I'm super excited to bring to you a very special guest post from JJ Virgin, New York Times Bestselling Author of The Virgin Diet & The Virgin Diet Cookbook. JJ has become a personal friend and I'm delighted that she is appearing on Family For Health with this guest article.
Though JJ's new book, The Sugar Impact Diet and The Sugar Impact Diet Cookbook don't release until the beginning of November, JJ is making available for our tribe a special offer. Yeah!!
For a limited time, you can get the 2-Week Sugar Impact Diet Cookbook for FREE, plus 4 Videos to Transform Your Health by clicking here. In this cookbook, JJ provides an amazing array of recipes that will not only help you to substitute bad sugars with something better, but also help you to keep the worst disguised sugars off of your plate!
JJ's article below walks you through the dangers of sugar impact, a topic that most diets fail to address. Enjoy!
Why Most Plans Miss the Bigger Sugar-Impact Picture by JJ Virgin
“They’re trying to position this as a healthy sweetener,” I told my friend, irately pointing to the low glycemic index label on an agave jar at our local health food sweetener. “The dirty little secret is its high fructose load will quickly tax your liver.”
Focusing on one aspect of sugar impact allows manufacturers to conveniently overlook others. Loading fiber or nutrients into a sugar-laden cookie does not suddenly make it healthy. Likewise, a low glycemic index doesn’t automatically mean a food becomes safe, just as “no high-fructose corn syrup” on the label doesn’t mean it contains healthy sweeteners.
Think about The Beatles. Every one individually put out some great music, but John, Paul, Ringo, and George never matched the synergistic harmony they captured as a group.
Likewise, glycemic load, fructose, nutrient density, and fiber all play a pivotal role to determine a food’s sugar impact, but altogether they provide a more accurate picture about how that food impacts your body.
How Sugar Behaves in Your Body
To better understand sugar impact, you need to consider how sugar breaks down in your body.
All sugars – including so-called healthy ones like honey or agave – break down into two simple sugars, glucose and fructose. They behave very differently. Glucose raises blood sugar, which instigates a hormone called insulin that helps remove sugar from your bloodstream, where it can become toxic.
Insulin delivers some glucose to your cells, which can use a quick energy hit. Your liver and muscle cells can also store a little glucose as glycogen.
If you’ve still got sugar hanging out – and if you eat something like a pint of ice cream, you certainly will – your liver converts that excess glucose as triglycerides, or fat, which finds a nice home around your midsection.
Unlike glucose, fructose doesn’t raise blood sugar, but what it does do becomes far worse. You see, every cell can use glucose, but only your liver metabolizes fructose. When you eat a big fructose load, you put serious pressure on your liver. Some fructose converts to glucose. The rest becomes repackaged as triglycerides (fat).
Nutrient density and fiber help buffer out some of that load, so where that sugar comes from matters too.
Let’s look at each sugar-impact component along with its strengths and limitations.
The glycemic index (GI) measures how a food impacts your blood sugar levels. Pure glucose is ranked highest, at 100, and all other foods are measured accordingly. The higher its glycemic rating, the greater the effect a food will have on your blood sugar.
Critics note the glycemic index doesn’t account for quantity. Potatoes, beets, and carrots are all high on the glycemic index, but it’s easier to eat a lot of potatoes in one sitting than a lot of carrots, right?
That’s why researchers developed the glycemic load (GL), which combines the glycemic index with serving size. You can determine a food’s GL by multiplying the GI of a food by the amount of carbohydrate being consumed, and dividing the total by 100.
If you’re not into math, that can become confusing. Besides, you don’t eat foods in isolation. Determining how foods raise blood sugar in different combinations becomes impossible.
GL also makes fructose look like an angel, since fructose doesn’t raise blood sugar. Both measures become useful to a point, but they miss the bigger picture about sugar impact.
Critics like Dr. Robert Lustig consider fructose the most metabolically damaging sugar. Among its problems, excessive fructose creates insulin resistance, raises triglycerides, increases your risk for numerous diseases like Type 2 diabetes and heart disease, and eventually finds a nice home around your midsection.
Fructose also doesn’t activate insulin or leptin, your hunger hormone that tells your brain to stop eating. Because both hormones impact satiety levels, you can easily overeat fructose without your brain getting the “halt” message.
When I say fructose, I’m talking about high-fructose corn syrup and fructose-sweetened processed foods. Naturally occurring fructose in whole foods like fruit vegetables comes intertwined with fiber and nutrients (more on those in a minute), slowing fructose’s absorption.
Processed fructose-containing Frankenfoods lack those nutrients and fiber, so fructose makes a beeline towards your liver, which has a field day making fat.
Well aware you’ve become nutritionally savvier, manufacturers now boast “no high-fructose corn syrup” to somehow imply a healthier food. Don’t fall for it. Turn the label over and you’ll likely find another sugar listed among ingredients, keeping in mind over 57 names for sugar exist!
Some eating plans develop intricate charts that rank foods according to their nutrient density, which accounts for vitamins, mineral, phytonutrients, and other compounds in that food.
A cup of blueberries contains about 15 grams of sugar. Yet thanks to nutrients and fiber, berries create a low GL, providing a slow, steady rise in blood sugar that won’t trigger a dramatic insulin response.
Nutrients in nature’s foods change the way your body deals with sugar, so even a higher-GL tuber or higher-fructose fruit creates less of a sugar impact. Getting 15 grams of sugar from blueberries or a sweet potato creates a totally different effect than getting 15 grams from a granola bar.
Still, focusing exclusively on nutrient density misses the bigger sugar-impact picture. Eating too many nutrient-dense foods can still deliver a big glycemic and fructose load.
I’ve seen nutrient-enriched cookies that suggest a healthier alternative, even though they still contain a big sugar load. Nutrient-density plans also often undervalue protein and fat, which often rank lower in micronutrient amounts but provide numerous other healthy benefits.
Fiber is my favorite nutrient for fast, lasting fat loss. High-fiber, water-rich plant foods slow down stomach emptying and move slower through your digestive tract. Compared with low-fiber foods, you feel fuller longer.
I also love fiber because it keeps fat moving through your digestive system, steadies blood sugar, and feeds your healthy gut bacteria. Fiber is a fierce secret weapon for balancing your blood sugar and helping you break free from the vice grip of sugar.
Nature packaged fruits, vegetables, and other plant foods with fiber that helps reduce that food’s sugar impact. Juicing strips away that fiber, keeping nutrients intake but creating a big glycemic and fructose load. When you juice an orange, you strip away its fiber even if you keep the nutrients. You wouldn’t sit down and eat four oranges, but you sure could drink that amount in orange juice.
Fiber can reduce a food’s sugar impact, yet I’ve seen plans that allow fiber-enhanced cookies, crackers, and other sugary foods that often contain gluten and other food intolerances. Let’s be clear: Adding four grams of fiber does not suddenly make a cookie healthy.
My goal is for you to eat 50 grams of fiber a day, preferably from low sugar impact foods like avocado, berries, leafy greens, and legumes. If you’re like most folks, you’re probably currently only getting five to 15 grams daily. Be patient and gradually increase intake along with plenty of water.
Looking at the Bigger Picture
While each plays a role, cumulatively looking at glycemic load, fructose, nutrient density, and fiber best helps access a food’s sugar impact.
In my new book The Sugar Impact Diet, I look at all four criteria to determine which foods have the lowest sugar impact. Many folks unknowingly have become sugar addicts, and you’ll become shocked what “healthy” foods often contain hidden sugars.
Rather than ask you to eliminate these higher-sugar impact foods, you gradually taper and transition to a lower-sugar impact plan that helps you burn fat, boost your health, and look and feel your best. The Sugar Impact Diet creates a novel, cutting-edge approach to help you access the best low-sugar impact foods and gradually reduce higher-sugar foods.
Maybe you’ve done a very low-carb or sugar elimination diet in the past. Did you struggle with withdrawal and all its miserable symptoms when you went cold turkey? Share your story below.
I’m addicted to cooking real foods and shopping locally at Farmer’s Markets.I am a health revolutionary who is writing this blog with a desire to “pay it forward in health”.This desire stems from love and my pursuit to make a difference in people’s health and wellbeing”.
I am a certified Transformational Nutrition Coach that helps women discover their healthy lifestyle that finally works so that they can transform into the healthy sexy and confident woman they want, and are meant to be.
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