Okay fine. Sugar, the sweet, sweet truth.
I made a smoothie today: a really good one, in fact. “Oh, a super-good one with wild organic low-sugar berries, organic grass-fed no-sweetener-added whey protein powder, and no-calorie Stevia drops?!” Um, no. Gross. Do people actually eat stuff like that? I’m talking a real smoothie. I’m talking the kind of smoothie that would simultaneously put Dr. Robert Lustig (that dude over there) and Gary Taubes into a diabetic coma just from hearing about it.
What was in it? Bananas: super ripe and sugary bananas. There were between 12-14 big ones in there. I tend to lose count as I’m more focused on fitting as much as possible into the blender. I also dropped in a small glug of apple juice to get things moving, at least 3 heaping tablespoons of hyper-sugary coconut nectar to up the caloric-density (it’s just like any other sweetener, only fancy-schmancy and hippie-dippy.), and a good pinch of salt. Don’t underestimate that pinch of salt, either. It balances out the flavors really nicely, rehydrates your cells and balances your fluids after a sweaty workout, and helps side-step the post-smoothie freeze (chilly hands and feet, anyone?) that your usual health-fanatic’s kale juice and watermelon smoothie will do every time.
Now I know what you’re thinking: “That’s a lot of sugar, bub. You must be 300 pounds or something!” Well, it is a lot of sugar: you’ve got that right. It’s somewhere over 260 grams, to be exact, equaling out to about 65 cubes of straight sugar. Go ahead and picture that in your head. Maybe even make a mental sugar cube Sphinx sculpture or something cool like that.
But the crazy thing is, I’m not 300 pounds. I may not be gracing the next Abs Issue of Men’s Health anytime within the next few months, but I used to weigh well over 320 pounds and since have just about halved my body weight eating fructose and sucrose-rich concoctions exactly like this.
“No, no, no! I’ve heard plenty of low-carb and anti-sugar advocates quoting studies done on rats where GMO high fructose corn syrup consisted of 60% of their total calories, and they concluded that sugar was real bad stuff!” you say. Without getting into how ridiculous and downright silly it is to use data like this to recommend against consuming sugar, let’s just use some good ol’ common sense and take a bit more critical look at how the sweet stuff affects our waistlines.
Alright, so I’ve lost 150 pounds of fat eating a high-sugar diet, mostly coming from the sugar in sweet fruit. But alone, that isn’t enough to conclude that sugar won’t make you fat. So let’s take a look at the typical “sugary” foods that most people agree will make you fat: donuts, cupcakes, and pastries. Sure, there’s a good amount of sugar in these foods. Your average little chocolate donut has around 11 grams. But what else are you getting along with that sugar? A big load of grease: namely, hydrogenated (trans fats), omega 6-laden vegetable oils like soy and corn. At least 50% of the total calories that make up a donut come from the stuff.
You don’t need to be a nutritional scientist to know that deep-frying a bunch of dough in grease probably isn’t going to be the best for you. All of those omega 6 fats that make up the veggie oil just end up slowing down your thyroid and causing all sorts of inflammation in your body and elevated cortisol levels, leading to some serious damage to your metabolism. Not good if you’re looking to lean up or avoid blowing out.
But hold on a second: what’s up with blaming the sugar you’re eating in that box of Krispy Kremes for making you fat, and totally disregarding all of that refined soybean oil you ate, too? Seems to me like it’s a matter of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, or the banana out with the peel, rather.
Granted, some forms of sugar are far healthier than others. It’s hard to beat the sweet stuff found in something like a perfectly ripe mango or a fresh-off-the-vine ooey-gooey date. But what about refined sweeteners, like the aforementioned coconut nectar, or maple and agave syrup, or blackstrap molasses? Or the even further refined sweeteners like straight-up white sugar?
Well, think about this for just a second: honestly, how many people do you know who became overweight from eating banana smoothies for breakfast, putting a bit of brown sugar and molasses on their oatmeal, or even some of the dreaded refined white stuff on top of their corn flakes? Jokes about what kind of white stuff Tony “Scarface” Montana puts on his morning cereal aside, even the sweet white stuff most people put on their Cheerios isn’t inherently some sort of toxic, fattening substance.
I know, I know. I’m no biochemistry major and I certainly don’t claim to be. But this really isn’t that complex of a thing. Anyone who legitimately became overweight (not just gained a couple extra pounds) from eating foods with refined sugar in them hasn’t done so just from eating the sugar. There needed to be something else, like downing a load of vegetable oil with it and/or drinking 3 quarts of Coca-Cola or fruit punch per day.
Those 3 quarts of sugary liquid isn’t an exaggeration for some people either. Ever notice in any of those obesity documentaries or TV shows that the majority of severely obese people are drinking anywhere between 2-5 quarts of soda or juice per day, in addition to everything else they are eating? Considering that the quickest way to thrash your thyroid and dramatically slower your metabolism is to over-consume liquids from any source and diluting your cellular fluids, this is something that needs to be considered when it comes to weight gain or loss.
Now I’m not telling people to go and down as much refined sugar as possible, or to eat it straight out of the bag. Though I have known people who’ve done that before. It wasn’t entirely enjoyable for them after a while, but they definitely didn’t spontaneously succumb to Metabolic Syndrome X either.
I encourage you to at least consider it all, and maybe even do the experiment yourself. Observe what happens when you or people you know get most of the sugar in their diets from donuts and brownies, and then compare that to when you or other people get most of their sugar from fresh and dried fruit, molasses-drenched bowls of oatmeal, or even a fat stack of pancakes (made without the usual glug of oil) and maple syrup. Plus, I’ll make you a deal: if you go easy on the butter or nix it altogether, I’ll give you permission to use extra syrup! It’s totally worth the trade. Trust me.
Whether or not any of this convinced you one way or the other isn’t really my concern. Nor was my goal to woo you with all sorts of fancy statistics and biochemistry lingo. If you need that kinda stuff, go check out some Andrew Kim. I’m just encouraging you to think. Observe. Question what you’ve always been told. So what if Dr. Mercola told you that if you ate more than ten blueberries per week you’d balloon out and die of diabetes? That doesn’t mean you have to believe him. Or even believe me for that matter. Just do your own thinking.
So hopefully next time you’re asked the age-old question, “Do you take sugar? One lump, or two?” you’ll know exactly what to tell them.