane is natural. It’s not a poison until you make it one. Just as with everything, anything in excess can be dangerous.
    cialis

    [Reply to this comment]

  • Creative Wellness #3: Eating Clean & Green | Holly Danger

    [...] White sugar & white flour: Bleached and Enriched foods – Don’t buy anything that says it has been BLEACHED or ENRICHED. Do you like to eat bleach?? In order to get white flour, the nutrients are removed and it becomes a form of sugar for your body.  Did you know that sugar has bone char in it?  It’s used to process sugar and is made from the bones of cattle. Sugar depresses the immune system, increases your risk of cancer, it just leads to so many bad things.  [...]

  • Food Security or Diabetes Subsidy? | Centre for Budget and Policy Studies

    [...] The Public Distribution System in India already supplies subsidised refined sugar. It may not cause diabetes, but it is not good either. I won’t bore you with more than one reference to show sugar is not good for diabetes patients—or even or others. See http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/2011/07/22/a-sweet-sweet-summer-why-is-white-sugar-bad-for-you/ [...]

  • Clean Eating: Are There Any One-Night Stands? | daily digest

    [...] my previous research on why white sugar is bad for you, there are plenty of reasons to avoid it – but which ones are problems with a once-in-a-while [...]

  • Lettuce tastes better…. | Foodies Gone Real

    […] Refined Sugar (read about it here) […]

  • If I Can't Afford Organic, Where Do I Start ? | vintage kids|modern world

    […] 4. Nix refined sugars and artificial sweeteners!  This is a tough one.  Trust me….I cringe when I remember how many diet Cokes I could polish off in a day’s time!  Plus, have you ever tried to cut out refined sugar all together, cold turkey?  Then, about 2 days into your sugar-less pit of despair, you find your self walking through the grocery store and it takes every ounce of willpower not to throw yourself into the donut display?  You haven’t? uhh…me either.  But sugar is ADDICTIVE and devastatingly DESTRUCTIVE to our health.  And here’s why: Why is White Sugar Bad for You? […]

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Welcome!  Meet Katie.

I embrace butter. I make homemade yogurt. I eat traditional real food – plants and animals that God created, not products of plants where food scientists work. Here at Kitchen Stewardship, I share how I strive to be a good steward of my family's nutrition, the environment, and our budget, all without spending every second in the kitchen. Learn more about the mission of KS here.

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