Amie Valpone’s journey to health hasn’t been an easy one. She has struggled with chronic illness and pain from Lyme disease, Hypothyroidism, C-diff colitis, PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), chronic candida, heavy metal toxicity, mold toxicity, adrenal fatigue, leaky gut, and more for over a decade. Despite the challenges of being chronically ill, this struggle has led to her passion of helping others heal through detoxing their food and environment through lifestyle changes. A portion of this article was excerpted from Amie’s best-selling cookbook, Eating Clean: The 21-Day Plan to Detox, Fight Inflammation, and Reset Your Body.
The average American consumes about 152 pounds of sugar a year, that’s about 22 teaspoons every day! But sugar isn’t just about the bag of white sugar you see in the food stores, white flour and whole wheat flour is even worse than sugar because it raises our blood sugar even more than table sugar, according to 10-time NY Times best-selling author, Mark Hyman, M.D. (Instead, reach for almond flour and hazelnut flour, which are full of protein and healthy fats to stabilize your blood sugar and not lead to inflammation).
Dr. Hyman mentions that sugar is eight times as addictive as cocaine. No wonder so many of us can’t let go of the sugary foods, especially this time of the year! I work with my clients to break the addictive cycle of sugar and carb cravings that lead to inflammation in our bodies.
Any type of sugar is converted quickly into glucose by the body and used for fuel, but how healthy that fuel is depends on where the sugar comes from. Natural sugars, such as those found in fruits, are typically accompanied by other nutrients like fiber and antioxidants, making them healthy foods overall.
Refined sugar, such as those found in store-bought cookies, breads, bagels, cakes, etc. on the other hand, are processed through bleaching, extreme heat, chemicals, and more, and are stripped of any other nutrients or fibers, resulting in a nutrient-devoid food. Even most brown sugars are just molasses or refined sugar with added artificial colors! Don’t be fooled by the claims on the packaging.
Processed sugar is easily digested and therefore goes straight into your bloodstream, which causes your blood glucose levels to shoot sky high. This puts an awful strain on your organs, causing wear, tear, and aging. And makes you feel awful- I’m sure many of you have been in this situation after eating white bread or a bagel or a cookie when you start to crave more sugar and sweets for energy.
High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is even worse. Found in everything from soup to cookies to cereals to sodas, it’s made from corn syrup that is scientifically altered to contain a higher percentage of fructose than glucose. HFCS makes foods taste sweeter, which means manufacturers can use less to get the same sweet taste, thereby saving money. Unfortunately, they’re finding through research that the body doesn’t process fructose the same as it does glucose, and that HFCS may be more connected to weight gain and even pancreatic cancer than regular sugar. In my best-selling cookbook, Eating Clean: The 21-Day Plan to Detox, Fight Inflammation, and Reset Your Body, I talk about the hidden names for sugar that are lurking in our food! Here are a few of them:
Hidden Names for Sugar
Be on the lookout for these names of hidden sugar in your packaged products:
barley malt * caramel * date sugar * Barbados sugar * beet sugar * castor sugar * brown sugar * buttered syrup * cane sugar * dextran * fructose * ethyl maltol * agave nectar * glucose * golden sugar * HFCS * fruit juice * grape sugar * fruit juice concentrate * corn syrup solids * cane juice * corn syrup * confectioner’s sugar * dehydrated cane juice * galactose * icing sugar * panocha * maltodextrin * diastatic malt * golden syrup * maltose * lactose * raw sugar * maple syrup * rice syrup * refiner’s syrup * granulated sugar * turbinado sugar * yellow sugar * sorbitol * treacle * Florida crystals * sorghum syrup * mannitol * sucrose * syrup * malt sugar * rice syrup * raw sugar * molasses * maltose * mat syrup * invert sugar * corn sweetener * crystalline fructose * dextrose * evaporated cane juice
Even what many people think of as a “health” food, like low-fat yogurt and tomato sauce, is often filled with added refined sugars that make it a lot less healthy. In fact, we can consume a lot of sugar without even knowing it. These days, sugar is in our sweets and treats, our yogurt and salsa, but also in our salad dressing, bread, cereal, condiments, soup, and more. Read your labels! My best advice: stop eating the fat-free, low-fat foods because they are full of sugar.
So, how do you know if a product has added sugar in it or not? It’s easier than you think! Don’t focus on the grams of sugar on the nutrition facts because those sugars could be coming from tomatoes and carrots and onions (on the ingredient list of a clean tomato sauce), however if you see any of the above words for hidden sugar on the ingredient list of your tomato sauce or another product such as almond milk, then you know it has added sugars inside. That’s when it’s time to put the sugar-laden product back on the shelf and reach for a product that doesn’t have refined sugar on the ingredient list- even if the grams of sugar on the nutrition label of this product are higher than other products, it’s okay because those sugars would have come from fruits and veggies. See how sneaky the labels and grams of sugar can be?
I’m sure you’re wondering, ‘What can I use to get that sweet taste?’ The best alternatives to refined sugar are whole, natural sweeteners such as unrefined organic honey, and organic pure maple syrup. Pure maple syrup is especially good because it is brimming with essential vitamins, minerals, trace elements, and other nutrients drawn from deep within the earth by maple trees. So, before you head out to the store to purchase fat-free yogurt (full of added sugar), a jar of processed tomato sauce (full of added sugar) and your favorite salad dressing (probably full of added sugar), take the above list of ‘hidden names for sugar’ with you and make sure they don’t appear on the ingredient list. That’s how you can ensure you are eating a food that’s not full of inflammatory refined sugars!
This week, start by removing the hidden refined sugars from your pantry and replace them with cleaner options such as organic honey and pure maple syrup. You can easily use these two products in all of your desserts for the holidays and for healthier alternatives to comfort foods. While you’re at it, remove the alternative sweeteners, which trick you into thinking your food and beverages are sweeter than sugar! These often lead to more sugar and sweet cravings. It’s tough to get off of them (trust me, I detoxed sugar and sugar alternatives from my life in my 20’s and it was awful and I had terrible withdrawal symptoms) after a week of detoxing these sugars and chemical sweeteners, you’ll feel less bloated and your digestion will be much smoother, as well.
More from Amie:
Amie Valpone, HHC, AADP is the Editor-in-Chief of www.TheHealthyApple.com; she is a Manhattan based Celebrity Chef, Culinary Nutritionist, Professional Recipe Developer, Food Photographer, Writer and Motivational Speaker specializing in simple gluten-free, soy-free and dairy-free ‘Clean’ recipes. Visit Amie on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google Plus and Pinterest @TheHealthyApple