Is sugar bad? Why I say NO!

Is sugar bad? Why I say NO!

Is sugar bad? Oh boy. Here we go again. I’m about to go against mainstream (and alternative) diet dogma and tell you why I think sugar is essential to good health. You heard me right, essential.

Now before you going throwing darts at me… or worse yet, linking every sort of “study” and post on the evils of sugar let’s make sure we’re on the same page first, okay? Okay.

I believe in real food.

Period. I believe that food should not be full of ingredients I can’t pronounce, artificial junk, unnatural preservatives, etc. I don’t buy “processed” foods. I don’t drink soda. I do not support the unbelievable amounts of GMO high fructose corn syrup that is lurking about in everything from juice to soy sauce.

So when I say sugar is not bad, but essential, to good health, I’m talking about the right kind of sugar as part of a real foods diet. I’m not trying to promote a candy fest or soda pop binge. And while I also believe that even all natural sugars are not necessarily created equal, here is just a short sampling of the foods I think are good for human consumption:

  • Ripe fruit
  • Sweet roots vegetables like potatoes, carrots, and sweet potatoes
  • Raw honey
  • Pure maple syrup (Grade B, please)
  • Grains (properly prepared or freshly ground)
  • Whole sugars like coconut sugar, sucanat/rapadura, and date sugar

If, by chance, you are currently consuming lots of processed foods, candy, soda, and other “junk food” please don’t take this post as a “keep at it! Eat more sugar!” Nope. Sorry. Life and good health are about balance. And unfortunately our Standard American Diet is anything but balanced.

Rather, this article is for those who, in their quest to find peak optimal health, venture off into extremes not realizing how dangerous those extremes can be. If you believe sugar is the root of all health problems, that carbs are bad, and that you need to avoid one or both… this article is for you.

(For the record, I’ve probably read more books, articles, and studies about the evils of sugar than just about anyone. Also, if you have a legitimate allergy to any of these foods, by all means DON’T  eat it.)

My sugar story

When I was around 24 I was stuck in the middle of a “healthy” Standard American Diet that was full of processed foods like frozen dinners, wheat thins, and low-fat everything. Despite my misgivings, I really was trying to be healthy. And lose weight. And if you were to ask me “is sugar bad?” I would have said “of course.”

In fact during this time in my life, I decided to cut sugar from my diet.

In many ways I’m glad I wasn’t really aware of what “cutting sugar” meant. To me it equated avoiding obvious offenders like cookies, ice cream (sigh), and any other “treats.” (Which, considering they types of sugars I was eating was a good thing). I still ate plenty of processed grains and fruit. By many die-hard dieters this was hardly a no sugar success story.

When I made the switch to real food a couple years later I learned a lot. I ate a variety of food, including natural sugars like raw honey. I lost a lot of weight without trying. I had lots of energy. I felt great. (You can read more about my healthy journey here).

Is sugar bad? Learn why it's essential to good health.

My baby body and confrontation with sugar

After giving birth to my daughter two years ago my body changed (as it’s prone to do when you grow and birth a human)—nothing too drastic, but I was eager to get back to my pre-pregnancy-real-food-awesomeness again.

I was already committed to real food. So the next logical step, according to the real foodies, was to cut out the sugar. I even bought several books on the evils of sugar as a means to motivate me to ditch the “toxic” stuff for good. (Seriously.)

I started consuming less grains. I gave up my homemade ice cream (sniff). And after reading that fruit can even be bad, I tried eating less of that too. Eventually the baby weight came off (although, I’m guessing it would have anyway… it takes time, y’all.) But I had never felt so stressed, tired, and worn down. I blamed motherhood (which definitely deserves plenty of the blame).

Your body is speaking. Are you listening?

There I was: worn out, tired, and stressed beyond anything I have felt physically in my whole life. And I was craving the sweet stuff. Yet, almost every nutritional advice and dietary dogma out there was telling me to not listen to those cravings.

Sugar is usually viewed as some sinful, devilish character that sits on our shoulder tempting us. We love to find a “Food Villain” for which we can blame all our problems, disease, obesity, and other issues. A few decades ago that villain was fat. And we can all see how well that turned out.

Now the villain is sugar. We are told to fight our urges. Just say no. And ignore or abolish any signal or craving our body has for it.

But the theory goes against everything I have come to believe about the body.

Our body is amazingly intelligent.

Our body’s signals are critically important.

Our body is NOT bent on destroying its own well being.

Assuming you are eating real food and avoiding synthetic food-like substances, I believe we can trust our bodies. Once we disconnect from the addictive nature of modified foods that are designed to keep us eating, we can (if we are patient) once again trust that our body’s cravings are critical signals for optimal health.

Why sugar is essential

Your body. My body. Every body is made is up of trillions of cells which are the building blocks for the tissues and organs of our body. In other words: Our cell health is critical to overall health. If the cells are nourished we have the right foundation for a nourished body.

The cell’s ability to produce energy is critical.

Every minute of every day, cells must convert nutrients from the foods we eat into usable energy to power growth, repair, reproduction and movement. – I Didn’t Quit Sugar, p. 12

And guess what? Sugar, in the form of glucose, is the preferred and most efficient fuel source.

How critical?

When our cells don’t have enough glucose to do their job they find alternative means by which to get their energy, particularly through either Lipolysis (fat breakdown) and Gluconeogenesis (new sugar creation from our own body tissue).

These processes require the release of adrenaline and cortisol—our “fight or flight” hormonal responses.

This is why so many people have sensations of clarity, easy weight loss, and boundless energy when turning to a no-sugar or low-carb diet. Their bodies are thriving off of adrenaline and cortisol. And while these positive effects can last many months or longer, ultimately the body is not designed to live off of these stress hormones.

The long term results are bad, guys.

In fact, ditching sugar can destroy metabolism and lead to a weakened immune system, poor digestion, impaired sexual/reproductive function, and accelerated aging.

If you cut out all sugars, your body would soon begin to fail. Your brain especially relies on sugar, or glucose, to function. If you don’t have enough sugar in your bloodstream, you can become confused, forgetful, or even lapse into a coma (source)

Is sugar bad? Learn why it's essential to good health.

So what do you think?  Is sugar bad or not?

During that first year as I was meandering through the world of motherhood, my body was under so much stress. From the anxiety of dealing with a newborn, to the sleepless nights (that lasted 19 months!), and hormonal changes from pregnancy/nursing my body was literally crying out for something to help it in its stressed state.

Taking away my body’s preferred and most easily accessible fuel source only made it more stressed. And your body cannot assimilate the nutrients it needs when it’s always in a stressed state… no matter how nutritious your diet is.

Thankfully, I started paying attention to some of the renegade health writers like Matt Stone who were fighting against the anti-sugar dictators.  I was paying attention, but not sure how to handle these ideas with my still-newly-found-commitment to real food.

But isn’t sugar toxic? Doesn’t it cause diabetes? Doesn’t it make you fat?… I couldn’t come to peace with all the conflicting information.

I was in the middle of a battle. A war between all the nutritional dogma that I had consumed throughout my life and the simple fact that I felt good when I consumed natural sugars as part of a balanced diet.

Yeah, I felt good after eating my homemade ice cream. I felt good when I added lots of fresh fruit to my dinner plate. I felt good starting my day off with fresh squeezed orange juice.

My body was crying for sugar.

Before giving into my sugar cravings my sleep was at an all time low, despite the fact that my little girl was finally sleeping through the night. I was always cold. Always peeing. And I knew my health was not where it should be considering how “real” my diet was.

So I started listening to my body. I added sugar back in. Real sugar. Raw honey, maple syrup, rapadura, and lots of ice cream. (Yes, lots.)

That simple energy source provided my body with what it needed to regulate my cortisol levels, help me (finally) get some sleep, and have more energy than I have had in a year. Sugar improved my health, folks. Nothing else changed. It was the sugar.

It’s not the sugar, folks.

One last thing. Just because I know some of you must be wondering how this information can be legitimate in light of the recent New York Time’s article, “It’s the sugar, folks,” I give you this:

Start with these two articles that show how poorly Bittman “translated” the original study:

No, It’s not the sugar

Sweet Nothings Bitter Truth

Or just read the study that the article was based on yourself. Even the authors claim that further investigation is warranted. (Read it here)

Let’s stop trying to find a villain in real food. Let’s remember that health is about balance, moderation, and an integrative approach to considers more than just the food we eat. Let’s stop blaming fat, sugar, or any other “one” thing. Let’s get on the side of real food, please.

So what do you think? Is sugar bad? Or are you willing to listen to your body?

 

Is sugar bad? As part of a balanced diet, the right kind of sugars are essential to good health! Learn more: www.thankyourbody.com

 


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About the author

Hi! I'm and I’m passionate about healthy living: feeling nourished, having energy, getting good sleep, and feeling strong. I believe healthy living does not have to be complicated or stressful. I’m a Registered Somatic Movement Therapist (RSMT) and a Certified Laban/Bartenieff Movement Analyst (CLMA). I’m also an avid researcher and love to read about nutrition, the body, and toxic-free living. Learn more.

View all articles by Robin Konie

99 comments

  1. Marissa

    I am curious as to what your opinion is- I, like you, dropped weight (about 8 pounds) after starting a real food diet. It was great, I wasn’t even trying to lose weight, just get healthy. Then in December I stopped breastfeeding and ate poorly for about two weeks because of the holidays. I gained it all back, and have not been able to lose it since returning to my real food ways in January. I WAS thinking of cutting fruit and sucanat, but now I am not so sure. Whats your opinion?


    1. Post author
      robin

      I think cutting out sugars can be a quick way to lose weight… but not necessarily a good long term solution. Has anything else changed since January? Are you sleeping well? Are you stressed? I’d look at factors that may be doing harm to your metabolism. If your metabolism is healthy than even indulging a bit through a *short* holiday season shouldn’t be a huge issue. Get to the root problem for long term health. If you aren’t sleeping well or are stressed, cutting out natural sugars like fruit won’t help your metabolism. Listen to your body and give it the best food of what it’s craving.

      Hope that helps!

      1. Marissa

        The only thing I can think of is I stopped breastfeeding. Is that a metabolism factor? I know it’s a calorie burner. Could it be I just need to eat less? I don’t feel like I over eat, but it’s
        depressing to look in the mirror knowing what my body used to look like.
        Thanks for your advice, it means a lot you take your time to
        address my personal questions.


        1. Post author
          robin

          That could be a factor… and maybe not for even the calorie factor. It could be hormonal as starting or stopping breastfeeding can mess with the hormones. Hopefully it will work itself out soon. In the meantime, I’d definitely not ignore your body’s cravings for *real* food whether fat, proteins, or carbs/sugars. I’d first try implementing more movement into your day (nothing too stressful if you feel your body is taxed at all). Even adding in an extra 20 – 30 minutes of walking might be all your body needs. Good luck! I know it can be frustrating.

        2. Leila

          I gained weight stopping breastfeeding this past year as well. I know hormones play a big part; I’ve been pregnant or nursing (or both) for the past 7 years straight. I figure that it’s sort of like stopping the clock on aging for 7 years. But, it is not fun to feel like I’m living in a completely different body now. I intend to start taking my temp in the mornings, supplement with zinc, iodine and coconut oil, and get as much sleep/cut as much stress as possible. Hopefully it works (not just for the weight, but to help repair my metabolism).

  2. kelly

    very interesting! i agree that NATURAL sugars are a good thing. and i also agree that every BODY is different. we need to each be aware of what is going on with us, and feed ourselves accordingly. what’s great for us, may not be perfect for another. and maybe not even at a different stage in life. it’s all about listening….thanks.

  3. Elizabeth See

    Wow, Robin this sounds good. I switched to real foods about a month ago. I have Hashimoto’s Disease and was hoping I’d feel better. I actually ditched grains too. So basically I’m paleo. Since Easter, I have been adding some sugar in, in the form of honey, maple syrup.

    I’m still dragging. Everyone told me that I’d feel so much better by drastically changing how I eat. I did that and am still dragging.

    Any thoughts?


    1. Post author
      robin

      It’s so hard to say as each person is different… I’d maybe start by adding in some fruit with each meal and noticing how you feel after eating. Try to be really attentive to what your body is craving and how it reacts to certain foods.

      1. Elizabeth

        Thanks, I’ll add dome more fruit in. I am also currently making some ice cream sweetened with a little raw honey. :)

    2. Catie

      Give it time…you didn’t get sick overnight, and you won’t feel better overnight either. It took months of eating well for me to notice a big difference in the way I felt, and I’m still in repair mode over a year later. We can’t fix a lifetime’s worth of damage in a month or two…it’s a process! Don’t give up!

  4. Michelle

    May I ask, why Grade B Maple Syrup? I’ve moved our family from pancake syrup to pure maple syrup and have been buying from Trader Joes which has both grade A and grade B for the same price. I always just grabbed grade A thinking “A” somehow made it superior to “B”. What is the difference? Thank you!

      1. Matt

        The little common sense bug in my brain is telling me that you’d have to be eating a lot of maple syrup for the mineral content to realistically matter, even more so to see a real difference between grade A and B syrups.


        1. Post author
          robin

          That’s probably true… and I definitely don’t recommend consuming THAT much maple syrup. But I still prefer to get the better version.

        2. Leila

          I don’t know. Minerals seem to make a big difference in small concentrations…the amounts that occur naturally in whole foods.

    1. Chef Mary

      The grades of maple syrup refer to the color and translucence, not the quality. Grade B maple syrup is darker and the flavor is far more concentrated. The natural flavor compounds may be related to health benefits, just like the delicate compounds that make fresh, ripe fruits fragrant and wonderful. Therefore, grade B may be healthier in subtle ways, because of the greater concentration of all the good stuff that makes it favorful and maple-y.

      Grade A has a more delicate flavor and color. I strongly prefer grade B, as do most chefs. Maple syrup also varies widely from producer to producer. Try buying some thick, dark grade B from a small family farm and you will never go back to the mass-produced Canadian grade A from the grocery store!


    1. Post author
      robin

      I’m not familiar with all the details of the 21 day sugar detox to know for sure what the recommendations are, but generally I think skipping out on all natural sugars isn’t a good idea… especially if your body is in a stressed state. I’d be more concerned with avoiding vegetable oils, getting enough rest and sleep, proper exercise, sunshine, etc. I think there are better ways to “detox” than avoiding our body’s most basic energy source. :)

  5. Heather

    Interesting information – especially when it appears that “no sugar” information is all around the health/whole food community. I heard Matt Stone share on the Healthy Life Summit and found myself confused! I have cut sugar because I have chronic and adrenal fatigue/gut issues which set my body into hypoglycemia. I have to make sure to balance my sugars, but usually do that with veggies and minimal fruit. Were there any exceptions in your research for someone who should watch their sugars and closely monitor amounts? Thank you for stepping out into territory that can be controversial!


    1. Post author
      robin

      I’d check out the book I mentioned, as they do a better job of really talking about what the best kinds of sugars are and why. If you are chronic adrenal fatigue the first steps I would personally take (since I don’t know you or your situation) is to do whatever it takes to get adequate sleep and make sure I’m eating enough food. Unfortunately, this may result in some weight gain… but not necessarily. But your body needs to know that it has enough nourishment to turn off those stress hormones and begin the repair process. And I’d personally consume a lot of saturated fats, starch, salt, and sugar… all in their most “real” and natural form as possible. If your body feels it’s missing it’s most easily used source of energy it’s not going to stop being stressed out.

      Good luck, I know it’s hard and complicated. But really, if adrenal fatigue is an option I’d do whatever I can to NOT add extra stress (and that includes worrying about what you eat so much). That’s the first step for sure. Once the adrenals are healed you’ll probably notice less cravings for those “bad foods” as the body switches off from an overly stressed state. Hope that helps and makes sense.

  6. karen

    This article makes me want to cry. Don’t get me wrong, I very much appreciate this information. I just get so overwhelmed when there are so many very convincing arguments on what we should/shouldn’t eat that all contradict each other.

    I read Sugarettes last year and it made a lot of sense to me. I ate no sugar for 4 weeks and dropped 8 lbs (fastest I have ever lost weight) and felt great. I haven’t been able to stay away from sugar since then though. I have it in moderation. Do you limit your sugar at all in terms of grams per meal? Or am I overthinking it? I will have to go back and look at the book in light of what you’re saying.

    I also recently made a ton of changes to our family’s way of eating since I found out organic cow’s milk is not great for you (may be why I am feeling so overwhelmed). I feel like I have to go back to college and get a degree in nutrition to even begin to navigate how to eat and feed my family. I once thought I was well-read on the subject and had it all figured out, but it seems to change so often my head is spinning!

    Anyway, sorry to go on and on. Thank you so much for the article. I will look at the sources you’ve provided and keep trekking :)


    1. Post author
      robin

      I hear you. I spend years researching and just when I think I found the answer something would contradict my new truth. Now I’m at a much healthier place… in terms of my relationship with food and “nutrition.” Our body needs fats, proteins, and carbs/sugars. Period. Choose real food over overly processed or artificial. Listen to your body. And then make sure you are sleeping well, moving, and enjoying life rather than worrying about every piece of food that goes in your mouth.

      For me, I personally don’t count calories, grams of anything, or the like. If I’m hungry, I eat real food. I’ll stop for a moment and try to sense my body really wants. And I try to have three balanced meals a day. I also make sure that I enjoy eating my food. Since we only eat real food in my home I don’t have to worry about addictive or artificial “stuff” to confuse my body from what it really needs. Eat the real stuff, enjoy it, and try not to stress too much. :)

      1. karen

        Great advice. Eating all the healthy food in the world probably isn’t going to help my cortisol levels if I stress about it constantly! Thank you for the understanding and information. I love your blog :)

  7. Elizabeth Walling

    Awesome post! I think this is exactly what we need more of–a little balance and perspective. Fueling our metabolic health at a basic level is so important, and this means making energy easily accessible so your body doesn’t have to raise stress hormones to convert alternative fuel sources.

    The reason this is so confusing is because sugar-restrictive diets raise stress hormones, which can cause weight loss and a rush of energy in the beginning. But when stress hormones are chronically high, fatique and sugar cravings set in. Why? Because the body needs sugar! (In a nutritious and balanced way, just like you said.)

  8. J

    Here’s a little more anecdotal evidence for you. A year ago, after a miscarriage, I CRAVED bananas. Being a person who listens to her body, I ate bananas. I’m not normally a huge fan of bananas, so I knew it wasn’t a pshycological or emotional craving. I was a bit concerned about too much sugar, but since it was bananas, not chocolate or Oreos, I figured it was ok to indulge my craving. For several months, I HAD to eat a banana every time I saw one. And then, it gradually went away. I still don’t know why it was bananas and not some other fruit, but I’m glad I went ahead and ate the bananas when I needed them.

    1. minijaxter

      it was probably because bananas are good sources of potassium and are great for rehydrating you. i hate bananas so i know when i crave a banana something is up. i woukd imagine with te miscarriage you lost a lot of your basic nutrients and that was your body’s way of fixing it:)

  9. Anna B.

    Awesome post. I too am starting to get rid of all bad sugars and eating only natural ones. I have been depressed and confused the past few months because of someone telling me this is the way to eat right or no it’s this way….just too confusing and frustrating but I’m now starting to “listen” to my body as well and I hope I’m on a path to better health and hoping to have my son and hubby on board as well. Thanks for your wisdom!!


    1. Post author
      robin

      Good luck figuring it all out. The health world is very complex for sure. Thankfully our bodies are very wise.

  10. Sarah

    How often do you eat the sugars that you listed? If I eat too much sweets even the ones you mentioned I gain fat really fast! Mostly on my hips ugghhh.


    1. Post author
      robin

      It really depends. I’d say on a typical day I’ll always have some fruit with my breakfast and throughout the day. It’s my #1 “go to” sugar. And I always try to eat it with fats and proteins. I also eat potatoes and other starchy root vegetables at dinner. I don’t know exact amounts… if I’m stressed I will take more effort to eat these foods (again, WITH other foods, very rarely by themselves). Usually when people have weight-gain issues around sugars or carbs it’s because their metabolic rate is not ideal. If the body is in a stressed state and not getting what it needs, as soon as those foods are introduced the body sort of “hoards” them as a protective measure. Getting your metabolism into a healthy place will allow you to eat a variety of real foods without weight issues. (Keep in mind that I’m simplifying things a lot. I’d really check out the book I Didn’t Quit Sugar and others for a better analysis of how this might related to you.) If metabolism is an issue, we might need to be okay with some weight gain as we heal it. Once it’s healed then you can start to lose it in a healthy manner that will stay off for good.

  11. Sarah

    Thanks for your thoughtful reply! I am 18 and have not dieted much in my lifetime so I’m not sure how my metabolism would be messed up. I am 5′ 4.5″ and weigh 130 to 135 pounds. I eat a very traditional diet (make whole grain sourdough bread, have a jersey cow and make alot of butter etc from all her milk eat lots of organic veggies and fruits etc) I’ve made all my families meals for the past couple of years (my Mom used to cook mostly) It seems though being in the kitchen a lot cooking all these wonderful foods it is much more of a temptation to nibble and i’ve gained about 10 to 15 pounds over the 2 years. I haven’t overeaten very many times but just being around food all the time and nibbling a lot the weight has come on very fast. I’m doing a little better now but I’d still like to lose 10 to 15 pounds. Any advice you may have I’d greatly appreciate! I understand you are not a doctor and l receive your advice with that in mind. I love what you do on your blog Robin! Thanks much!

    1. Julia

      I would be checking for intolerances, they can turn up any time, my sister became milk intolerant in her 20′s. I wouldn’t blame the snacking as such, sounds like you eat good food. If nothing has changed other than the weight gain something is going on inside, I wish I had had this knowledge when I was your age before the gluten did it’s thing :) See a doctor if you are stressing about it.

  12. Bex

    Awesome article! I have been putting together an article about why we call ourselves ‘primal’ and not Paleo, and you have helped me see that this is definitely one of the key points. I, too, have had amazing results going back to a ‘hunter-gatherer’ type of diet over the past 7 years, but as I moved further away from fruit and soaked grains, my energy levels started declining rapidly until it became so hard to wake up in the mornings. Soaked grains, fruits, raw honey, and root vegetables will always be part of our family’s primal diet! Thank you so much for reminding me of their importance. I will definitely be sharing this article with our fans.

  13. Lorraine

    Hey Robin, love this! and it came at a great time. I was diagnosed with adrenal fatigue and I’ve been reading James Wilson’s book. So 2 days ago I stopped eating fruit in the morning and stopped having sugar (as per his recommendations). I was peeing a ton. What’s up with that??? Why the peeing? You mentioned it too. I’m just going to trust my cravings and how my body feels after eating something.


    1. Post author
      robin

      If you stopped sugar and increased your water you’re probably peeing a ton because your cellular fluids are too diluted. Trust your body and eat real food. If you have adrenal fatigue you don’t need extra stress of ignoring your body’s signals for healing.

      With that said, I’m not a doctor, and you should always consult your healthcare practitioner. :)

      1. Lorraine

        I agree, thanks Robin!! I’ll talk to my ND about the food recommendations before I continue.

  14. Angie K

    I thought the main issue with sugar was not one of weight gain, but its effect on our arteries. :o
    I may be wrong, since I can’t even recall the details, but I thought that extra sugar in the blood is what oxidizes cholesterol and makes it turn into hardened plaque inside our arteries… I didn’t see anything like this mentioned in your article, so I wonder if it’s even true, or if I have the story wrong. ^^;
    I appreciate your article, though, despite my minor confusion. It’s a very good reminder for me not to be too extreme in any aspect of my diet! That’s what I love about your blog: you always take the stance of sensibility and moderation.


    1. Post author
      robin

      Thanks, Angie. I’m not sure about the sugar oxidizing cholesterol… doesn’t quite fit into my understanding of both sugar and cholesterol. Usually cholesterol is found in the arteries because one of their main roles is to repair… it’s blamed for “clogging” the arteries when there is generally something else going on that requires the cholesterol to come in as a last ditch effort. It’s like blaming a fire fighter for being at the scene of a fire. I’d be more worried about too many Polyunsaturated Fats found in vegetable oils as they are the biggest culprit for oxidation and free radicals.

  15. Judith

    Thank you, thank you Robin for bringing some common sense into the debate. How can root vegetables be bad for you. Our ancestors, except in polar regions, have been eating them for millennia. Stress is the greatest danger to your body. I have had a heart attack and a minor stroke brought on by the stress of anger (my arteries are clear) so now I have learned to relax, thanks to medidation, even in the face of great trauma. Our bodies can cope with small amounts of poisons such as white sugar but are unforgiving about stress.

  16. ReluctantHealthwife

    Great post! I will definitely check out the book!
    The last two months I have eaten small amounts of real sugars along with good fats and soaked grains and raw dairy etc. and I can’t believe that yesterday was the first time I ‘craved’ sweets (yeah, hormones!). I made ‘real’ brownies with succanat and was totally satisfied. I give my body what it wants now, just in REAL format. ;)

  17. Kendahl @ Our Nourishing Roots

    LOVE THIS. But of course, you probably knew I would :)

    I think there is such a push these days to be thinner, healthier, and more virtuous when it comes to food. So it’s no surprise that 21 Day Sugar Detoxes are so popular. People just want to feel better, and look better, and feel like they are doing the right thing.

    Sugar is currently the popular scape goat for all our problems (rivaled only by grains and gluten). But it’s been my experience that these fads do not last. We have evolved to eat a good mix of fats, proteins, and carbs/sugar. We also evolved to eat whole foods.

    So while it can be confusing to read studies, blog posts, articles, etc. and then try to discern the truth out of all of them, I still think you can fall back on the simple fact that we are meant to eat ALL macronutrients in their most whole form.

    Great post, friend :)

  18. Dawn

    My body too craved sugar after pregnancy, but every single time I ate even a bite of maple syrup, honey or palm sugar, my skin would break out in painful, deep scarring cysts and I’d face a crushing depression within 24 hours.

    It’s still this way, and other than fruit and root veggies, I simply can’t tolerate sugar at all. I wish I could reverse this problem; I think I’d be healthier.


    1. Post author
      robin

      That doesn’t sound fun at all! I’m sorry! I think respecting where your body is right now is important… Hopefully it will continue to heal so that you can enjoy honey again. :)

  19. Schelli

    I have Hashis thyroiditis and all of the adrenal stuff that goes with it, I am also type 1 diabetic. Once of the best things I ever did for my body was to start taking 2 Tbs of honey at night before bed. I had ridiculously vivid dreams, but felt like I had slept deeply for the first time in years. I didn’t have the run in to the wall grogginess in the mornings either.
    Every thing I had been told was to avoid any form of sugar..now I know there are differences. Honey seems to stabilize my blood sugars, my mood..everything. Like everyone else has said, listen to your body! It needs different things at different times for healing, but is rarely wrong.

  20. Sarah Dickinson

    I am intrigued by this. Have been going off and on with sugar and carbs to try and heal acne. But I have been feeling quite tired and depressed. I read that without carbs we can’t make enough tryptophan to help us regulate serotonin. And now reading this about sugar makes me wonder more!

    One thing I wonder though, is that I always read that sugar depletes a lot of our vitamins, especially the B vitamins. Is this just a false idea as well?

    Thanks!


    1. Post author
      robin

      Hi Sarah,

      I think the key thing is to consider what kind of sugars and in balance with what other foods. We know that fruits are high in vitamins, and they also have natural sugars. Even without considering all the scientific data out there (since there is so much, and all of it contradicts some other scientific data), I think mother nature knows what she’s doing when she puts sugar and vitamins in the same package. Of course highly processed sugars that are combined with other synthetic foods are a whole different story. Stick to the real stuff and I wouldn’t worry about the rest. :)

      1. Sarah Dickinson

        I do real food, always have for years now, but still acne. (a pound of white sugar lasts over a year in our house) That’s when I started food elimination, like grains especially and then all sugars, with small amounts of fruit. It did seem to clear the skin a fair amount, but not help the depression and fatigue. I’ll read your other cited articles and check out Matt Stone. Thank you!

  21. Mummy whisperer

    Thank you so much for this post, it’s fascinating.
    I have recently been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and was looking at my sugar intake as I still have sugar in my tea and eat the odd sweet/biscuit (I’m a Mum after all!).
    I’d read a website about removing sugar and lots of fruit from my diet and wasn’t comfortable. This sits much better with me.
    I’m off to buy the book and hope that it makes the difference in my Fibro that I’m expecting.

  22. Alexander

    Hey Robin –

    I’m not quite sure I understand.

    You say that sugar in its preferred form (glucose) is necessary for the body.

    … But “sugar” as we think of it ISN’T glucose – it’s sucrose.

    It seems like this is just a play on words – yeah, physiologically speaking the body needs “simple sugars” (the mono-saccharides that make up carbohydrates), but the better word is “energy.”

    We get energy from carbohydrates. If the glucose available in food is too low, gluceoneogensis sets in.

    But that’s glucose energy. Not exactly the same sugar we’re talking about here.

    Your body really DOESN’T need “sugar sugar.”

    Glucose, yes.

    Best,
    Alexander


    1. Post author
      robin

      Hi Alexander,

      I guess you need to clarify what you mean by “sugar sugar.”

      Obviously for the purpose and length of a simple blog post I have simplified things. Sucrose is a disaccharide or a “bonded” form of both glucose and fructose. All foods that we call “simple carbohydrates” are made up of glucose, fructose, and sucrose in varying amounts. To say that sugar is only sucrose is false. For example, all fruit contains mostly sucrose, but also some free glucose and fructose as monosaccharides. But even sucrose can be broken down into glucose. Yes, energy is a good word… one that I used earlier in the post. I very specifically talked about the kind of sugar I mean… fruit, honey, grains, etc. Not sure what you mean by sugar… but if you are talking about white processed sugar then we are in agreement… you body doesn’t really need that. But that’s not what I was getting to at all.

  23. Valerie

    You are doing the blogosphere and the whole world a genuine service by promoting the radical notion (yeahhhh) of listening to your body! Trusting your body! Yep. I am embarking on an intuitive eating mission that is yes, a little messy, but also so so joyful and amazing. And I’ve only just begun. Thank you for your body and self positive talk :-)

  24. Allison

    This is so great! I never really thought of sugar like this– I do a lot of work helping clients deconstruct sugar cravings–trying to help them see what their cravings really mean…but I never thought it could be that they really needed sugar.
    Thanks for this!


    1. Post author
      robin

      Thanks, Allison! It is a tricky thing because the standard American diet is loaded with so much sugar… both artificial and highly processed… so I always think the first important step is switching to real food so that you can really begin to “hear” your body again and its needs vs. its addictions.

  25. Julia

    Nice article, I tried no sugar at all, lasted about a week. Now I have a bit of fruit, some home-made chocolate with maple syrup when I have a craving and the odd (paleo)cupcake I make for the Kids. It all gets a bit ridiculous at some point after you remove all the processed food and get some sleep/exercise – that gives you 95% of the improvement in your health, the other 5% is so minor and variable.

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  27. Leslie

    I am so pleased to read an article about sugar in this manner. I never heard of anyone question the no sugar rage. I’m sensitive to this matter because I struggle with eliminating sugar, and I want to because I believe that it would be a healthy choice for several reasons.

    But no other dietary decisions has caused me so much frustration than eliminating sugar. I have made major changes to my diet. I am so conscious of the food that I eat, and have now removed about 90% of processed foods.

    I was almost in tears reading this post. Mainly because it relieved some of the guilt and self condemnation that I live with, and I hate that feeling, especially because I live such a positive life. I will follow up on some the references you made to learn more for myself.

    Thanks for writing, despite the mainstream wave.


    1. Post author
      robin

      I’m so glad, Leslie! Sounds like you are doing fantastic things for your health. And I don’t think people realize what guilt and stress about food can do to it. Natural sugars have been a part of healthy diets since the beginning of time. :)

  28. Janet

    As somebody who suffers from yeast in the gut and has fungal toenails I would have thought sugar of any sort would be the last thing I should eat!!


    1. Post author
      robin

      I obviously can’t speak for every situation, and I’m NOT a doctor, but I’d check out the book as they do talk about the myth of sugar feeding candida.

      1. Janet

        Interesting – however I haven’t got Candida – I have yeast in my gut (according to a test I had done) Apparently all yeast isn’t necessarily Candida. I certainly know that my gut is reacting even after eating fruit so I am sure sugar would be even worse.

        I am not sure that quotes like

        “If you cut out all sugars, your body would soon begin to fail. Your brain especially relies on sugar, or glucose, to function. If you don’t have enough sugar in your bloodstream, you can become confused, forgetful, or even lapse into a coma”

        are terribly helpful. You can get enough natural sugar from fruit and vegetables to ensure that your brain doesn’t starve. I hardly ever have sugar and certainly I am not confused or forgetful nor do I think I am in danger of lapsing into a coma.

        There is so much conflicting opinion on health that the average person must be completely confused as to what really constitutes a healthy diet. I am all in favor of eating real food and even choosing healthy alternatives to sugar if the need arises but those sort of statements are simply unhelpful IMHO


        1. Post author
          robin

          I think it’s totally true that there is enough natural sugar in most foods that most people don’t need to worry about the coma… but I put that info there because some people have gone so far as to think ALL sugar is bad. But if we become so restrictive in our diets we soon become malnourished… not to mention it’s just not an enjoyable life. Which is kind of the point of the whole post. :)

          1. Janet

            Point taken!!!

            As a nutritionist myself I suppose I am always concerned that people will “home in” on the bit of the post they want to hear. In this instance, from some of the comments, it seems that they want to hear that it is ok to have sweet foods.

            I read an article earlier that said that our ancestors would have sweet foods as a treat not as a regular part of their diet and that seems to be the best solution. If we are struggling to give up “sugar” that would imply an addiction which maybe needs to be tackled first before sweet foods are even added as a treat!!

            An interesting topic – thanks you for raising this – I have certainly had to think about my response to it.

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  33. Kirsten

    I happened to get all the symptoms you describe and more,(anxiety, sleepless nights, extreme fatigue, brain fog, poor memory, having to pee all the time, chronic headaches, ect…) right after eating sugar! Even from fruit. And just eating an apple makes me want more and more and more!! and then i don’t want anything else and I crave it all day. vegetables give me more energy with less sugar in them. they still have sugars, just not as much. Also i get some sugar from grains. I think sugar and fat are getting a bad rep because lots of people (like me) are having lots of problems from eating too much of them. There is no just eating a little bit of sugar for me. It is addicting and it is in EVERYTHING,and keep in mind that it is an anti nutrient, meaning it takes nutrients from your body causing thousands of issues for people around the world, and doctors and scientists witness that, therefore not exactly recommending it. You feel energetic after eating it because you are getting high on it, but perhaps take note how you feel an hour or so after eating it. Perhaps not so energetic? Perhaps a little moody and bitchy? I agree a moderation of sugar is good for you, and every one body is different so definitely listen to yours! Don’t confuse your body’s natural intuition for what it really needs with sugar addiction. With the problems i have experienced with consuming sugar (yes, even maple syrup), and watching so many people i know suffer from candida overgrowth, obesity, and diabetes, it makes me nervous that people might get the wrong idea from someone saying they eat a lot of ice cream, thinking that they should do the same. To sum it up, it is awesome how much information is out there on ways to be healthier, and diet fads are so obsessed with cutting out essential foods, so only consider information that agrees with your body. I call it the intuition diet :)

  34. Kirsten

    But i do like this post because im sick of people starving themselves because of myths, feeling worry every time they eat a banana. People seem to think that mother nature was a fool and created all these poisonous things for us like we are going to get obese from eating a sweet potato! some peoples bodies want lots of sugar to function and it really depends on your makeup, so don’t deny your body!! <3

  35. Megan

    I have heard people say that even fruit is bad and I’ve always disagreed with that. We are born liking sweet things and that’s because sweet foods do have nutritive value – for example, breast milk is sweet and that’s an infant’s perfect food. The problem is that many foods today are hyper-sweetened and our bodies have gotten off track. Food manufacturers want to sell their products and they know that sugar will do it, so they add sugar. And salt. And shelf-stable fats. I have cut out sugar a few times in the past, but it was always refined sugar that I cut out. Never fruit – in fact fruit was the only thing that made it possible for me to cut out the refined sugar. Whenever I had a craving for sugar I would eat a piece of fruit or a spoonful of raw honey, and I found that eventually I didn’t have those *sugar* cravings anymore but actually wanted specific kinds of fruit instead. I do find that I have to watch how much honey or maple syrup I eat or it can bring back the cravings.

  36. Megan Hardy

    I like how you said “Our body is NOT bent on destroying its own well being.” We just need to listen a little more to what our body is saying.

    A few years ago while on my quest to work on digestive health, I read some candida literature and decided to try a candida cleanse which also included a no sugar diet. Already being on a eat clean whole foods diet, this meant no more fresh or dried fruit, honey, and maple.

    For me personally, cutting out those sugars spiraled my digestive system more out of control than it’s ever been in my life!!! I dropped weight left and right which was scary because I was already skinny to begin with. My body started to feel sickly in many ways. I was clearly unwell to friends and family who observed, everyone including my self felt nervous about these sudden changes.

    I listened to my body and could see that approach was anything but helpful. I added back into my diet those natural sugars. My body thankfully began to regulate itself back to where it was before the cleanse.

    I don’t spend my days researching nutrition so I’m certainly not an expert. But it seems to me we need a variety of things to thrive. “Moderation in all things”!


    1. Post author
      Robin Konie

      Wow, Megan. So glad you listened to your body. It’s too bad more people don’t believe (or at least practice) the moderation idea. :)

      1. Ashley

        Since “I Didn’t Quit Sugar” is no longer available, what do you think is the next best source for finding out more info regarding why you should keep (the good) sugars in your diet?


        1. Post author
          Robin Konie

          Good question. I was so bummed when they had to take their book off market. I’d consider looking at The Nourished Metabolism by Elizabeth Walling. It’s not specifically about sugar, but she addresses a lot of info about stress and the stress hormones which is totally related.

  37. Alyssa

    I am glad I saw your article and I agree with you. Two times within the past few years, I decided to give up sugar and eat only healthy foods. I do not need to lose weight, I’ve always been a healthy weight, but I kept reading all over how bad sugar is for you, so I cut it out completely, or as much as possible. I also kept hearing how sugar ages your skin & makes you look older, etc.

    During those 2 different time periods (about a year of time for each time period) of cutting out sugar in my diet, people asked me if I was sick or recommended that I see a doctor because of my appearance. I looked too thin, pale, my skin was ruddy and I just didn’t look or feel healthy. I had horrible sleep issues, felt very depressed and I felt like someone had zapped the energy out of me.

    Since eating sugar again and not restricting it, I’m back at my healthy weight again, I look and feel healthier, I even get comments on looking younger than my age & I still get carded when going out.

    I am in my 30s. My skin & even my hair looks better. Throughout my 20s, I always ate what I wanted, sugar included. I was always a healthy weight, I felt healthier and people often mistook me for being a lot younger.

    So sorry that this comment is long, but I just wanted to share my story. A very low sugar diet does not benefit me. I do not feel or look healthy. However, now that I’m back to my regular diet again (eating all kinds of foods both healthy and sugary), I am sleeping better, less depressed, more optimistic, I look and feel healthier and have more energy.

    I’m not saying too much sugar isn’t harmful in any way, I have no way of telling that. I’m just saying that I will not give it up ever again. I will continue to eat my ice cream too as well as honey, maple, fruits and pies, cookies and cakes (in moderation). It makes me feel more alive, & not like the walking dead.

    A neighbor of mine went on a vegan diet. He also restricted all sugar in his diet. Well, some of the other neighbors thought he was sick or dying. He did not look well at all.

    Since he stopped the vegan diet and starting eating all the foods he used to eat, he looks much healthier and he says he feels better now.

    I guess everyone is different and I’m sure people won’t agree with us about sugar, but for me, it is worth it for me to eat sugar. I never want to go back to feeling & looking like I was sick and tired everyday.


    1. Post author
      Robin Konie

      Thanks for sharing your story! I’m so glad you listened to your body and are feeling better!

  38. Amanda

    Thanks for the encouraging words. I’ve been told my whole life that sugar is bad, and I cut back on it a few years ago and have almost cut it out completely at this point. I feel tired all the time, I can barely sleep (I can’t even tell you the last time I slept all the way through the night). I pee eight thousand times per day, and I wear a jacket in the summer. I’ve been thinking that my drained-energy feeling and foggy head might be from a lack of sugar, considering I started feeling like this around the same time I took sugar from my diet. Thanks for the words of encouragement – I’ll be adding natural sugar back into my life asap!


    1. Post author
      Robin Konie

      I’d also make sure you’re not drinking too much water… sound like you could have an electrolyte imbalance: too much water, not enough sugar/salt.


    1. Post author
      Robin Konie

      True. But that’s true about almost everything. Even water can kill if not used in the appropriate amounts. I’m not suggesting people binge on sugar, but I definitely get concerned by the “sugar will kill you” mentality. All things in their appropriate amount. :)

  39. Leigh

    For me, it is impossible to be “moderate” with sugar. I’m either fasting from it, or binging on it. If chocolate is in the house, I am totally obsessed with it until I have eaten it ALL. I wish “listening to my body” worked for me, but my body just keeps telling me to eat more and more sugar, and I get fatter and sadder. The only way I can achieve “moderation” is to go long periods of no sugar between binges. Why are some people’s bodies so much smarter than mine?


    1. Post author
      Robin Konie

      I’m sorry, Leigh. Here’s a question: What is the rest of your diet like? I used to be so addicted to sugar, but once I started adding quality fats into my diet I noticed my cravings went down a lot. And then when I ditched processed foods that I really don’t have an issue anymore. If your body is starving for certain nutrients it could be in a stressed state which is why sugar is usually the first food we crave and binge on because it provides immediate energy for the body. Your body is a lot smarter than you think and those cravings are a good indication that there might be something missing in your diet. Hope that helps!

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