More than 30 years ago I noticed that eating sugared foods made me extremely tired in the mornings. A little sugar in the water to boil carrots gave me “sugar eyes” - that’s what I called the sense of glue in the morning as I tried to open my eyes. A cup of coffee and a donut would literally keep me from getting out of bed - I was habitually late for work. I did not realize it was the sugar until I stopped putting sugar in my coffee and replaced donuts with hot unsweetened cereal. After three days of this new regime, I got up early and I had clear eyes - no sugar eyes! I was alert and awake! What a discovery!
Feeling well is a great incentive. After that experience I pretty much cut out refined sugar from my diet. Every so often I’d stray, but the fatigue and the “sugar eyes” kept reminding me. What I also noticed is that my moods changed dramatically once I quit eating sugar. From my usual slight malaise, a vague sensation of sadness or minor depression, I went to feeling normal and OK pretty much most of the time. What surprised me was that such experiences were dismissed by the mainstream nutritionists, and other parents were horrified when I mentioned that I gave my children no sugared cookies, ice cream, or candy - ever. (If they got it themselves, that was not my problem; they just didn’t get it in the house from me.) That was because I had found, early on, as do many parents, that the kids often go crazy when they get sugar.
So what is this substance that we are so enthralled with? Crystalline white cane sugar is refined from the sugar cane by crushing the cane, processing the juice and evaporating it, then bleaching and deodorizing the resulting carbohydrate crystals until they are pure white. Dried, unrefined cane sugar is dense, sticky, and brown.
It takes about 17 feet of sugar cane to come up with 1 cup of sugar. I know this because I once called a sugar factory and we worked out the numbers. If you visualize this relationship - 17 feet to 1 cup - you realize that the refined cane sugar has a lot missing that is present in the original: it has none of the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals found in the plant, let alone any of the protein and fiber. It is also missing the water, so consuming sugar will make you actually thirsty. A quick test will show you: a 20-oz can of cola may have as much as 15 teaspoons of sugar. To see how it really tastes, and whether it actually quenches your thirst, try drinking some room-temperature cola, and note both the taste and how it makes you feel.
Where Does Sugar Come From?
Cane sugar is refined from the sugar cane. Then there is corn syrup, produced from corn, and beet sugar, made from beets. While cane sugar has been popular for the past 200 years, corn syrup is fast passing it by, especially in the production of processed and commercial foods and drinks, because it’s cheaper to produce.
Refined cane sugar is a disaccharide (double sugar) called sucrose, made up of two single sugars called fructose and glucose. Glucose is the technical name for blood sugar, and this must remain more or less steady for proper function, especially brain function. The brain utilizes about 25% of blood glucose, so its needs are paramount.
In terms of actual nutrients, in refined sugar there is only one: the above mentioned sucrose. It makes up 99.9% of the product. There are no vitamins, minerals, trace elements, fiber, water, protein, fat, or anything else. Nutrients such as chromium, manganese, zinc, magnesium, and copper have been lost in the refining process. For that reason, it has been said that sugar provides “empty calories.” They could be called “naked calories” as well.
Simple carbohydrates such as cane sugar are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream, where they provide a quick high - and a subsequent crash. On the other hand, complex carbohydrates such as whole grains or vegetables, because of the