Sugar, Sugar Everywhere

I’m a sweet lover. I love everything sweet and for years the refined, sugary foods in my diet have caused many health issues. From body pain to foggy thinking, I knew my love of sweet foods were to blame. Over the years I’ve slowly changed my highly processed/high sugar diet into one full of healthy whole foods. But, I haven’t removed all sugars. I’ve simply switched my favourite refined sugary treats for better sugars and my body thanks me everyday. Gone are the blood sugar crashes, digestive issues, pain, and grumpiness. I can think clearly, I feel great, AND I get to eat sweet things.

But why is refined sugar so hard on the body? White sugar and high-fructose corn syrup have been stripped of all of their trace minerals that the body needs to digest them properly, and so they use the body’s nutrient resources to break down these sugars. In particular they steal B vitamins and magnesium from the body…nutrients needed by the adrenal glands to handle and manage stress. Through this adrenal stress, high sugar intake can increase feelings of anxiety and leave us feeling overwhelmed.

Refined sugar is usually mixed with low-fibre refined flour and this potent combo can cause a spike in your blood sugar...leading to a blood sugar drop a few hours later. A drop in blood sugar ramps up our craving for sweet foods, which creates another spike…and another drop, and so on and so on. Many of our food choices are made during these blood sugar drops, and instead of grabbing a healthy snack we tend to need something fast, easy, and sweet right away. It’s a hard cycle to break, particularly if your first sweet treat is in the morning.

But, not all sugars are the same; whole, unrefined sugar affects the body very differently. Let’s take a look at the different types of sugar:

Refined Sugars

White & brown sugar (sugar cane or sugar beet) – These sugars have been fully refined and stripped of all nutrients. Brown sugar has been refined as well, but some of the molasses removed in the processing is added back in. Sugar beet is also highly genetically-modified.

High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) – This highly refined sugar is made in a lab behind closed doors. Very few people know how this sugar is processed, and due to its very cheap price it has been added to all sorts of foods; from drinks to yogurt, and seemingly healthy processed foods. HFCS been linked to weight gain, diabetes, and liver issues…stay away from this sugar! Also known as glucose/fructose and corn sugar.

Agave Syrup – Most of the agave syrup on the market is highly refined and very high in fructose. The level of fructose is so high (up to 90% fructose) that it can easily cause weight gain and liver issues. This is not a sugar I recommend.

All Artificial Sweeteners – Research is finding a link between these sweeteners and metabolic issues. They’ve even been linked to more weight gain than refined sugar! Be especially careful when these sweeteners are added to drinks.

Healthy Sweets


Fruit – Our body loves fruit when it’s in its whole form. The fibre slows down the release of the naturally occurring fructose and it’s full of vitamins and antioxidants.

Honey – Raw, local honey is a very healthy and healing food. Unprocessed and low in fructose, it won’t cause the liver issues agave and other fructose sugars can. It also has anti-viral properties and is works wonderfully on a stubborn cough.

Maple Syrup – This whole sugar is wonderful on oatmeal and other breakfast whole grains, and contains all of the trace minerals needed to be properly digested.

Sucanut (unrefined cane sugar) – This is a great substitute in any recipe that calls for white or brown sugar. Same flavour, but unrefined!

Coconut Sugar/Palm sugar – New on the market and quite popular, this sugar is easy to use in all recipes and won’t cause blood sugar fluctuations.

Life can be sweet! Take a look at your diet and find anywhere you can switch refined sugar for whole sugar. Put sugar in your coffee? Try honey instead! Like brown sugar on your oatmeal? Maple syrup tastes fantastic! You’ll feel better, have steady energy, and you won’t even think about going back to refined sugar.

Lisa Kilgour, Registered Holistic Nutritionist from, loves to help others find balance and be happy.

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