I recall a fellow student regularly asking us to pass ‘the white death’. He vigorously refused to give up salt despite the health wisdom of the time.
Salt is still held to be a dietary evil, but at least in those days you could have sugar – with the relatively mild proviso that too much of it would rot your teeth. It never rotted mine, haha.
Is Sugar the New White Death?
Now we hear sugar bandied about with words like ‘toxic’ and ‘addiction’. People are doing ‘sugar detoxes’ and substituting with everything from aspartame powders to stevia leaves to assuage their cravings for sweet without ingesting the devilish substance itself.
So you hear one health camp declare that ‘natural’ sugars are fine – whoohoo! Maple syrup, honey, agave. Then someone tells you only raw honey is okay and that agave is worse than sucrose. Oops! Then fructose is the culprit – don’t overdose on fruit! Holy moly – what to do?
Just Give Me Sugar!
I admit it, I now believe the research indicating sugar hits the nervous system with a wallop as intense as cocaine. After six weeks with only the occasional maple-syrup-and-almond-butter lapse, I succumbed to a proper dessert (I was out at a posh restaurant and someone else was paying, for heaven’s sake!).
The dessert was a meringue affair with fruit and cream and a truckload of sugar. The taste sensation was so intense I almost saw stars.
It was FANtastic. So I did it again.
Off the Wagon
In my quest for good health I’ve renounced (at various times and sometimes all at once) grains, legumes, pizzas, pasta, meats, dairy, industrial seed oils, nightshades AND eggs with some level of effort and adjustment. But sugar? I have sugar issues. It calls to me from the desert plains of sugarless cuisine and tweets chocolate in my dreams.
My brain can’t tell and doesn’t care whether it’s high fructose corn syrup, maple nectar from a tree trunk or some artificial white powder out of a packet. Sweet is sweet.
So one lapse and I’m off the wagon again – sneaking honey into my tea and telling myself it doesn’t count. That chocolate bar I just ate? Don’t mention it.
What’s the Fuss?
Having determined that sugar is, for me, addictive – well who cares anyway? In the old days it was fondly called a ‘sweet tooth’.
Is sugar really toxic? Is it the poison we are led to believe? Will it give us diabetes and make us fat?
The best article I’ve read recently on the topic is by Dr Peter Attia for The Eating Academy. He explains the concept of toxicity and the difference between acute and chronic toxicity. It seems that while eating a lot of sugar at once isn’t going to kill you, eating little bits of sugar over many years can add up to lots of damage.
But individuals differ, and Dr Attia explains this by reference to the differences he and his wife exhibit when they eat sugar. Her body copes well, his not so well.
His advice? Work it out for yourself. Observe what happens. Read his list of suggestions and test them.
In my case, I function best with no added sugars or sugar substitutes, but with some naturally sweet fruits in my diet. The former set off my cravings but the latter sates them. One super-sweet lapse with added sweet anything and I’m back on the sugar-craving hamster wheel, obsessing about the stuff. But banana pancakes for breakfast with fresh berries and I’m happy as a pig in mud. They taste sweet, they fill me up, and then I’ve had enough.
Here’s the recipe:
Banana pancakes with no added sugar, for one person
1 banana (or 2 if small)
1 tbsp coconut flour
1 tsp cinnamon, or ginger
a sprinkle of chia seeds
3 chopped brazil nuts
or the pulp of a passionfruit
or 1 tbsp cocoa
Whizz with a blender stick and cook in coconut oil in a frying pan.
You can vary the consistency of the mixture to make smaller, thicker pancakes or bigger thinner ones. I like the small puffy ones, with fresh fruit on the side – orange, berries or mango. Yum.