It is very common for us to receive questions from clients concerned about their sugar intake or who have decided to stop consuming sugar after they heard that it makes them fat or after their naturopath told them that sugar causes Candida. Fruit seems to take the brunt of the criticism in these cases as we have been taught that fruit is a high sugar food. Ironically, I have found that in many of these sugar-abstainers that cross fruit off the menu for fear of high sugar, still keep bread on their plate – a food far higher in sugar than fruit. In all of these cases there are generous amounts of confusion and ignorance about both the nature and role of sugars in the body. So let us spend a little time becoming educated about sugar…
The bottom line is that at the physical level our bodies are simply made up of cells, around 80 trillion of them and each of these cells do just what you do – they eat and eliminate waste. Cells are similar to you as a human in that whenever they wish to perform an action they must first consume food to give them the energy they need to function. The fact is that every one of your 80 trillion cells runs on a mixture of carbon and oxygen in just the same manner as your car. Carbon is simply another name for sugar and we can see this in the word ‘carbohydrate’ which again simply means ‘sugar’. The very basic chemistry of it is that carbon/sugar is brought into the body through food and oxygen is brought into the body through the breath. These two elements of chemistry mix together in the blood and are thus transported to each and every cell in the body. It is through these two crucial ingredients that the cell creates energy.
Burning fuels for cellular energy is similar to burning fuels in your home to keep warm during the winter. In an ideal scenario we always keep a good stock of firewood nearby to keep the home fires burning throughout the colder months. This is the same within our body when we can have a constant supply of simple sugars coming into the body in the form of fructose from fruits, glucose from vegetables, or through the taxing breakdown of complex carbohydrates such as starch into simple sugars. These simple sugars head straight to the cells and fuel each one of them so that they can perform their required actions.
There are times however in the depths of winter when our wood supply can begin to run down. Likewise, there are periods in which humans and other animals have limited consumption of these sugars due to either a shortage of high-carb foods such as winter in the far north, or in a fasting state. In modern times we are rarely in short supply of foods of all sorts however it is a regular practice of many health advocates to go through periods of intermittent fasting where food intake is ceased – including sugars.
During fasting periods our bodies go into a state of ‘ketosis’ within a few days of ceasing consumptions of sugar. Ketosis is simply a word that means that the body is now breaking down fats in the body and converting them into sugars to be used as fuel by the cells. This state of ketosis can be kept up for rather long periods of time depending on the individual’s fat supply and other factors, however it cannot be kept up indefinitely. This is just as if when running out of firewood in the depths of winter one begins to burn the flammable contents of their home such as books and furniture as a ways to keep the home fires alight. Although this can be seen as a great way to clean out the home of old and unused items, there comes a point at which we start eyeballing the floorboards.
I grew up in the South of New Zealand where temperatures are low and houses are built as though it were the tropics. What this meant for us as university students is that often the temperature in the living room is lower than in the fridge (there have been studies done to back this up). During my years studying down there it was not unheard of for students to use wooden floor boards, couches and beds as fire wood to heat the home. But while this can be very effective in the short term it is not a sustainable fuel source in the longer term. Similarly, the human body can only sustain itself by using fat as an energy source for a limited period of time before beginning to break down the structural tissues of the body for energy and this stage is called starvation.
Therefore, it is not a question of whether to consume sugar or not, but rather which sugar provides the best, cleanest burning fuel for the human body? To answer this question we must look closely at the three primary simple sugars we have available to us: Galactose (primarily a dairy sugar), Glucose (primarily a vegetable sugar), and Fructose (primarily a fruit sugar).Now most human beings loose their ability to digest dairy after the age of two when they finish breastfeeding. From that point on dairy products become very mucus forming in the body, so we can leave Galactose aside. We are therefore left with two sources of simple sugars… Glucose and Fructose from vegetables and fruits.
Yes, it really is that simple.
Forget complex carbohydrates and starches from breads, pastas, rice etc. These are just lots of simple sugars all glued together into a form that takes a huge amount of energy for the body to break down during digestion. These can be useful in times of drought, extreme cold, or crop failure – but we do not have to deal with these problems very often. Keep to the simplicity and beauty of Fruits and Vegetables where nobody makes any excessive money and everyone gets healthy.
Remember, all tissues can be regenerated, all hurts can be forgiven, and all lives can be brought into wholeness.
ROHAN CALLANDER BA(hons), MPsyc, D.S.
General Manager & Health Consultant