3

votes

Is sugar really sugar? And should we stop and think once and a while?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created August 05, 2013 at 9:43 AM

So I was with a friend over the weekend who is interested in trying a whole-food cyclic low-carbohydrate diet (< 50g of carbohydrate a day) in effort to move some stubborn body-fat.

I asked her what she was eating before and she was in total eating < 150g of carbohydrate a day anyway, but she said she was certainly 'messing up' over the weekend with some dessert at a restaurant etc. "I'm eating a load of carbs!!"

Saturday evening while she was saying all this I recalled back to her everything she had eaten that day in regards to carbohydrate specifically:

  • 1 x gin & tonic
  • 5 x battered calamari rings
  • 5 x fries off my plate
  • 5 x slices of sourdough bread
  • 1 x scoop vanilla icecream
  • 1 piece of my homemade praline (caramelised sugar with hazelnuts)

Now when you casually glance at this from with a 'paleo' perspective this seems equivalent of a 'cheat' day, or at worst 'a failure' as some like to call it.

Lets look a little closer at the carbohydrate though...

  • 1 x gin & tonic: 3g
  • 5 x battered calamari rings: 10g
  • 5 x fries off my plate: 20g
  • 5 x slices of sourdough bread: 100g
  • 1 x scoop vanilla icecream: 25g
  • 1 piece of my homemade praline (at most 30g caramelised sugar with hazelnuts): 30g

Generously rounded up, erring on the higher side: 188g carbohydrate.

Now her biggest concern was indeed the bread and the praline. But (and now here is my actual question) her worry was that she had basically splurged on sugar because from her point of view she had eaten a lot of 'sugary stuff'. I asked her how many grams of carbohydrate in total was in my home-made praline made with 60g of caramelised sugar? She frowned at the stupidity of my question.

I then pointed out that if we made our 'paleo' roast chicken, sweet potatoes and parsnips she would have happily consumed a bunch of 'good carbohydrate' probably totalling about 80g.

She ate a piece of my praline, at the very most 30g of carbohydrate.

Now I am under no illusion of the almost zero nutritional usefulness of eating sucrose alone (let alone caramelised), BUT what I wanted to point out to my friend was that the only real difference in eating 30g of carbohydrate in sucrose, and 30g of carbohydrate in 'safe starches' is the added benefits of nutrition and fibre bundled along with the potato.

The question I am posing with this unnecessarily verbose story, is that though all of us understand that we should be striving for optimal nutrition in every meal, the reality of what we eat sometimes does not match what we assume is the reality. That people need to be careful not to class foods on a 'moral scale' and thus feel degraded or a failure when in all actuality they have not actually done anything significant. They have demonised foods when they were eating the same thing just in another form.

Obtaining your carbohydrate predominantly from table sugar is not particular useful, but at the end of the day, (and do correct me if I am truly wrong), sugar is sugar is sugar, and for a healthy active person who works out three days a week, eating at most 200g of carbohydrate in whatever form is ultimately going to end up being metabolised in the same way.

The major point I see is what state the body was in (hourly/daily/monthly) prior to consuming any amount of carbohydrate. Do nothing muscle taxing and eat 200g of carbohydrate every day and your liver and muscle glycogen stores would stay nicely topped up and the usefulness of consuming carbohydrate is questionable.

Have a good workout practise in place, and eating even 100g of sucrose really isn't going to do anything unhelpful apart from spike your blood sugar quicker then you can can spell 'carbohydrate' backwards. I certainly don't think consuming 100g of carbohydrate from table sugar is going to effect ones body-composition differently then eating 100g of carbohydrate provided by safe starches. In some circumstances eating 50g of table sugar in the form of icecream would be better then eating 200g of sugar provided by nutritionally dense starchy vegetables.

[Update in regards to this paragraph: http://watcut.uwaterloo.ca/webnotes/Metabolism/page-4.1.html So my blanket statement was wrong. But I did mean this in the specific context of carbohydrate/glycogen not in the context of sucrose displacing nutrition.]

The point is those potatoes may give you more bang for your buck nutritionally, all culminating in being well-nourished and thus in a better position to be more active and increase one's lean-body-mass. But carbohydrate is carbohydrate.

Anyhow any one have any thoughts on all this?

Update:

Just for some more clarification here. I am not arguing against eating whole-foods. My friend and I eat a Perfect Health Diet, but we also tend to go out and have a meal at a restaurant or pub from time to time. We also cook everything from scratch including praline.

The main thrust of my post is to draw attention to the assumption that some foods are thought to cause more damage then they actually do. I am not talking about chronically eating unhelpful foods, (I am writing this question on a health forum), I am pushing on the point that some people think eating some table sugar in the form of a dessert is somehow vastly different to eating the same amount in a 'paleo' food.

There is a big difference eating large amounts of low nutritious carbohydrate every day. BUT I would hazard a guess that if you are constantly really well nourished (from all your other foods) and decided to get your carbohydrate in the form of sucrose, there would not be much difference in the outcome. And YES I am fully aware of the worries about fructose, I have also read both of the Jaminet's books.

Sucrose is half glucose half fructose, so you need to avoid sucrose in order to avoid fructose. - Paul Jaminet.

96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84

(19463)

on August 06, 2013
at 10:38 AM

+1 - beyond the fiber which slows down the glycemic load, even more important is that when you consume sugar your body needs those minerals, especially magnesium and antioxidants to process it and clean up after the ROS damage caused by metabolizing it. Table sugar doesn't come with it, veggies do. tl;dr eating sugar depletes you of micronutrients, eating actual fruits and veggies gives you much needed nutrition.

96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84

(19463)

on August 06, 2013
at 10:34 AM

Yeah, I get it, I'm coming from protein isn't protein, fat isn't fat, carbs aren't just carbs - it's the kind that matters. What you were asking about is more of a headspace psychological approach question. I'm not sure we even met in the middle. :)

Ca2c940a1947e6200883908592956680

(8574)

on August 06, 2013
at 07:54 AM

Yeah, that was my point. Maximise nutrition in food choices. But if you were well nourished then eating "dessert carbs" is not much trouble.

Ca2c940a1947e6200883908592956680

(8574)

on August 06, 2013
at 07:51 AM

That kind of was the point of my post, at the end of the day eating 10g of carbohydrate is eating 10g of carbohydrate. The amount of glucose, fructose, maltose changes but if you get 10g of glucose from vegetables or 10g of glucose from table sugar it is the same thing.

5cb72179fcddcee6a6b570dc80269a1a

(78)

on August 06, 2013
at 06:46 AM

I may have exaggerated with the sweet potato analogy, but the point is, a lot of Paleo people over consume healthy foods to point that the overall benefit is almost negated by virtue of excessive nutrients or macronutrients.

5cb72179fcddcee6a6b570dc80269a1a

(78)

on August 06, 2013
at 06:44 AM

I pretty much agree with the spirit of Mash's post. I feel some in the Paleo community do "Freak out" unnecessarily. Yes, I too am aware that fructose is treated like a poison (Lustig was it?), but the general idea that we kinda demonize food items but at the same time overlook the nature of how we eat is indeed prevalent. Eating 12 oz of sweet potato is IMHO a bad idea. Eating 30 grams of virtually any carb is better than consuming that much sweet potato in one meal. Also the benefits of exercise are so enormous that the impact of these cheat days are negligible.

86c97b2779feab3c330f5e1c5fea7e25

(2312)

on August 05, 2013
at 03:14 PM

HE IS JUST TRYING TO PUT THIS OUT THERE FOR "SCIENTIFIC" REASONS!! I found this very interesting and gave a +1 because I like when people dive further than "Is this Paleo?". I understand this is a Paleo site and I love that aspect, but the whole point of Paleo foods is knowing how all foods react with your body. Good question...sorry I have zero answer

B5141236ad924674a96803ee1ccccaf1

(485)

on August 05, 2013
at 02:26 PM

I agree as well. How i feel effects how i eat effects how i feel...

Ca2c940a1947e6200883908592956680

(8574)

on August 05, 2013
at 02:18 PM

Yes agree, I think anyone who has switched to whole foods knows this feeling.

Ca2c940a1947e6200883908592956680

(8574)

on August 05, 2013
at 11:39 AM

Also my friend works out 3 days a week, dances 2 days a week and is around 18% body fat (last time I measured her with calipers). Hence my push on her NOT freaking out, out of proportion to the reality of her eating around 150g of carbs in the form of praline and bread. Her assumption was she probably ate 500g of carbs and going to go up 2% in body fat.

Ca2c940a1947e6200883908592956680

(8574)

on August 05, 2013
at 11:35 AM

Yes thanks, I knew about the fructose issue. Just found this http://watcut.uwaterloo.ca/webnotes/Metabolism/page-4.1.html and added to my post.

Ca2c940a1947e6200883908592956680

(8574)

on August 05, 2013
at 11:07 AM

Raydawg, good post. I added an update to my original question. I don't doubt the unhelpfulness of eating 1/2 cup of flour, 1 alcoholic drink, and a teaspoon of sunflower oil. No one eats 180g of table sugar day, but people do eat 15g and freak out, out of proportion to the reality of the matter.

Ca2c940a1947e6200883908592956680

(8574)

on August 05, 2013
at 10:00 AM

Milfy, been eating ancestrally for about near 2 years now. Have some sucrose containing food and even bread once of twice a month. No one who is wise eats 100g of plain table sugar every day, but the point of my post was to question the actual reality of the matter when someone eats 'some' table sugar and thinks they have broken their entire metabolism.

Ca2c940a1947e6200883908592956680

(8574)

on August 05, 2013
at 10:00 AM

Milfy, been eating ancestrally for about near 2 years now. Have some sucrose containing food and even bread once of twice a month. No one who is wise eats 100g of plain table sugar every day, but the point of my post was to question the actual reality of the matter when someone eat 'some' table sugar and thinks they have broken their entire metabolism.

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7 Answers

3
96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84

(19463)

on August 05, 2013
at 10:34 AM

To be honest, the 150g of carbs per day isn't set in stone. Some people are big and tall, some are short, some are muscular, some aren't, some are skinny fat, some are plain fat, and some are plain skinny. A person with a larger muscular engine has a lot more room to store glycogen in their muscles before blood levels rise to the point of triggering insulin to store them in fat (or worse sacrifice their kidneys in a futile attempt to lower blood sugar due to years of high carb abuse and systemic insulin resistance.)

One person's "limit" of 150g of carbs per day may well be 300g for another, or 100g for another. It's just a number that Mark Sisson noticed as the cutoff between maintaining stable weight and starting to gain. He also noticed that between 100g to 150g there is medium fat loss, and that under 50 there is accelerated fat loss. He didn't however notice what happens at zero grams when the thyroid slows down. AFAIK, there's no long term study involved.

Now that doesn't mean those numbers are wrong as much as it's an average value.

Also, that value doesn't take into account any alcohol intake, nor activity levels, nor the quality of the food. So it's a nice guideline for people who are eating paleo. Your friend clearly isn't. As well all know, or should know, alcohol is lots of fun, but it does stall fat loss.

Nor does this nice average value take into account the different types of sugars and how they are metabolized. Glucose, fructose, sucrose, lactose, etc. However, I can tell you that we have a nice enzyme in our saliva called sucrase that cleaves table sugar into free glucose and free fructose once the sucrose and sucrase hit the acid in our stomachs.

Our liver will process alcohol much by the same pathways as it processes fructose - this is because it considers both a form of poison, so its highest priority is to get rid of it. This is expensive and depletes certain enzymes and vitamins, and there is some time involved before it complete this task.

Now, we (the paleolithically evolved we) use fructose as a signal that summer is about to end, because there's an abundance of fruit available at the end of summer, which is higher in fructose than what we've been eating all year, and that Winter is Coming, and therefore we should start storing up fat reserves for the lean times in winter.

The problem is that in the modern world, (for SAD eaters) winter never really comes - we're mostly indoors with plenty of comfy heat. There's an abundance of food all year round, especially season-inappropriate food, and especially human-inappropriate food like products. There are never any times of fasts, there is an abundance of bad advice such as eat 6 meals a day, etc. So modern zoo-humans have a chronic level of insulin and around the clock insulin spikes, so it doesn't matter how carefully you estimated your 180 calories of carbs. The stage is set for lots of harm.

There's a large difference between 180g of carbs from, say a sweet potato, and 180g of carbs from pure bleached GMO sucrose. So no, your assumptions are very much incorrect.

And I haven't even bothered to mention all the ill effects from all the other stuff your "friend" was eating from caramel made with ammonia (assuming for a minute, not your home made praline, but a commercial one), artificial color, trans-fat laden "vegetable" oils, preservatives, artificial flavors, and never mind all the breading and other wheat sources.

And yes, what we actually eat does matter. What we think we ate doesn't as it has no effect on the outcome. If you eat crap, the results will speak for themselves. If you exercise self-control, the results will also speak for themselves.

Ca2c940a1947e6200883908592956680

(8574)

on August 05, 2013
at 11:07 AM

Raydawg, good post. I added an update to my original question. I don't doubt the unhelpfulness of eating 1/2 cup of flour, 1 alcoholic drink, and a teaspoon of sunflower oil. No one eats 180g of table sugar day, but people do eat 15g and freak out, out of proportion to the reality of the matter.

96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84

(19463)

on August 06, 2013
at 10:34 AM

Yeah, I get it, I'm coming from protein isn't protein, fat isn't fat, carbs aren't just carbs - it's the kind that matters. What you were asking about is more of a headspace psychological approach question. I'm not sure we even met in the middle. :)

1
68655ec9711d207d69a63ebf96b37573

on August 05, 2013
at 04:57 PM

Do you really think that the sugar from a carrot or parsnip or sweet potato is bad for you like the refined, processed sugar in icecream or praline? Come on. Or rather, that refined sugar is as 'safe' like the sugar in root veggies?

Sugar in a carrot comes with fibre, minerals, vitamins etc. It takes time to be digested. You don't get a blood sugar spike and a crash and all the associated problems that will cause

Aside from that, a <50g carbs/day diet is enough to send a lot of girls into hypothroidism. I hope she's doing at least 2 higher carbs days a week as part of her cycle.

96440612cf0fcf366bf5ad8f776fca84

(19463)

on August 06, 2013
at 10:38 AM

+1 - beyond the fiber which slows down the glycemic load, even more important is that when you consume sugar your body needs those minerals, especially magnesium and antioxidants to process it and clean up after the ROS damage caused by metabolizing it. Table sugar doesn't come with it, veggies do. tl;dr eating sugar depletes you of micronutrients, eating actual fruits and veggies gives you much needed nutrition.

Ca2c940a1947e6200883908592956680

(8574)

on August 06, 2013
at 07:51 AM

That kind of was the point of my post, at the end of the day eating 10g of carbohydrate is eating 10g of carbohydrate. The amount of glucose, fructose, maltose changes but if you get 10g of glucose from vegetables or 10g of glucose from table sugar it is the same thing.

1
C6648ab69e5a1560c7585fe3ba7108fb

on August 05, 2013
at 01:47 PM

I think you may be ignoring the issue of how food makes you feel; you're looking at sugar vs low-GI index carbs in terms of weight gain, but what about how you feel after the meal? I know for me, I can consume a large sweet potato without any noticeable change in energy levels, but even half the amount of calories (~100-150) of pure sugar will leave me hot, irritable, and tired not long after. I tend to avoid sugar nowadays not because of the weight gain issue, but just because it makes me feel like crap when I eat it.

Ca2c940a1947e6200883908592956680

(8574)

on August 05, 2013
at 02:18 PM

Yes agree, I think anyone who has switched to whole foods knows this feeling.

B5141236ad924674a96803ee1ccccaf1

(485)

on August 05, 2013
at 02:26 PM

I agree as well. How i feel effects how i eat effects how i feel...

1
Ce41c230e8c2a4295db31aec3ef4b2ab

(32564)

on August 05, 2013
at 10:59 AM

The body metabolizes sucrose slightly differently from starch (glucose) and that could make a difference for some, depending on the state of your (her) liver.

Ca2c940a1947e6200883908592956680

(8574)

on August 05, 2013
at 11:35 AM

Yes thanks, I knew about the fructose issue. Just found this http://watcut.uwaterloo.ca/webnotes/Metabolism/page-4.1.html and added to my post.

0
4610451431ec7155c87a5698be682a95

(1122)

on August 05, 2013
at 02:44 PM

The main issue I see for your friend, who is clearly body conscious, is the "idea" of these foods as being more damaging, i.e. fattening. To me these foods, esp. the booze/sugar are so calorically dense that they are easy to misjudge and consume mass quantities of. 5 pieces of bread? Even non paleo days I didn't eat that many. 188 grams of broccoli, spinach, kale is pretty damn hard to do. 188 g of ice cream/pralines is not! In the end this comes down to bang-for-buck nutrient density. Pralines, ice cream(I'm not ray peat)= low nutrients no matter if it "fits" in your friends carb count per day or not.

Ca2c940a1947e6200883908592956680

(8574)

on August 06, 2013
at 07:54 AM

Yeah, that was my point. Maximise nutrition in food choices. But if you were well nourished then eating "dessert carbs" is not much trouble.

0
12759c9d9feed59f967d56f73bf43ffe

on August 05, 2013
at 11:11 AM

I think the biggest difference is how full you feel on 150 carbs or sugars from fruits and vegetables, compared to how you feel on 150 carbs or sugars from straight table sugar. Man cannot live on table sugar alone, and even if I down all of that sugar, end game, I'm still hungry! If I down a healthy serving or two of veggies and fruits, I'm going to feel full for quite a while, thence making any diet easier to stick to. If I'm constantly hungry, that diet is getting thrown out of the window!

French fries are hardly what I'd consider paleo fare, along with the bread and ice cream. For someone trying to avoid carbs, they're definitely not avoiding carbs! I personally would consider one piece of potato bread cheating, but your sheet says she had five pieces of sourdough! As far as guilt complexes and food, I look at my daily intake, versus what I happen to be shoving in my mouth. If I'm reasonably balanced for the day, I'm okay. My mom goes on a weekly balance - she may have some Froyo one day, but at the end of her week, everything has evened out. It's all about finding a system that works for you. Many people build one cheat day into their diets. One of my favorite omg-I-want-carbs cheat is rice - low in lectins and gluten free. I get to feed my carb craving (but never too often), but I know I'm still making a healthier choice than a plate full of alfredo. If you're too strict on yourself, you set yourself up for failure. There are some great primal/paleo recipes for crackers (ground sunflower seeds and whole sesame seeds in equal quantities, brushed with some sea salt and organic rosemary is one of my favs) that can make you feel like you're cheating, without the consequences. Set yourself up a system, and then live and stay within that system. Just remember that no one is perfect, so build those flaws into your system so that you can still feel successful.

0
23fe01308e3320ecf144b47b99a135a4

(149)

on August 05, 2013
at 09:50 AM

I really don't see the point of you going into great detail with your friends meal. Who cares what she eats, what's your point?

I disagree with your comment "Have a good workout practise in place, and eating even 100g of sucrose really isn't going to do anything unhelpful apart from spike your blood sugar quicker then you can can spell 'carbohydrate' backwards. I certainly don't think consuming 100g of carbohydrate from table sugar is going to effect ones body-composition differently then eating 100g of carbohydrate provided by safe starches".

I think most of us who are on this site (and living the paleo lifestyle) have found, from experience, this is incorrect.

Are you even following a paleo lifestyle? If no, why are you on here?

Ca2c940a1947e6200883908592956680

(8574)

on August 05, 2013
at 10:00 AM

Milfy, been eating ancestrally for about near 2 years now. Have some sucrose containing food and even bread once of twice a month. No one who is wise eats 100g of plain table sugar every day, but the point of my post was to question the actual reality of the matter when someone eat 'some' table sugar and thinks they have broken their entire metabolism.

Ca2c940a1947e6200883908592956680

(8574)

on August 05, 2013
at 10:00 AM

Milfy, been eating ancestrally for about near 2 years now. Have some sucrose containing food and even bread once of twice a month. No one who is wise eats 100g of plain table sugar every day, but the point of my post was to question the actual reality of the matter when someone eats 'some' table sugar and thinks they have broken their entire metabolism.

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