Last weekend I went to Washington D.C where I had a sugar-thon at Sticky Fingers bakery. It was deliriously delicious—and I had a sugar hangover for the next two days.
Sugar is the downfall of even the most dedicated dieters; it is completely addicting and toxic. Our excessive consumption of sugar is one of the leading reasons behind our obesity epidemic, and our high diabetes rate.
Why does sugar make us gain weight? The sweet stuff is completely devoid of nutrients, protein, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants or fiber. Therefore, sugars either take the place of more nutritious things we could be eating or—and this is more likely—we compensate by consuming even more calories than we need to lose or sustain weight. Since weight maintenance is all about calories taken in versus calories expended, eating tons of “empty calories” in sugar on top of our normal diets will make us gain weight. Plus, sugar is addicting, so the more we eat it, the more we want it.
Another way sugar makes us gain weight is the way it is digested; if we eat enough of it (and most Americans do) our liver converts it to fat. This can create insulin resistance, which can contribute to obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. It has even been thought to contribute to certain types of cancer. And remember that sugar hangover I mentioned above? I wasn’t kidding. Sugar, like alcohol, is a diuretic. When you aren’t used to consuming it on a regular basis (or even when you are) it can create the same groggy feeling that a night of heavy drinking will produce—alcohol is loaded with sugar, after all.
Also, most sugar isn’t vegan. Bone char, made from the bones of cows, is often used to whiten sugar. You can find vegan sugar, however. Some companies use filters that use granular carbon or an ion exchange system instead of bone char. Look for a certified vegan logo on sugar to be sure it’s animal-free.
Remember: Moderation, moderation, moderation. My D.C sugar orgy was a bit excessive, mainly because I never get to eat vegan baked goods–I can’t find them near me and my own attempts at vegan cupcakes have resembled frosted paper weights. Enjoying a sweet treat every now and then won’t kill you or make you gain weight. But excessive consumption of sugar in any form (high fructose corn syrup, anyone?) will take its toll on your waistline and your overall health.
If you have an hour and a half to kill, watch this video in which Robert H. Lustig, MD, UCSF Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology, talks about the evils of sugar. Lustig argues that too much fructose not enough fiber are causing the American obesity epidemic through their effects on insulin.
Does sugar make you feel hung over? Are you addicted? Know of any good vegan bakeries? Give them a shout out!