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The Most Toxic ‘Food’ You Can Eat

by Mark Ament on 04/12/2009

in Healing Words,Nutrition,What's New In...

A subscriber to this newsletter recently asked me to write about some of the health hazards of refined sugar.    I’m very happy to do that.   Because if you only make one improvement to your diet this year, I hope it is to replace refined sugar with raw food sweeteners. If you do, I can guarantee you that smoother digestion, more relaxed muscles, more peaceful emotions and increased mental clarity are soon to follow.

sugarcaneBefore looking at the negative health consequences of eating refined sugar, let’s have a quick look at how it’s made.   This will give you some insight into why it affects the body the way it does.   The majority of sugar comes from sugar cane (Saccharum spp.) which is a dense tall grass that grows in tropical regions.   The juice from sugar cane is traditionally used as a sweetener from India to the Caribbean. And, interestingly, raw sugar cane juice is pretty good for you, being alkalizing and relatively low on the glycemic index.

But in the 1500s manufacturers began refining sugar cane so that it could be more easily transported overseas, especially back to Europe.   Over the years, the process has become increasingly complex and dependent on chemicals.    Here is what happens between cutting sugar cane in the fields and delivering refined sugar to your table.

After harvest, machines at a sugar mill wash, cut, shred and press the juice out of the cane stalks.   This liquid is then heated to boiling and treated with chemical solvents to remove impurities.  Then it is moved to huge tanks and heated again to evaporate the water content.   This leaves a thick syrup that is placed in a centrifuge machine to form the syrup into crystals.

These crystals are then transported to a sugar refinery where they are heated to boiling again, treated with bleach and other chemicals and then filtered through bone char, which is a powder made from cow or pig bones.  After filtering, the syrup is then centrifuged again to produce refined white sugar.    Brown sugar is created by adding molasses before putting it in the centrifuge.

Given the fact that it’s heated to boiling at least three times, treated with chemicals, filtered through bone powder and forced to crystallize, it’s no wonder that refined sugar has literally had the life force beaten out of it.

Refined sugar, white or brown, literally has zero nutritional value – no minerals,  no vitamins, no fiber, no enzymes, no fats – nothing of value for the body.    Instead it’s toxic to the body.  You can live longer on pure water alone, than on water mixed with sugar!!!   French physiologist F. Magendie discovered this in experiments with animals way backin 1816.

Here is what refined sugar does in the body:

  • It produces an acidic condition in the digestive system.   This drains the body of vitamins and minerals and the consequences can be life threatening.  For example the metabolism of sugar requires leaches calcium from the bones and teeth which can lead to tooth decay or osteoporosis. Sugar also depletes the body of potassium and magnesium, which are required for proper cardiac function, and is therefore a major factor in heart disease.
  • It compromises the body’s immunes system and stresses the pancreas by forcing it to produce a rush of digestive enzymes.  This can lead to the formation gallstones and diabetes.
  • It depletes stores of vitamin B, which is our brain food, and can interfere with memory, concentration and other mental functions.
  • It makes the blood very thick and sticky, inhibiting much of the blood flow into the minute capillaries that supply our skin gums and teeth with vital nutrients.  Refined sugar has been shown to increase wrinkles and dry, aged skin.
  • When excess sugar is eaten, it is first stored in the liver.  With continued consumption the liver expands like a balloon and begins to function poorly.   An improperly functioning liver can quickly lead to high blood pressure, skin disorders and acne to name a few.
  • In addition, most people consume far more sugar than their bodies can possibly use for energy. When this happens, the liver converts the extra sugar into molecules called triglycerides and stores it as fat, or else produces cholesterol from the by-products of sugar and deposits it in veins and arteries. Sugar is thus a major factor in obesity and arteriosclerosis.
  • It also negatively effects behavior.  Refined sugar consumption has been linked to violent behavior, hypertension, and learning impediments.  In one study violence in prisons was remarkably reduced simply by eliminating refined sugar and starch from prison diets.  And Singapore in 1991 banned sugary  drink sales from all schools and youth center’s, citing the danger that sugar poses to the mental and physical health of children.
  • Finally refined sugar is an addictive substance. Abruptly giving up sugar often brings on the sort of withdrawal symptoms associated with narcotic drugs- fatigue, lassitude, depression, moodiness, headaches, aching limbs. This happens as the body eliminates the left over toxins from the sugar and begins to bring itself back into balance.

As you can see, putting processed sugar into your body makes no sense at all.  It is something like pouring sugar into the gas tank of a million dollar racing car.   The only reason to do it if you want to screw up your car/body for some reason.

danger
Fortunately for all of us with a sweet tooth, there are many natural raw sweeteners that are not only harmless to the body, but actually support it.   The highest choice is to use 100% unrefined and untreated sweeteners. These are what I use exclusively in my own life and in my raw vegetarian cuisine book:

  • Fruits
  • Dried fruits like dates or raisins
  • Pure cane juice
  • Raw, unprocessed cane sugar
  • Agave syrup
  • Stevia and Stevia extract
  • Yacon syrup
  • Raw honey
  • Mezquite powder

Most of these are available at any health food store.  Just make sure to ask if they are minimally processed and raw (meaning unheated).

Whatever you choose, you can be sure of this: eliminating refined sugar from your diet is one of the kindest and most loving things you could ever do for your body.   Please pass this information on to anyone in your life who you care about.

Some eye opening sugar facts:

  • Sir Frederick Banting, the co discoverer of insulin, noted in 1929 that among sugar plantation owners who ate large amounts of refined sugar, diabetes was common. Among native cane-cutters, who only chewed the raw cane, he saw no diabetes.
  • In 1915, the average of sugar consumption was around 7-10 Kg per person per year. Today the average person consumes about 70 kg
  • In 2002, almost 132 million tons of sugar were consumed worldwide.
  • Sugar is used in leather tanning, printers’ inks and dyes and even in textile sizing and finishing
  • Film stuntmen use bottles and plate glass windows made of sugar
  • Chemical manufacturers use sugar to grow penicillin
  • Sugar hardens asphalt. It slows the setting of ready-mixed concrete and glue.
  • About 30% of refined sugar comes from sugar beets.  The rest comes from sugar cane
  • One 12 oz. Cola contains 11 teaspoons of sugar.
  • Sugar was one of the first pharmaceutical ingredients used, as it still is today, to mask k the bitter taste of medicines


Sugar Related Health Problems:

All of these conditions have been linked in medical literature to high sugar consumption.  Eliminating refined sugar from your diet is a great first step in improving them.

Acne
Addiction to drugs, caffeine & food
Adrenal gland exhaustion
Alcoholism
Allergies
Anxiety
Appendicitis
Arthritis
Asthma
Behavior problems
Binge eating
Bloating
Bone loss
Cancer (cancer cells feed on sugar)
Candidiasis
Cardiovascular disease
Cataracts
Colitis
Constipation
Depression
Dermatitis
Diabetes
Difficulty concentrating
Diverticulitis & diverticulosis
Eczema
Edema
Emotional problems
Endocrine gland dysfunction
Fatigue
Food cravings
Gallstones
Gout
Heart Disease
High blood cholesterol
High estrogen levels
High triglyceride levels
Hormonal problems
Hyperactivity
High blood pressure
Hypoglycemia
Impaired digestion of all foods
Indigestion
Insomnia
Kidney stones
Liver dysfunction
Liver enlargement & fatty liver syndrome
Low HDL cholesterol
Menstrual difficulties
Mental illness
Mood swings
Muscle pain
Nearsightedness
Obesity
Osteoporosis
Overacidity
Parasitic infections
Premature aging & wrinkles
Premenstrual syndrome
Psoriasis
Rheumatism
Shortened life span
Tooth decay
Ulcers
Vaginal yeast infections

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Vicki December 6, 2009 at 8:26 am

Hello Mark,

I signed up a few days ago for your e-mail newsletter and the information you are sending to me is great. I especially like the one about sugar. I can relate to the article. Refine Sugar has casued many problems for me. It is an on going process of eliminating. I am looking forward to purchasing your cleansing program very soon. I have been looking for something herbal. I thank you and look forward to your articles. Regards Vicki, Adelaide, South Australia.

Donna Thomas December 23, 2009 at 7:19 am

Hi Mark,
I am a diabetes nurse and an epidemiologist. I have been aware of the problems with sugar for over 30 years and it’s been a major focus of informal study for me. I want to commend you on a website that warns of the health damage associated with the consumption of sugar. Your list of health conditions related to over-using sugar is right on the money. There is also one area where I have to disagree with you and that is your list of recommended sweeteners. Many of the sweeteners listed are concentrated sources of sugar and, whereas they may not be as bad for you as refined sugar, they are not harmless, especially for folks who are prone to hyperinsulinemia, obesity and type 2 diabetes. These people will continue on their course to diabetic complications and heart disease if they consume things like agave syrup, honey, dried fruits. Missing from of your list is the best thing I’ve found to substitute for sugar and that is xylitol. I know, the automatic reaction to this is suspicion that it is an artificial sweetener and therefore bad for you. What I can tell you is that xylitol occurs naturally in fruits, and in the body as well, and it has been used extensively in northern Europe since WWII. It has never been shown to have any human toxicity, even in large quantities. It is also one of the few alkalinizing sweeteners and it eliminates the overgrowth of microbes associated with the over-consumption of sugar. I have been using it personally for months and it’s been a godsend for me. It tastes exactly like sugar and can be used in most recipes, cup for cup, in place of sugar. I’ve made some incredible desserts with xylitol and you really can’t tell the difference. The greatest thing is that it doesn’t cause a spike in blood sugar or insulin. And a personal observation: I’m not sure why but I’ve noticed lately when I consume xylitol daily, I don’t seem to be tempted by sugar-sweetened desserts like I normally would be (e.g., at a restaurant or social event…). For a sugar junky who has fought a sweet tooth for years, sometimes winning and often losing, this is a miracle. I recommend it to my diabetic patients. The only negatives I’ve seen are some mild diarrhea in some people right at first if they aren’t used to it and eat a large quantity (this didn’t happen with me). Also, like chocolate, xylitol is safe for humans but can be quite toxic to dogs, so anyone with pets needs to be careful not leave any around where dogs can get to it.
Long-winded, I know, sorry, but please check xylitol out, try it, and then get the word out. Thanks!

annbritt January 6, 2010 at 9:39 pm

Hello mark and Happy New Year!

A rawfoodist would not use Xylitol as it is processed. However it is a better alternative than sugar although I would prefer Agave or (green leaf) Stevia.

Allt he best,
Annbritt

Mark Ament January 7, 2010 at 9:01 am

Just a quick response her to Annbritt. That’s a good point you make. Just a couple of things to add. 1. There is a lot of question whether Agave is really raw (requires some heat to extract it from the plant) and whether or not it is healthy, especially in the quantities used. 2. Gabriel Cousens, the author of many books on living food nutrition and a medical doctor, has approved Xylitol and encouraged its use. Perhaps this is because of his focus on curing diabetes. I’m still doing research and experimenting. More in a later article. 🙂 Mark

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