It’s that time of year again—the time of year when families get together to celebrate the holidays, reminisce about their own childhood as they watch the next generation take their place, and make sure they eat lots and lots of sugar.
The holidays wouldn’t be the holidays without sugar, right? While we’d love to be the first at the dessert table this Christmas, we, along with many of our patients, will instead do our best to avoid sugar at all costs.
Sugar comes in all shapes and sizes and can be a very sneaky adversary, weaseling its way into our diet in the most unexpected places. We sit down to eat a nice holiday dinner when before we know it, we’ve eaten enough sugar to kill a small animal; hence the reason why lots of us feel horrible after the holidays.
The truth is we don’t need much sugar to survive (and thrive) and most of us eat WAY more than they need, leading to a slew of health problems that develop over time. But did you know that refined sugar has an immediate effect on all the systems of your body starting about 15 minutes after you ingest it?
But before we get into that, first things first: let’s talk carbs.
The Difference Between Complex and Refined Carbohydrates
Complex carbohydrates are whole foods that contain sugar (or glucose) but also contain the nutrients and enzymes required to metabolize the sugar. Complex carbs include fruit, whole wheat grains and full fat dairies. When we eat these foods, our body efficiently digests them and puts the nutrients in the food to use throughout the body. These foods do not spike our blood sugar and have a more gentle effect on our energy levels.
Refined carbs are the sugars and white flours that have been processed to remove the nutrients and minerals that are naturally present in the food, thereby increasing the food’s shelf life. You find refined carbs in almost all processed foods. These are not, I repeat NOT, real food. These are man-made fractionated carbohydrates that resemble food. Your body is not fooled by these refined carbohydrates and has to immediately begin the process of dealing with the artificial food when it enters your system. Here’s what happens when you sip that Coca Cola, devour that white dinner roll, or sample that third helping of pumpkin pie this holiday.
The Effects of Refined Carbohydrates on the Body
Within about 15 minutes of ingesting the sugar your glucose levels begin to rise in the blood, spiking it much more quickly than if you had eaten a complex carbohydrate -. Insulin then rises in the blood stream to respond. Because it is a refined sugar (devoid of nutrients required to digest it) the body starts to mobilize nutrients and minerals from its stores in order to metabolize this non-food. As this is a stressor to the system, the immune defense cells (such as phagocytes) become less active and the platelets in the blood become thick and sticky. Free radicals begin to increase along with triglicerides and cholesterol.
Because sugar is acidic, it interferes with enzymes, making it indigestible and leaving it to sit and ferment in the gut.
How does all of this make you feel? Short-term effects include hyperactivity followed by fatigue, grogginess, brain fog and stomach aches.
Don’t like the short-term effects of sugar? Think about the long-term ones. The things outlined above lead to type II diabetes, adrenal fatigue, cardiovascular disease, and gut dysbiosis, just to name a few.
Dare to say no to sugar this holiday season.
And we’re here to help—stay tuned for our whole food holiday recipes and learn more about how to remove refined sugars from your diet.