I recently saw Sarah Wilson, creator of the I Quit Sugar program, showing her new jumper with SUGAR SUCKS on it and it made me wonder… is this getting a bit too negative, counter productive and perhaps even wrong?
The thoughts kept popping…
- is it heading down the certain food is ‘bad’ type dialogue which may lead to eating disorders where people are fearful of food?
- it’s certainly great to learn more and be aware, but is negativity to this extent necessary or even accurate?
- even Sarah herself said that she hasn’t quit sugar entirely but pared it back to sensible levels (‘I quit sugar’ was more catchy than ‘ I reduced my sugar intake somewhat.’)
- so it’s actually a quantity issue – not the fact that sugar itself is no good
I get it that Sarah’s view on sugar was ‘out there’ from the start, she was a maverick where everyone else took their time to catch up and sometimes you need to be a bit bold, cheeky, and controversial to get people to pay attention. Fair enough.
I did it too
I too was an anti-sugar crusader a few years back. I’m sure I was addicted, as it did wacky things to me and along with a few other foods, it was the cause of me being at least 20kgs (40lbs) overweight and totally miserable.
So I went low carb, stopped eating grain completely and any commercially made sweet stuff and put Rice Malt Syrup (no fructose) in my home made treats – so not cutting out sweets entirely, but it seemed to regulate my appetite. I didn’t binge eat any more and I felt for the first time in my life, that I could eat like a normal person and not feel so out of control.
It was awesome!
But what if it wasn’t about the sugar, but more about the other stuff lurking junk food that was causing the problem? Food additives, unsaturated fat, trans fats, colours, additives, preservatives, starches and grains?
And what if it’s more about the type of sugar, how we eat it and how much we have, relative to our activity and body’s needs?
This is why I am finding the information from Ray Peat so fascinating, because it completely says the opposite to the ‘I Quit Sugar’ camp. And it always puzzles me – how can it be? Scientific testing on both sides, real life testimonials on both sides saying completely the opposite – swearing black and blue that they are right and totally working for both parties?
Here are some bits and pieces from the ‘Sugar is Ok’ camp:-
– Glucose is necessary for our liver to convert thyroid hormone T4 to T3, which drives metabolic rate and fat burning.
– Sugar is a pro metabolic food and assists a healthy, fast metabolism
– It is unsaturated fat that damages the mitochondria of the cells and affects its ability to process glucose correctly.
– Glucose is fuel for the brain and muscles – sure the body can convert protein and fats into glucose but it is a taxing process on the body and contributes to stress effects and aging. So it’s better for the body to eat it in the most easily digestible and absorbable form possible – preferably fresh fruit.
And there’s more
– Starches like flour products and even whole grains are more problematic than sugar (due to the work the body has to do to convert it down to glucose to use it. And it raises insulin higher!)
– The best sources of carbohydrates for the body are fresh fruit and raw honey
– A balanced amount of fructose is great because it doesn’t affect insulin levels (see more on fructose benefits by Kate Deering here.)
– The type of sweet food you eat is critical
– Eating the sweet foods correctly is super important, ie along with a bunch of nutrients, so the sugar can metabolise in the body properly. (For example it takes 50mcg of magnesium to digest 1g sugar, and if you don’t have that in your system, it takes it from your stores, like your teeth and bones.)
– and eating the right amount of sugar for your body and daily activity output is probably the most crucial factor
Even the ‘No Sugar’ camp says that it’s ‘excess sugar consumption’ that is the problem – causing the list 3 pages long of metabolic diseases – funnily enough the ‘Sugar is Ok’ crew say exactly the same thing.
Both sides agree
So there we are – in actual fact both sides agree. Funny that. It just doesn’t seem like it.
So the ‘no sugar’ guys have done a great job to at least draw attention to the over consumption of sugar issue – because it’s the excess part that in fact is the big bad guy.
Excess kale negatively affects your thyroid too – but we don’t dump on kale. And even too much water can cause problems.
So let’s keep it positive and accurate people. The truth is it’s only excess sugar that really sucks and probably our understanding of the whole thing too. But that’s not as catchy is it?
Happy, healthy, and feeling good!
PS: Instead of – I quit sugar – how about learning how to eat it properly with a pro metabolic diet? Available here – the Zen Beach Diet.