Sugar Sweetness: Maybe not so Sweet

Sugar… we all love its’ delicious sweetness it offers to our foods but do we need to be concerned about the effects it has on our body? Well, yes, we do. The bottom line about sugar and really, to lay it out straight; sugar is highly addictive, nutrient depleting, immune suppressing, and a food for bacteria, viruses and tumors.

Years ago, I read an article from a doctor speaking about sugar addiction with a patient. He broached the subject on why she craved so many sweets. She had no response. He decided to dig a little deeper and discovered, along with her, that she was craving sweets because she did not have enough sweetness in her life. This revelation allowed her to make some big changes in her life and allowed her to get off her sugar high and more on a life high. I plan to talk about this amongst other things but first, I will tell you a little bit about the history of sugar.

It is thought that the sugar cane was first discovered in India. During the invasion of India from the Persia, the sugar cane was described as the: “reed which gives honey without bees.”

The sugar cane was kept secret as the people realized it could be exported for high profit. Close to 1000 years later, their secret was revealed with the invasion of Arabs. Knowledge on how to grow the cane and process it led to the journey of sugar traveling to Europe and North Africa. Christopher Columbus stumbled upon the sugar cane and later brought it to America.

Interesting fact: Centuries ago, sugars were quite expensive to produce and only affluent people were able to afford it. What’s interesting is that these affluent people had a higher rate of disease than those who could not afford the sugar. Sugar was referred to as the “evil” as they determined that sugar contributed to disease. Hmmm… I will talk about why this is in later posts.

The Processing of Sugar

Sugar or more specifically sucrose is a carbohydrate that occurs naturally in every fruit and vegetable. Sugar occurs in greatest quantities in sugar cane and sugar beets from which it is separated for commercial use.

In the first stage of processing the natural sugar stored in the cane stalk or beet root is separated from the rest of the plant material by physical methods. For sugar cane, this is accomplished by:

a) pressing the cane to extract the juice containing the sugar

b) boiling the juice until it begins to thicken and sugar begins to crystallize

c) spinning the sugar crystals in a centrifuge to remove the syrup, producing raw sugar; the raw sugar still contains many impurities

d) shipping the raw sugar to a refinery where it is washed and filtered to remove remaining non-sugar ingredients and color crystallizing, drying and packaging the refined sugar

Beet sugar processing is similar, but it is done in one continuous process without the raw sugar stage. The sugar beets are washed, sliced and soaked in hot water to separate the sugar -containing juice from the beet fiber. The sugar-laden juice is purified, filtered, concentrated and dried in a series of steps similar to cane sugar processing.

All this processing stripes away all the nutrients – fiber, vitamins, minerals, protein, fat – that the original plant had to offer. To me, this is a crime.

Next post, I will dive more into the effects of sugar in the body.

Be well

Published on: February 06, 2012
About the Author
Photo of Heather Manley N.D.

Dr. Heather Manley, who in 2001 received her medical degree from the National College of Naturopathic Medicine in Portland, Oregon, is a practicing physician whose primary interest is preventative healthcare for families.

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