Dr. Noe's 10 Steps to Optimal Health
Step 2: Don't Eat Sugar or White Flour
(this includes maple syrup and honey)
Webster defines a poison as "a substance that through its chemical action usually kills, injures, or impairs an organism; something destructive or harmful." By this definition, sugar and white flour both qualify as poisons, albeit mild ones.
Sugar and white flour increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, obesity, diabetes, and high cholesterol. In addition, they may increase the risk of some cancers and most inflammatory diseases such as arthritis. They also suppress immune function, and in my experience, are one of the most common causes of fatigue, depression, anxiety, hypoglycemia, sugar or starch cravings, and intestinal yeast overgrowth (a possible cause of irritable bowel).
Most of these effects are due to the fact that sugar and white flour have a high glycemic index, which means that they spike your blood sugar. When your blood sugar spikes, your body secretes lots of insulin to bring your blood sugar back down. Unfortunately if this happens repeatedly the cells in your body can become resistant to insulin. It then takes a higher dose of insulin to have the same effect, so the body secretes more insulin. This eventually leads to greater insulin resistance, and so on. When someone has insulin resistance, they are at much higher risk of developing high blood pressure, high triglycerides (found on a cholesterol test), low HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol), weight gain, and diabetes, among other things.
Even before insulin resistance occurs, many people who eat too much sugar or white flour will develop fatigue, weight gain, depression, anxiety, sugar cravings, and/or hypoglycemia (low blood sugar after eating).
Many people use honey or maple syrup as healthy alternatives to sugar. Unfortunately, honey and maple syrup also spike the blood sugar. While they may contain some vitamins, minerals, or enzymes that table sugar does not, these substances in no way counteract the negative effects of maple syrup and honey on blood sugar. Hence these foods carry most of the same risks and sugar.
Fruit, on the other hand, is a different story. Fruit contains a type of sugar that is absorbed and metabolized more slowly than the sugars found in other foods. Fruits are also high in fiber, which further slows the absorption of sugars. Most fruits therefore have a minimal impact on blood sugar, in addition to containing a wide array of antioxidants, bioflavonoids, and other substances that are very beneficial to your health. The sugar found in fruits is known as fructose, which should not be confused with high-fructose corn syrup (which is actually only 50% fructose and has dramatics impacts on blood sugar).
While there are lists available that show the glycemic index of individual foods, I don't recommend using them as they can be very confusing. Different labs get different results for slightly different foods, there are different scales (white bread vs. glucose), and different measurements (glycemic index vs. glycemic load). These lists also don't take into account other compounds found in foods that have beneficial impacts on health (such as the aforementioned bioflavonoids and antioxidants).
What is one to do, then? The simplest answer is to focus on eating lots of fruits, vegetables, healthy proteins, and whole grains. Examples of healthy proteins would include beans, nuts, soy, fish, dairy, eggs, poultry, and meat. It is a good idea to make sure that these protein foods don't have added sugar (such as flavored yogurt, baked beans, or sweetened soy milk). It is also a good idea to avoid excessive intake of saturated fats in dairy and meats and to try and get grass-fed dairy, poultry and meat (this reduces the saturated fat and increases the omega 3 fats in these foods).
A final caveat is that for people who are relatively healthy and aren't experiencing the symptoms or diseases listed at the beginning of this article, whole grains can be a healthy and enjoyable part of a balanced diet. For people with these complaints, however, further reducing even whole grains to 1-2 servings daily can often provide swift and dramatic relief from many of these conditions.
For more information on how sugar, white flour, and other foods affect blood sugar and the conditions listed above, go to our page on insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and hypoglycemia.
Naturopathic doctors are physician experts in treating the underlying cause of disease and using natural medicines to help people get and stay well. To see a naturopathic doctor for help in determining whether you suffer from the effects of sugar and white flour, and to get comprehensive help and guidelines in how to change your diet, please make a selection below.
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