Is There Any Room For Sweeteners In A Healthy Diet?

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Humans are hard-wired to like sweet foods. Sweet tastes are strongly tied to the reward centers in our brain, and can actually relieve pain and reduce symptoms of depression, PMS, and stress. (1)

Unfortunately, these properties strongly dispose us to over-consume sweeteners, and it’s pretty clear that the huge quantities of concentrated sweeteners consumed today are harmful to our health.

People are always searching for ways to enjoy sweet foods without the health repercussions, and this is the first post in a series that I hope will help you do just that! But before we jump into the nitty-gritty of different types of sweeteners and how they can fit into a healthy diet, I want to set the stage with some history and evolutionary background.

Did #Paleo man eat as much sugar as we do? You may be surprised!

Sweeteners in Evolution

Most of us primarily think of taste – especially sweetness – in terms of enjoyment, but sweetness is not just another source of pleasure. As omnivores, hunter-gatherers had a wide array of potential foods to choose from, and the sweet taste sensation is one of the ways humans could identify safe, non-poisonous foods with a high nutrient-to-toxin ratio.

Honey was the only concentrated sweetener available for much of human history, and common belief is that honey was quite rare, and only consumed in small quantities. While this is undoubtedly true for many hunter-gatherer groups, it doesn’t appear to be true for all of them.

We can get an idea about the role of honey in Paleolithic diets by studying modern hunter-gatherer societies like the Hadza; during the wet season, honey comprises up to 20% of their diet by weight. (2) Given honey’s caloric density, this likely represents a much larger portion of their total calories. When asked to rank their dietary staples in order of preference, honey was ranked highest, above meat, berries, tubers, and baobab (a large tree fruit). The Mbuti pygmies of the Congo can obtain up to 80% of their calories from honey, although only during the 2-month honey season. (3)

One interesting paper hypothesized that honey was actually far more abundant throughout early history than we typically acknowledge, and that the consumption of honey at certain times in history may rival our current consumption of sweeteners. (4) Some researchers have even posited that honey, along with meat and starchy tubers, helped make us human by providing concentrated glucose to support brain growth. (5) Although it’s impossible to know exactly how much honey early humans had access to, we do know that people went to great lengths to obtain honey, even when other foods were more readily available. (6, 7)

The Evolution of Sweeteners

Once hunter-gatherers began settling down, humans gradually discovered new sources of concentrated sugars. Maple syrup was introduced by Native Americans, and became popular in North America. (8) Jaggery, produced from sugar cane, became popular in India and its use is still widespread. (9) Some sweeteners common in early China include “tree honey” and “thorn honey,” both extracted from different plants. (10) And in the 17th or 18th century, table sugar surpassed all of these traditional foods and became the world’s leading sweetener. (11)

Fast forward to 1970, when the average American’s consumption of added sugar was 23.7 teaspoons per person per day according to loss-adjusted availability data. (12) By 2012, that amount had increased to 24.7 teaspoons, and the percentage of total calories obtained from sweeteners had risen from 13% in 1977 to 16%. (13) Significantly, 80% of this increase was from sugar-sweetened beverages, rather than solid food.

Changing Attitude Towards Sweeteners

Amidst all this background, I think it’s particularly interesting to note the shift in attitude towards sweeteners. For modern hunter-gatherers like the Hadza, a sweetener (honey, in their case) is just another food, albeit a highly prized one. We can probably assume that traditional hunter-gatherers didn’t have a conception of “healthy” and “unhealthy” like we do today, and if they did, they probably would have classified concentrated sweeteners as one of their “healthiest” foods, because they provide ample nutrients without causing illness.

Now our beliefs are quite different – opposite, in fact. Most of us have become conditioned to think of “sweet” as “unhealthy,” and instead of using sweet taste as a guide to the most calorie-dense foods, people are trying to figure out how to avoid caloric density, while still enjoying sweet tastes. This can be seen in the widespread use of non-caloric sweeteners, as well as the current research into sweet-tasting proteins that could sweeten foods without triggering an insulin response. (15)

And along with the desire to limit caloric density in general, there’s now a growing fear of sugar itself, and refined sweeteners such as table sugar and HFCS are often labeled ‘toxins.’ This is a dramatic shift from our evolutionary background, where sweetness signaled safety and a lack of toxins.

This brief history of sweeteners leaves us with many questions. If the Hadza obtain a large portion of calories from sweeteners, why can’t we? What makes traditional sweeteners like honey so different from table sugar, and for that matter, which sweeteners are healthiest? Why has sugar become such a bane to our health? Is it really addictive? And ultimately, how can sweeteners fit into a healthy diet? These are all questions I’ll attempt to answer in subsequent posts.

I’m open to suggestions for what to cover in this series, so if you have any thoughts or burning questions, feel free to leave them in the comments! Thanks for reading, everyone.

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Comments Join the Conversation

  1. Alissa says

    King Solomon knew the wisdom of not eating too much honey: “Hast thou found honey? eat so much as is sufficient for thee, lest thou be filled therewith, and vomit it.” (Proverbs 25:16)

    I know this series has already started, so I’m glad to see natural sweetners, including stevia being addressed. I’d also like to hear about the different processing, such as brown sugar & raw sugar.

    My personal experience: I used to live on sugar, until a naturopath encouraged me to go on an elimination diet to determine the reason for my low energy. That was 2010, and I had marked improvement. Now however, I can’t have any sugar whatsoever. A slice of cake will leave me with a migraine and nausea the entire next day. A quarter of a teaspoon of honey will make me feel lightheaded and dizzy.

    Is this likely to be an allergy to sugar, or a symptom of an underlying digestive issue?

  2. Heidi says

    My two cents:

    I think the old saying of everything in moderation has some validity. Actually, quite a lot of validity.
    With that said, I do think one should try to eat the MAJORITY of their calories from nutrient dense foods. Real food like organic eggs, grass fed meat, real butter. Guess that kinda makes me paleo. I don’t forbid sugar. But I don’t get it from sodas and artificial foods.
    I recently lost 20 lbs. not focusing on “dieting” per se, but focusing on getting much more quality nutrious food from a moderate amount of calories.I just wanted to see how healthy I could be and this led to weight loss as a result.
    The key I feel is that poor quality food is empty calories and eating it leaves you hungry for more…so you eat and eat, trying to fill yourself up with emptiness and you still remain hungry.You are never satisfied that way. Nutrient dense food gives your body what it needs and leads to more satiation.
    So I even eat the taboo foods like sugar. Real sugar. But I just have a little bit in moderation mostly thru fruits ( a few a day, like a apple and a grapefruit, or berries) Sometimes raw honey in my tea. But I just don’t eat a LOT of it as in the past. I limit my sugar intake to a few tsps. in my coffee instead of several tbsps. No more Starbucks with LOADS of HFCS. This has made a world of difference.
    I think you actually want less food because you are giving your body what it needs and wants, so it doesn’t go looking for excess empty calories elsewhere. Always craving and never feeling satisfied or nourished. You can get used to eating less sugar once you start practicing limiting your intake and most importantly, eating really high quality life giving foods instead of dead food.

  3. Jeri Kay says

    I believe that, in our search for perfect health, or in our desperation to rebuild health, we often go to extremes, instead of striking a balance. To say that maple syrup or honey should be out of our diets, because it feeds Candida is an extreme response. During a period of Candida overgrowth, brought on by years of improper diet, elimination of all – or most – sugars is sane and logical. However, the body must return to moderation at some point in order to create balance in Mind, Body and Spirit. We are not meant to live extreme existences, nor can most of us tolerate or sustain such a regimen. Trying to live this way usually fails, and results in rebounding, much too far, the opposite direction, leading to the yo-yo dieting syndrome. Balance is the key. Learning to make better choices that can be predictably maintained long term – organic natural maple syrup, in reasonable amounts, over refined white sugar, for example, is critical to long term health. In my humble opinion -

  4. David says

    Would love to see more discussion about artificial sweeteners like Splenda and Ace K and what role they play in candida and SIBO.

  5. Sarah says

    Chris, I’d love to know what you think about the effects of raw, natural dates on blood sugar, insulin production and inflammation. I’d also love to hear your thoughts on coconut sugar as a low-glycemic alternative to cane sugar, especially in the context of a discussion on glycemic index vs. glycemic load and inflammation.

  6. Jen C says

    I’m new to all things Paleo, and just found Chris’s blog as a result of the Thyroid Sessions. LOVED the first session with Chris!!

    This sugar issue is very interesting to me. I’ve actually been following the eating plan set out in the book, “Trim Healthy Mamas” since about late January. The basic tenets are: no sugar or other sweeteners which will raise your blood sugar (stevia and erythritol are acceptable sweeteners); no wheat, white rice, corn, or highly refined grains; and avoid eating fats with carbohydrates. The plan includes lots of good fats like coconut oil, butter, Greek yogurt, nuts, red meat, and fish; and lots of berries, greens, veggies, and nutrient-dense grains like quinoa, amaranth, etc. Proteins are considered the building block, and then you add either fats or carbs to each meal, constantly changing things up so your body doesn’t adapt and your body keeps burning fuel.

    I’ve got Hashimoto’s disease and Rheumatoid arthritis, both obviously auto-immune, plus Osteo-arthritis, and hereditary neuropathy. A lot of chronic pain. Since going off all sugar and only using Stevia, not only have I lost 25 lbs, (without exercise), but more importantly to me, my PAIN LEVEL has decreased dramatically!!! Even so, I *still* struggle to stay away from sugar (and gluten, which I am very sensitive to)…and often find myself suffering the consequences of having eaten a “sweet treat” or, even more tempting, a “sweet, bread-y treat!” So I completely think there is something addictive about sugar, or something in our brains that wires us to crave sweets.

    • Lisa says

      Yes you’re absolutely right about the cravings – sugar is highly addictive and found to be as additive as cocaine! The food industry KNOWS this, that’s they why put it in everything. good for you and great job – you are healing your neurology and withdrawing from the cravings! I too love the podcasts and the discussions and articles that come into my inbox each day. There are other great sites in addition to this one: Mercola (and he is similar to paleo but has differences worth noting – search mercola paleo, also check out dr. eric berg on youtube, mark sisson, sean croxton and there are more) All reject the lipid hypothesis and are against sugar.

    • Glenn Atkisson says

      Jen C, I’m not familiar with “Trim Healthy Mamas” but the plan as you describe it sounds good. My sympathies with regard to your Hashimoto’s and RA.

      While your description of the “Trim” didn’t emphasize fiber in the diet, I see the foods recommended tend to give a healthy level of fiber.

      To restore your immune system it is essential to restore your gut microbial climate and of course the gut lining itself. As long as you are able to eat the recommended fibrous foods (nuts, veggies, fruits) without adverse reactions (some people have such a sick gut they can’t eat much fiber), you should be able to restore your gut even more, and further your progress against auto-immune symptoms.

      I would suggest adding foods such as fermented veggies like sauerkraut. All fibrous foods though help move a lot more of the digestion down to the large intestine and colon (lower GI). Without fiber, your gut bacteria can survive only in the small intestine where they feast on any sugar you provide, and raise your numbers of yeast, but let the poor lower intestine fall apart due to a lack of nourishing bacteria. Fiber, especially if eaten in the absence of excess sugars, allows totally different microbes to flourish in the lower GI, and these microbes make vitamins and short chain fatty acids that nourish and lubricate the intestinal mucosa and allow it to become impermeable again to undigested foods and pathogens. The healthy intestinal mucosa can then again produce immunoglobulin A that helps prevent invasion of the body by pathogens and allergens.

      Check these links for more on fiber:

      http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/phytochemicals/fiber/

      http://www.vivo.colostate.edu/hbooks/pathphys/digestion/largegut/index.html (also has other pages on the gut)

      Also critical to inflammatory problems is consideration of the use of animal connective tissue containing collagen, which is gelatin when it is cooked. Cooking down this animal tissue by making bone broth provides lots of glycine. It turns out that modern man, who consumes a lot of just muscle meat, has a shortage of glycine and needs this protein in order to get rid of excess tryptophan that comes from the muscle meat. Ironically, tryptophan is an essential fatty acid, and glycine can be made by the human body, yet we just can’t make enough glycine to rid our body of excess tryptophan if we eat too much muscle meat to the exclusion of connective tissue. So try adding bone broth or intake of gelatin to your diet. More here:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=ni7wkPJKJfU (2 different videos)

      http://raypeat.com/articles/articles/gelatin.shtml

      Best of health to you,

      Glenn

  7. Juan says

    I only speak Spanish, this is an attempt to translation.
    I think not only because it says Dr. Ron Schmidt, but also from personal experience, that the optimal human diet should not include absolutely anything sweet! With time quality animal fat causes the body not even have interest in it.
    I liked it and it helped me your report of lactose intolerance. Then also I will comment on.
    Thank you and goodbye!

  8. Brenda says

    How can a person who has had her rectum and most of her intestines removed get sufficient nutrition to stay healthy?

    As it is now most of the food she eats goes right through and into the external bag without being digested.

    At her last check up she was cancer free and she is just 65 years young. Lots of life left to live

    Thanks

    • Lisa N says

      Brenda,
      My heart goes out to you. Have you listened to either Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride’s Gaps material or the WAPF material yet? Sally Fallon of WAPF is a champion of nutrient dense foods. She explained that research shows that egg yolks for example, don’t even need to be digested, the nutrients are readily absorbed by the body and that is why it’s highly recommended to give it to babies as a first food at 4 months the earliest. Same goes for Fermented Cod Liver Oil – the Blue Ice brand is THE best one out there. Not just cod liver oil but it must be fermented. That is also full of the vital nutrients Vitamin A and D in the proper ratio. Can you also eat liver pate and fish eggs? Again, highly digestible and highly nutritious. NO I’m not a doctor but my recommendation after finally beginning to heal from leaky gut and losing all my intestinal lining years ago: You must focus on nutritionally dense foods, and find a wonderful holistic doctor who practices Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride’s protocol to heal the stomach: her website has a list of GAPS practitioners internationally. I believe the site is GAPS.ME
      BEST of luck to you and keep your spirits up, hope is not lost.
      Sincerely.

  9. says

    I agree that honey is a wholesome sweetener. Unfortunately, many of us who have severe Candida/cancer cannot tolerate any sweeteners other than stevia, vegetable glycerin and the like. For myself, I must keep my carbs very low, ketogenic, or my symptoms return/worsen.

  10. says

    I like honey, but I also find I have what I assume to be an uncomfortable reaction if I have even less than a tablespoon. It is difficult to describe, but it is like a small shortness of breath and a moderate tightness in my chest and throat. It takes a few minutes for me to feel free of that; and that can be shortened if I have a drink of something (water, etc.). I’ve not had that reaction with maple syrup. I assume it is a mild allergic response.

  11. K says

    I have read other articles of yours that implicate the massive increase in seed oil consumption in degenerative diseases, and that talk about the importance of getting enough of all the necessary nutrients and avoiding particular toxins (eg BPA). Have you found any well-run studies that study sugar consumption and control for these possibly confounding factors?

  12. Jill says

    I find this all SO interesting! We are shifting our “what’s healthly and what’s not” once again. I look forward to learning as you post more.
    Thank you.

  13. Jean says

    I read most of the comments, and have learned alot. I didn’t hear anyone mention coconut sugar? Any thoughts, opinions? I just cut sugar this past week and lost 6 pounds!

  14. Blakely Page says

    As a dietitian who uses a Paleo template and consults with some pediatric cancer kiddos, I am most interested on your take on the balance of use of Stevia in place of sugar as families try to keep blood sugar regulation in tight control and sugar intake to a minimum during cancer treatment (and as prevention). How do you handle sugar and sugar substitute consumption with cancer?

  15. says

    I have eliminated sugar (all refined sugar except in trace quantities in non-sweet packaged foods, all added caloric sweeteners such as honey and syrups, and drastically cut back on fruit sugars by sticking to whole fresh fruits, not dried or juiced). In fact, I’ve done so several times. The result is always a period of intense withdrawal (no mental symptoms, but physical misery for days, followed by fatigue, low mood, aches and pains and obsessive cravings for weeks), then at two to three weeks, I feel great. My skin clears, my hair looks better, I have more energy than before the elimination, my joints feel 20 years younger, my sinuses are clear — it’s wonderful. Then I always start eating sugar again. Then I can’t stop again. It’s definitely addictive.
    To me, artificial sweeteners are worse than simply eliminating sweets, because I feel worse after eating them. Sweet tastes are fun, but the real feel-good effect of sugar for me is the sugar hitting my brain. I’m looking for a nutrient that gives me that quick energy without crashing three hours later.

  16. Elle says

    if you have dysbiosis or bacteria problems then yeah fructose especially will cause you serious problems because it is metabolized more slowly and lower in the gut… dextrose on the other hand is almost immediately metabolized higher up in the digestive system so doesn’t have the same negative effect- but will still give you a spike because, well, it’s pure glucose… so we need to start parsing out the effects of sweetner consumption on gut flora and blood sugar/insulin response…

  17. Mike says

    I think the Hadza consume honey comb, not honey. In other words, honey all mixed in with bee larvae, pollen, beeswax, etc.

  18. Lael says

    Honey feels the most sound of all sweeteners, in moderation and some varieties even have such therapeutic qualities they are used in hospitals for overcoming pathogenic overload. New Zealand Manuka honey is one variety as well as Australian Jellybush. Not that I would use heat these or waste by cooking, but my point is that all honey has some anti-bacterial/healing properties. Natasha Campbell-McBride recommends honey as the only sweetener GAPS approved. So my sweetener of choice in moderation is honey and I’d like to read more about what Chris has to say about this!

    • Peter says

      As would I. I’m about to embark on a fairly strict AIP/low FODMAP program and one exception I was curious about was the consumption of manuka honey (1-2 tablespoons) to supplement my betaine HCL in helping fix my low stomach acid problem.

  19. says

    I would like to hear your research on sugar and cancer cells. I have been told that sugar feeds cancer cells? If so, which sweeteners are safe and what about fructose from fruits?

  20. Cat says

    I’m interested if there have been any new insights into the genetics and gut microbiota involvement in the handling of sugars. It seems like some people can eat all the sugary fruits and honey they want, without any negative effects like dental carries, or diabetes, while others can only tolerate low amounts of fruit each day, and barely eat any other sweet foods. What protects the former people? Do they have some sort of genetics for better Vitamin K2 or zinc recycling? Do they just have better gut flora? I think some groups are more susceptible to problems with sugar, and I wonder if there are any studies exploring this idea. I was wondering whether you could address these nuances to some extent, to reconcile somewhat how some people can thrive on a high sugar diet, while others put themselves at risk for various diseases.

    • Glenn Atkisson says

      Great questions, Cat. Years of research may be required to answer all these, but at least the work is already ongoing!

      I don’t have a strong answer for you, but I’ll mention that from my reading about what a continual, high-carb, highly refined diet does to the gut microflora, I think one way certain peoples may get by on eating lots of sugar AT TIMES, is that they also have meals consisting of healthy plant fiber, such as green leafy vegetables (not just grain-derived commercial products that claim to be “fiber”), and these fibrous meals, if eaten almost every day, get good nutrients, in the form of resistant starches, to the large intestine, thus keeping the very essence of the immune system alive and well (lower GI germs), and also nourishing the endothelium with the short chain fats derived from the fiber.

      We know there are many people these days though who NEVER have such a healthy meal, and exclusively eat, not just sugar, but highly processed carbs and fats which provide no bulk to propel nutrition into the large intestine. It’s possible that these people are the ones giving the heavy ingestion of sugar such a bad name, because they have such a horrible diet all the time.

      I’ve seen people from mid-east gene pools do well on mixing sweet foods with healthy foods, but people from other regions of the world just go down the tube by becoming addicted to sweets and carbs to the extent that they can no longer chose foods rationally, even though they know they are on a poor diet.

      I’ve read that when the lower intestinal microbes don’t get fed in that location, they may move up hill to the small intestine, but this affects the pH of the environment negatively, thus breeding more yeast while letting the microbes that support the immune system perish. There’s a lot of information out there on this.

      Check out some of the articles on the Human Food Project site: http://humanfoodproject.com/

      Scroll down on the page. Besides the “Most Recent Articles” listed, there are also many more articles on the page under the heading “Recent Posts”. Many of these go heavily into some of your questions.

      Also, check out the related site American Gut Project, where you can have your gut microbiome assayed and compare your microbial mix with thousands of others world-wide. I have submitted a sample, but have not been notified of results yet. It takes months, but I’m hoping the information coming out of it all will be worth the wait.

  21. John Wagner says

    Different strokes for different folks. One man’s nectar is another man’s poison. Buy a glucose meter for 15 bucks and see how you respond to different combinations. Of course, this has to jibe with many other factors. A one-hour spike of 130 once a day is different than multiple spikes daily. Test yourself with honey and RS, and without RS. Personally I want to see hard evidence that sucralose is bad. Hope that is where this discussion is going as well as defending honey.

  22. PC says

    If we eat it very occasionally, I don’t think honey is a problem. The question is though – can we? Sugary things are addictive and it’s so easy to fall into the trap of eating them all the time or too much of them. I

  23. Khiyani says

    I’ve read in Paleo magazine that stevia is considered to be an artificial sweetner, which doesn’t make sense to me as it is made from a plant. White sugar is highly refined, yet isn’t considered artificial as it too is from a plant. I am working with a Paleo RD and I’ve asked her about this. Her understanding is that the problem is how stevia is manufactured, and she’s not sure if the problem is only with some companies or all companies, and doesn’t know what the exact problem is. To know the current level of “truth” about stevia would be wonderful!

    Also, what about luo han guo as a sweetner? Is it OK? I can only find it mixed with xylitol. If luo han guo is fine to use, what brands are pure and not mixed with xylitol?

  24. Ana says

    After reading this I almost assaulted the honey jar! But I’m starting the 1-month reset period, so I’m hanging on. Very curious to read the sequel!

  25. Etai says

    I think one important thing to note is that for both the Hadza and the Mbuti, honey consumption is a seasonal affair and presumably an unrefined product. This means that there is probably a balance in their diet when looking at a year as a whole. For modern lifestyles, sugar consumption is 365 days a year and is a completely refined product. Can they truly be compared then? In one case, people are eating something natural at a natural time of year for them and their environment. In the other case, people are eating something unnatural all the time. Perhaps climate and time of year play a role in our abilities to deal with sweetener intake. Plus, their lifestyles are more physical versus our sedentary office lives so perhaps we have evolved to not need sweeteners in the same quantities. So many questions. And finally, if we limit our sweetener intake to honey then perhaps we could glean the health benefits without the side effects. Most of the sweet stuff that we eat today is cane or corn derived which arguably is not the same thing. Are all sweeteners made equal? Are some healthful and are others down right evil?

  26. Emily Gifford says

    Hi Chris,
    I would be interested to know your opinion and more info on using dextrose instead of natural sugars i.e. honey or coconut sugar?
    Thanks.
    Emily

  27. marcus volke says

    I think it is also important that you explain the difference between fructose and glucose when consumed in excess. Recently you have defended fructose when consumed in a normally calorie diet, however I think when consumed in excess fructose is more dangerous than glucose per calorie.

  28. marcus volke says

    Hi Chris, I would appreciate it if you could cover unrefined sugars like coconut sugar and rapadura. Coconut sugar is particularly important for thai curries is there really is no sweetener substitute if you want to make a good coconut thai curry!

  29. Cookie says

    What a great post! If you eat in nature, you will get your sweet fix by having berries, almond butter, coconut butter, yams,ect…It seems that the paleo community is still trying to find ways to keep the old eating habits instead of changing your lifestyles. Do you really need to sweeten anything? Try foregoing any ‘sugar’ and get sweetness from nature.

  30. Elle says

    Xylitol and all other alcohol sugars are fermentable in the gut and have been known to irritate the guts of those who suffer from IBS etc. The only alcohol sugar not shown to be as fermentable is erythritol, however those who suffer from fungal infections and candida should not consume it because it is processed with a yeast similar to candida. The only truly non problematic sugar free sweetener is stevia. I’d like to see the rigorous studies showing that it has a definitive negative effect on insulin.

  31. Babs says

    I would like to know about the use of concentrated fruit juice, like apple, when used in place of sugar in savory recipes like ketchup.

  32. Naomi says

    Hi Chris,

    I have been following the Jaminet’s Perfect Health Diet for several years with great results. They originally recommended rice syrup but now say to avoid it. I’ve always found honey too sweet but have grown to love rice syrup and find it hard to give up. How bad is rice syrup?

  33. says

    excellent questions Chris, I always love your intelligent way of digging deeper. I’d love to hear more about the specific ways different sweeteners affect our bodies and cognitive function, if there are studies out there. Thank you!

  34. Mary says

    Hi Chris, I would also like to hear your thoughts on the theories of Ray Peat, Danny Roddy, Matt Stone etc. I have personally noticed GREAT improvements in my IBS (much less bloating/gas and constipation eliminated) and metabolism (hands and feet much warmer) by increasing the amount of simple carbs, especially orange juice, honey and white rice, and decreasing starchy and high fibre food like sweet potato, green vegetables, etc. Having the sweetness with some fat and protein helps with the insulin response. I have otherwise been paleo for about two years and introducing these changes has helped more than the low/no sugar approach. Changing a ‘restriction’ mentality (that results in a cycle of anxiety, binging and guilt) to one of more intuitive eating (that helps me respond to my body’s signals) has also been revolutionary from a mental health perspective. I no longer over-eat because I know that I can always have some more if needed. I have coeliac disease, PCOS and am concerned about thyroid health – I am convinced that sugar is now helping me heal where a low sugar diet compromised my gut and thyroid health and metabolism.

    • Avishek says

      yay! a matt stone follower. Me too, when I started letting go of these rules I also healed my thyroid, I didn’t have major issues, just overtraining and adrenal fatigue but my eyebrows grew fuller, in the outer 1/3 portion and I generally felt better.

      I’m working on a post right now, that will be released in a few days.

  35. Gregor Hinckley says

    As a member of the overeaters anonymous everyone talks about the evils of sugar and flour.

    I am a little more unit little of the road. I don’t think there is such a thing as an evil food. But I do think too much of anything is bad for you.

    As a compulsive eater myself I have found it smart to limit my intake of artificial sweeteners. Often flavors have reminded me of foods that have no real Nutritional value. And for me the watchword has been
    Is there a sweetener that the truly has nutritional value?

    For those who are truly trying to lose a lot of fat (I still have 260 pounds to go) carbohydrates seem to be my enemies. I am eating in a Paleo fashion with and Atkins carbohydrate load. It is working I lost 105 pounds.

    Question:
    With 260 pounds left to go, are there any natural sweeteners I should even consider?
    I have been keeping the percentage of carbohydrates calories to about 20% not counting fiber calories. I Have been averaging about 5 pounds a week of weight loss .

    • Avishek says

      5lbs is quite a bit. beware of plateauing and subsequent weight gain from low-carb diet induced insulin resistance.

  36. says

    I also would love to hear more about specific sweetners and their relationship to blood sugar levels. I always enjoy your articles and webinars. Thank you!

  37. John McDonell says

    Thanks Chris, you’re a brave soul (treading into unknown territory)!
    As Jeanne pointed out, there is a huge difference is structure of the ‘sugar’/carbohydrate in most honeys, from their comb-counterparts. Humans have exquisite digestive capabilities but this must be matched with what is happening in nature to be effective. Excessive heating of honey will kill all the bees in the hive, yet we use this as human-food? Processed cows milk will kill calves, yet we label this as ‘safe’ for human consumption,
    isn’t there a tie-in with the ripeness of fruit (its sweetness) and circadian patterning. Will we eat fruit or veggies that have altered the sugar-structures in qualitative terms as well as quantitatively? Do we not consume food cross-zones and cross seasonal rhythmic patterns … eg. organic bananas in winter?

  38. Ernie says

    I too would like your thoughts on xylitol. It’s been my go-to sweetener now for a couple of years. The birch version that is. I even use it to brush my teeth with. My teeth stay clean and feel like polished pearls all day long. Even my hygienist comments on how there isn’t much to clean anymore these days. That is a far cry from the work she had to do in the past so I know it is making a big difference. And the GI upset that some people feel in the beginning goes away in a short time with continued use. Your body just has to get accustomed to it. I don’t care much for stevia, and honey and maple syrup cause me to put on weight. Plus I find them very addictive where as with the xylitol I don’t crave sweets any longer. I’d be curious what your thoughts are on it.

  39. Lizzy says

    Hi! I’m looking forward to reading this series. What about coconut sugar? I have found some Paleo recipes that call for it, and I’m just curious about it in spiking blood sugar. I seem to still have a higher blood sugar level than my naturopath likes, and I’ve dropped most sugars already for more than a year.

    Thanks!

  40. John says

    It would take you 10 years to answer these questions and then the follow up questions to your answers, and….etc.

    Partial to the questions which begin “I would LOVE to know…

    Just amused by the overwhelming number of responses and the task you face by writing about “sugar” and all its iterations.

    Good luck.

  41. Lori says

    As a type 1 diabetic I use a bit of stevia to sweeten drinks and food. I use raw honey or glucose (dextrose) tablets to raise low blood sugar. I would appreciate your thoughts on the best sweeteners to use for this purpose in a type 1 diabetic. Thank you!

  42. Birgit says

    For me xylitol spikes my blood sugar less than sugar, eryhritol less than xylitol, and all non-caloric sweeteners less than eryhritol.
    I stay away from all other sugar alchols (esp. maltitol).
    I think there may be a lot of differences between people as far as sweetner tolerance, partly due to conditioning (salivary +insulin response) rather than content.
    I use raw honey in medicinal quantities very occasionally and don’t worry about the rise in blood sugar. All medicines have side effects.
    Because sugar alcohols are highly toxic to my pets I try to use them rarely and lock them up securely.

  43. says

    The overuse of vaccinations and antibiotics, as well as the synthetic and nutritionally deficient foods in Western diets, may well contribute to our inability to handle sweets, and the epidemic of candida. It should be pointed out, however, that diabetes was first diagnosed in Egypt thousands of years ago. Was excess consumption of honey the problem?

  44. Polly Squared says

    Great topic Chris,

    I leave added sugars out entirely right now, per AI paleo approach as I’m in the process of healing my thyroid. Interestingly enough, I have to watch my intake of my version of sweet treats: unsweetened coconut flakes/shreds and carob powder with coconut oil, I find it’s easy to over consume these. I’m going to begin a trial of leaving them out completely. I agree with prior comments about using glucosometer, this has been very very helpful for learning individual response to the amount of starchy vegetables in my diet.

    I’ve been experimenting on my husband to help him decrease artificial sweeteners, like aspartame and Splenda. His biggest source are drinks. So, I’m eager to know your feedback on Stevia. In addition, I’m wondering if you’ve heard of Lacanto (from The Body Ecology diet). It’s a mixture of monk fruit and erythritol with claims that it’s safe for those on an anti-candida diet. There’s also another newer product I was hoping you could research. It’s called “just like sugar” and is made from chicory root and orange peel with claims that it is safe for diabetics.
    I wonder too about whether it’s recommended to always consume protein with sweeteners? And does the same go for starchy vegetables…always eat any carb with protein and fats?

  45. says

    Please talk about the differences of REAL unheated RAW honey compared to what many call honey and even what many call raw honey.

    We Want to Live and Aajonus Vonderplanitz had GREAT info about honey ( and other things).

    After trying everything for a mysterious disease that started when I took antibiotics, finally THAT approach helped and led me to a paleo/gaps style diet.

    Often honey that says it is raw has been heated and that makes a HUGE difference in how our body processes it.

    Just as there is a difference between truly grass fed beef and pastured eggs/chicken etc, really raw honey makes a huge difference and most of what is in the stores is worst than the typical franken olive oil etc.

    If you heat the honey you might as well eat white sugar!

  46. Rene Hinds says

    This is very interesting, especially so because it runs so counter to current assumptions about earlier diets. But why are we not surprised? How often is it that we are “sold a bill of goods” about a food item only to discover later that this food isn’t so bad as we thought, or even good. Coconut oil is a good case in point.

    I will look forward to reading your subsequent posts, and hope that you will address the effects various sweeteners and the amounts consumed have on the gut microbial communities. Thanks!

  47. Marie says

    How about Manuka honey? Also, how about resistant starch and it’s connection to sweeteners/glucose management? Thanks!

  48. Nicki says

    Great topic! I would be interested to know if there is any research about the interplay of sugars and gut health. I grew up eating a diet VERY high in sugars, and have really struggled with reducing consumption of sweet foods as an adult. When I started eating paleo the cravings got better, but not significantly. More recently I’ve started doing a lot of fermented food, probiotics, and resistant starch, and that seems to have made a far bigger difference than any other dietary change.

  49. mike g says

    Great article! i look forward to more. I’d love to hear your thoughts on stevia/xylitol combination and stevia alone. Particularly interesting would be what brands or products you recommend and why. I currently use stevita and sweet drops.

    Also, i second the idea of putting a date on the published time of the article. would help as people go through the archives to see when you posted

  50. Ulysses says

    I think it should also be worth noting that the Hadza do not store food. They hunted and gathered food to be consumed on a daily basis for the current day. They didn’t wake up to a bowl or cup of honey. It was only after a night spent sleeping probably more than the typical 8hrs and morning spent walking, running, climbing, jumping and whatever else was required to gather honey would they get to enjoy this treat. Pretty sure they would be a bit more insulin sensitive once honey was consumed vs. the typical person today rising to a SAD breakfast daily without much effort involved.

  51. Charles says

    Chris it is really awesome how you cut across the debate, probing to discover the subtler truth. Yes, we wanna know!

    With sweeteners and carbs, it seems that proportions and combining provide the answer – limiting their calorie proportion and/or combining with fat or protein or their unrefined state.

    I have also tagged onto the idea that carbs later in the day have less impact.

  52. Quinny says

    From my understanding, sugar itself does not cause health problems, it is the sugar and fat combination that does. I was on a fruitarian diet for 4 years, just to be safe I monitored my blood sugar regularly. If you eat sugar alone, your insulin works pretty quickly to bring down your blood sugar level, providing that if you don’t have sugar sensitivity. However, when you eat sugar with fat, the sugar would rise much slower and it would last much longer in your blood stream. Your insulin would have hard time to delivery the sugar to your cell because of the fat.

    I wonder if the hunter-gatherers eat sweet at one time and eat animals at another time. If they eat up what they can find, could that be what happened in the past?

    • Charles says

      thats something to think about quinny, i thought the more violent the insulin spike, the more harmful its effect… so is it the speed of the insulin increase, the overall time, the overall load, or the overall load as a proportion of all calories?

      as i said in my post, i combine carbs and sugars with fat or protein. its also more realistic, except maybe in the case of a fruit. but fruit and dairy goes really well together. and here in brazil, they don’t mind combining some fruit with their steak. awesome!

    • Charles says

      and if i’m going to get all the benefits of a whole lot of fat, like in a mousse, ice-cream or “fat-bomb”, i feel that having a little bit of sweetener will be ok as its negative effect will be lessened by the fat and protein.

    • Avishek says

      It’s true. when you combine both, insulin has a harder time doing its job. In insulin resistance, FFAs are high in the blood, impairing insulin signaling. Most sweets will increase FFAs and glucose in the blood, which will make the glucose stick around longer than having it alone.

  53. says

    Hi Chris, looking forward to the other articles. You make some interesting points. I think whilst the demonising of sugar is going a bit mad at the moment, there are lots of people who are having significant issues with it due to the strong cultural ties etc. that we’ve all go used to (& the low fat era). I feel that people have to go through a personal journey and discover what makes them feel most comfortable with regards to this now…because times have changed so much and we live in a modern world. I know now, I don’t use sweeteners or substitutes as much, I just eat a little sugar when social occasions present and I call it ‘social sugar’. I don’t crave sugar like I used to so stevia etc. just isn’t needed in my day to day life. I’d rather just have a square of very dark chocolate and be done with that. Look forward to reading the rest. Laura

  54. DM says

    For those who asked what is the difference in fructose and glucose, the following summary details the main metabolic differences between fructose and glucose to help you understand how fructose can wreak such havoc with your health, and why it’s considerably worse for you than glucose:
    1. After eating fructose, nearly all of the metabolic burden rests on your liver. But with glucose, your liver has to break down only 20 percent. This is one reason excess fructose consumption can lead to fatty liver disease, similar to overconsumption of alcohol. In fact fructose and alcohol are processed identically by the liver.
    2. Every cell in your body, including your brain, utilizes glucose. Therefore, much of it is “burned up” immediately after you consume it. By contrast, fructose is primarily converted into free fatty acids (FFAs), VLDL (the damaging form of cholesterol), and triglycerides, which get stored as fat. These fats are damaging, bad fats.
    3. The fatty acids created during fructose metabolism accumulate as fat droplets in your liver and skeletal muscle tissues, causing insulin resistance and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Insulin resistance progresses to metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.
    4. Fructose is the most lipophilic carbohydrate. In other words, fructose converts to activated glycerol (g-3-p), which is directly used to turn FFAs into triglycerides. The more g-3-p you have, the more fat you store. Glucose does not do this.
    5. When you eat 120 calories of glucose, less than one calorie is stored as fat. 120 calories of fructose results in 40 calories being stored as fat. Fructose is essentially largely converted into fat!
    6. The metabolism of fructose by your liver creates a long list of waste products and toxins, including a large amount of uric acid, which triggers your “fat switch,” causing you to gain more weight.
    7. Glucose does not do this, as it suppresses the hunger hormone ghrelin and stimulates leptin, which suppresses your appetite. Fructose has no effect on ghrelin and interferes with your brain’s communication with leptin, resulting in overeating.

    There is also a great lecture explaining the exact biochemical pathway of fructose by Dr. Robert Lustig here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM.

    HFCS has certainly contributed to the obesity epidemic, but so have a lot of other things – certainly including more calories being consumed. It is mostly due to extreme ignorance and stubbornness of the conventional medical community in recognizing the diets effects on health and weight. For example, to this day conventional oncologists refuse to recognize that diet has anything to do with getting or curing cancer. This is the epitome of ignorance, subbornness, and arrogance and it is killing and harming a lot of people. Thankfully for sites like this, we can begin to educate people about what really works for getting healthy.

    Regards.

    • DM says

      One thing i meant to mention is that many of these differences are diminished when fructose comes in a natural form such as raw honey. These mainly relate to processed HFCS.

      • TheNomad says

        Can you explain why the body would handle fructose from honey any differently (I don’t think you can)?

        Also, Lustig fails to realize that fructose only becomes a problem when you don’t have enough phosphatidylcholine/betaine etc to properly metabolize it in the liver (which would never happen in a diet rich with pastured liver/eggs and lots of spinach). You have to take the low glycemic impact of fructose into consideration when comparing to glucose: this could make glucose worse for some people.

        • Cat says

          I believe you can find some articles on Chris Masterjohn’s blog, explaining how honey is handled differently than plain sugar. It has to do with the fact that while sugar is just glucose and fructose, honey also contains a wide array of other bioactive compounds, which can exert antioxidant effects that result in different physiological responses than plain sugar. You could probably also just search pubmed for the studies that compare the physiological effects of different honeys. From what I recall, darker honeys (like buckwheat honey or wildflower, I think) have better effects. Obviously, some honeys are processed in such a way that makes them more similar to plain sugar, physiologically, and the plant used to make the honey is important as well. This is actually an interesting topic, so I hope Chris explores it more in depth than I can in a comment, because it actually does make a physiological difference whether you choose plain sugar or a less processed sweetener like honey or maple syrup.

          +1 for the low GI of fructose. I think it would be interesting to see what the evidence says about this low GI effect, versus the potential bad points about fructose, as listed above by DM, in reconciling whether fructose is a net benefit or detriment for something like diabetes. I assume it will end up being about the difference between fruits/honey vs processed sweeteners, since fruits seem to be beneficial in some studies I’ve seen on diabetes.

        • DM says

          @TheNomad

          There are many reasons why pure fructose, HFCS, has a different reaction in the body than a whole food source such as raw unprocessed honey. This article is a very good explanation: http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/why-you-should-ditch-sugar-favor-honey. I will let you read that to explain it to you.

          Saying the reaction is the same is like saying any isolated substance or nutrient is the same whether you get it from food or a processed food or a supplement. We know that is not true at all for almost all nutrients and supplements or anything edible. It is almost always better to get any edible substance from a whole food. The enzymes and the food matrix that whole foods have that isolated substances do not make the bodies reaction and utilization dramatically different. That is nutrition 101.

          As far as betaine and phosphatydalcholine and the liver, yes these substances help the liver detox HFCS and many other toxins out of the body, but I dont think Lustig failed to realize anything at all. He is just showing the biochemical pathway. In fact what he shows is that the biochemical pathway the liver goes through for HFCS is identical to alcohol. People who consume a lot of HFCS are likely not consuming a lot of Betaine rich foods, like eggs or beets or goji berries (the tree highest foods in betaine). In other words for most people who consume a lot of HFCS, it IS a problem and they need to be aware of what they are doing. You act as though we should not even be worried about it.

          And remember a LOT of children are consuming HFCS. It is tragic that our food industry (allowed by the FDA) puts substances like HFCS in products that children are consuming and their livers are processing it as if it were alcohol. Anyone would agree that a child consuming alcohol is bad, very bad. Well, to the liver of the child its almost the same thing.

          In my opinion, the low glycemic impact of HFCS does not negate its toxic effects and does not justify using it or consuming it.

  55. Marcia says

    I have two immediate family members who were diagnosed with different cancers within the past year. Researching, I found a lot of conflicting recommendations on dietary approaches to thwarting the cancer. The ketogenic diet seems to have a lot of credibility, and severely restricts sugar, as “sugar feeds cancer.” Aren’t all of us harboring cancer cells to one degree or another? Any thoughts on that?

  56. Ali says

    I’d like to know if there are ways to consume sweeteners along with other foods (such as fats, or things believed to help blood sugar like cinnamon) in a way that minimizes their negative effects. Not so that I can eat sweets all the time, but to minimize harm when I do. Thanks in advance for tackling this topic!

  57. Nicole says

    Thank you for taking a balanced and open-minded big-picture look at sweeteners!

    I would love to see you talk about coconut sugar and also address the agave controversy.

    One additional issue I’m puzzled about is this: I cannot eat stevia or any of the sugar alcohols because they all make me terribly ill. So, I stick to honey, maple syrup and coconut sugar. I know others have issues tolerating sugar alcohols (xylitol, maltitol, erythritol, etc.) but have never heard of anyone else having trouble with stevia (other than not liking the flavor). The tolerance issues I experience make me wonder if these sweeteners really are safe?

    Thank you, I look forward very much to this discussion.

  58. Tanya says

    I would like to know more about honey. I have cut back on refined sweeteners significantly. Every once in a while I’ll have chocolate or gelato with sugar, but other than that I stick to honey, Grade B maple syrup, fruit, and coconut sugar. What I’ve noticed recently is that after consuming some sweeteners, like honey, I get REALLY thirsty. Other sweeteners (syrup, coconut sugar) do not affect me this way. Why is that? Is it possible that although natural, honey really isn’t a good option for us?

  59. Julie says

    Perhaps I’m oversimplifying it but sugar is pretty “addictive”. Not for everyone of course, but for some. I can only speak from experience so my evidence is pretty anecdotal but I can sit down and eat a box of chocolate candies or cookies in one sitting. I wont sit down and eat a side of beef or a bag of rice in one sitting. Even in the case of other “sweets”, I wouldnt eat a bowl of fruit or an entire jar of honey in one sitting.

  60. Eirik Nestaas says

    I suspect that honey consumed as a major staple by certain tribes is different from the honey we buy in the grocery store. The tribes likely consumed the wild honeycomb that typically contains some protein (including enzymes) as well as honey, partly from pollen and partly from the brood. Chewing on the wax may have added further nutrients. In other words, the wild honey is probably more nutritious than the filtered honey we get from bee farms. See also link: http://milkwood.net/2012/04/15/the-dark-and-the-light-eating-different-honeycombs-as-part-of-natural-beekeeping/

  61. Michelle says

    I appreciate the historical perspective provided, Chris. Thoughts on sugar alcohols specifically xylitol and erythritol, particularly suppositions on their interactions with gut flora would be interesting! Stevia is also shunned by a few notable paleo cooks for its similarities to steroid hormones. Any thoughts there?

  62. Jess Moore says

    Hi Chris

    Thanks for the discussion on sugar. It’s an important one in the nutrition community. I would love to hear more about your take on some of the ideas expressed by Ray Peat, Danny Roddy, Matt Stone, etc. about the role of glucose and CO2 in cellular respiration and how that process connects with stress hormones and our overall health.

    I understand it’s a very polarizing topic and one that would be hard to tease out in a public forum. However, I find it interesting that you haven’t addressed these ideas (at least that I have seen/heard) given your previous relationship with Danny and your otherwise objective reporting on health-related issues.

    The general silence about these ideas in the Paleo community is concerning to me. Like you say in this article, if we’re predisposed to find sweet-tasting foods, why would they be inherently bad for us?

    If I’m missing a previous discussion, please point me in the right direction. Thank you.

  63. nancy says

    I love coconut nectar “sugar” granuals when i want
    to sweeten food (sweet potatos, butternut squash or quinoa “hot cereal”). Any thoughts on that? I read it has a much lower glycemic index, and more nutrition than other choices.

  64. Beth says

    A “sugar” question I’d like to see explored is whether our modern problem is not sugar as an isolated food group (ie, being demonized as a “bad” food in and of itself), but whether the problem actually results from a combination of high sugar consumption with a decrease micronutrient consumption. At a metabolic level, what would be the impact of our bodies trying to metabolize all of that sugar without having sufficient micronutrients also required for cellular metabolism becoming significantly problematic? Maybe humans can eat more sugar when they’re also eating a lot of plants (and probably healthy proteins and fats as well)? Maybe that’s another reason fruit sugars are “packaged” with so many nutrients (ie, why fruits are so nutrient dense).

  65. Kindke says

    Honey is completely different to table sugar. The more refined a carbohydrate is, the more unhealthy it appears to be.

    the caloric value and/or the caloric density is NOT the only thing that matters, which many short-sighted people continue to believe. The structure and texture of the food, aswell as how it is digested, affects the bodies response to the food. For example, Stearic acids at sn-1, 3 positions of TAG limits fat deposition more than palmitic or oleic acid.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24286356

    Honey is significantly less palatable than sugar-sweetened stuff. Granted, consuming just plain table sugar on a spoon is also quite unpalatable, but once added and dissolved in a food, dramatically enhances its palatability. Consider the confectionery company Haribo, the sweets they make are incredibly addictive. I would and could eat these all day, never feeling sated, and I would get incredibly fat in the process. Meanwhile, honey starts to become quite unappealing after about 60-70g worth eaten straight from a spoon.

    • Avishek says

      That’s only 4 tablespoons of honey. Mixing it with food you could probably eat much more. I’ve eaten I’d guess at least 8 tablespoons worth in the past when I used to eat a lot of butter honey sandwiches.

      But I get your point, i don’t think it’s always going to be accurate though.

  66. Lynn says

    Look forward to hearing more, and would appreciate your thoughts on inulin and erythritol. Substituting these two sweeteners (in a specific ratio) for table sugar produces excellent results and no funky after taste. I am experimenting with these as my husband suffered a seizure (of unknown cause) and we are restricting carbs, staying in mild ketosis, in the hope of preventing another seizure and also to maintain neurological health and preserve cognition/memory.

  67. Anne says

    I’d like to read your take on the effect of sugar, and foods that convert readily to sugar, on cardiac health, vs the traditional AMA lecture on eggs, dairy, and other “high cholesterol” foods.

  68. says

    I would bet that sedentarism is driving insulin sensitivity, which is making people fat. At least I believe is one of the most leading factors in the obesity equation.

  69. jo says

    I know someone who eats a bag of candy a day along with 6 sodas (not diet) as well as eating a high carb diet full of grains. He is 63, thin, and health wise he is okay. Wish some one would study genetics of people like him to see why he isn’t either 400 pounds or suffering from a myriad of diseases. He also smokes, and has for 40 years, and rarely exercises. His diet has been like this for at least 25 years. Genetics is an important piece of this puzzle.

  70. says

    Great article. I choose to use stevia and once in a while I’ll use xylitol or raw honey. I’m in the process of doing a Candida Cleanse (you can see the guidelines at http://www.radiantlyrawlifestyles.com) and stevia is safe for getting rid of yeast and overgrowth of candida.

    I’m curious about your thoughts on Xylitol Chris? Is it safe? I feel confused about it and want to do what’s best for my body. Your thoughts would be appreciated.

  71. says

    Great article Chris, as per usual. I would love to know your opinion on many of the so-called healthy sugar substitutes on the market today including stevia and xylitol.

  72. says

    I usually have questions related to pregnancy and postpartum periods.

    I see the Jaminets have sweetener recommendations on their Perfect Health Diet supplement page and I would love to understand better why those may be better than others, and what the drawbacks are to the different type of sweeteners.

    I’m really looking forward to this series!

  73. Amy says

    I’m curious about the Ayurvedic recommendation that honey is good for you cold (raw?) but not cooked – any thoughts about where that might come from?

    • Avishek says

      they believed that when honey was heated it becomes harder to digest and becomes more “sticky,” increasing “ama.” I’m a fan of Ayurveda but I don’t believe it’s a big deal.

  74. says

    Nice introductory article to broach this taboo subject. I’m very glad to read you are doing this. If one examines the ethnobotanical literature, you can see that many indigenous people consumed sweet foods (not counting the berries, drupes, pomes and other kinds of fruits). For example, here in North America, many indigenous groups (e.g., Abenaki, Cherokee, Iroquois, Ojibwa, Penobscot, Potawatomi) used the sap of maples (genus Acer) to create sugar (syrup was consumed more immediately, sugar was stored for later use). But it is not confined to maples. For example, the Cree reduced the sap of paper birch (Betula papyrifera) to make syrup. The Dakota, Pawnee, and Ponca used the sap of shagbark hickory (Carya ovate) to make sugar. Other kinds of plants were used as well, such as common reed (Phragmites), where a sugary substance was extracted by the Kawaiisu and Paiute. There is abundant evidence from around the world that sweeteners were consumed by healthy people. Therefore, the real issue is not to say avoid sweeteners, but to ask the appropriate questions, such as:

    1. What kinds of sweeteners were used?
    2. What were the other elements of the diet that sweeteners were combined with?
    3. What were the other elements of their lifestyle (especially movement and activity) that may have mitigated the effects of (or even required) sweeteners?

    The statement “sweeteners should be avoided” is yet another overly simplified statement that is contradicted by real world observations. Thank you for writing on this topic. Best wishes.

    • Erin O'Donnell says

      Great topic. I, too, would love to know more about the impact of Stevia. I’d also love to learn more about fructose. I give my 2.5 year old vitamins from ChildLife and this company has a great reputation, but such a drag they use fructose.

      Also, do you know anything about honey before bed (away from protein) for better sleep. Thanks for the good info.

  75. says

    Chris,
    Great series. I am a clinical nutritionist and I understand and respect the role that calorie density plays both in our nutritional history and our current diets. We are hardwired for sweet, as you say. But for me the most important aspect of your post is that our use of sweet foods, like honey and fruit, were periodic. They were seasonal, therefore signally to the body that certain environmental events may be happening, such as winter “famine”. Just as bears need to fatten up for winter, we needed to put on extra calories in the fall in readiness for winter. The body’s ability to do this is what drives our diabetes problem today. I counsel my clients to eat fruit in season, stay away from “junky” forms of sugar, eat plenty of vegetable forms of carbohydrates. I also encourage resistant starch, which also was a staple in paleolithic times.

      • Lynn says

        Elizabeth – resistant starch, from a Mark Sisson post:
        “Officially, resistant starch is “the sum of starch and products of starch degradation not absorbed in the small intestine of healthy individuals.” Instead of being cleaved in twain by our enzymes and absorbed as glucose, resistant starch (RS) travels unscathed through the small intestine into the colon, where colonic gut flora metabolize it into short chain fatty acids. Thus, it’s resistant to digestion by the host.”

        Read more: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/the-definitive-guide-to-resistant-starch/#ixzz2zvcoi7Sc

        I take 4 Tbsp of unmodified potato starch daily, a great prebiotic!

  76. JessD says

    I’ve read a lot about the Hadza too! There are even honeyguide birds in Africa that have relationships with humans…they help humans find honey. Overall, I have a healthier relationship with sweets now that I eat a higher-carb paleo diet (PHD). When I was very-low carb I would binge on sweets/carbs more. I consume healthy sweeteners almost daily, but very sparingly (usually only about one tablespoon worth, sometimes two, max). I include dried fruits in that count too. But not fresh fruit, which I also eat 1-3 servings a day. This amount doesnt seem to bother me, probably since I eat incredibly healthy otherwise.

  77. Leonardo says

    Hi, Chris…

    I would love to get more information about Stevia and Sucralose….from your point of view.

    Thanks,

    Léo.

  78. Ana says

    I would love to see a conversation about prediabetes and how it relates to sweeteners/carbohydrates. Storing fat as body weight has been a good thing until recently because of the availability of food but this impact produces health conditions.
    It used to be assumed that overweight people developed pre-diabetes and moved on to diabetes, but this is no longer the case…slim people develop it too. Was it the high carb/low fat craze and the added sugars to food?

  79. Diane says

    As someone with insulin resistance I would like to know if I am shooting myself in the foot by continuing to eat sweet tasting foods as I figure that my large sweet tooth is what got me into this fix. I have been using small amounts of various sweeteners like Truvia and Xylitol and very small amounts of sugar in the form of 85% chocolate.

    I would also like to see dates on your articles and podcasts please.

  80. Karen says

    Great article and I am looking to the follow-up articles.

    There are many paleo recipes out there that basically replace table sugar with honey or maple syrup. Is this really more healthy or still something we should aim to avoid?

    What about glucose/fructose ratio? If you suffer with SIBO or fructose malabsorption then it seems to me that the paleo alternatives may potentially be worse for you than table sugar, since they are higher in fructose. What are your thoughts on this? Would molasses be a better choice?

  81. says

    I’m looking forward to this series! One of the issues that I have with sugar is its addictive qualities. I don’t find it inherently evil, and I enjoy a square or 2 of dark chocolate most days.

    One thing that I’ve noticed with myself is that the more sugar I eat, the more sugar I WANT. And this actually goes for carbohydrates in general. I would love to hear about how to deal with the ‘SUGAR MONSTER’ as my fiance and I refer to the addictive side of sugar, and how to keep ‘him’ away or fight him off.

    • jack says

      sugar/carbs are the primary preferred fuel source for every cell in your body. perhaps supply those cravings for a while and see if it becomes a normal craving and still feels like addiction. Fruit and sugar carbs are the easiest carbs to introduce.

  82. Amy says

    This comes at a perfect time, I am about to start a sugar detox. I recently read that more nutrient dense plants are sweeter so it makes sense that we are designed to seek out sweetness. I’m looking forward to your research Chris. Thank you!

  83. says

    Great post…Wisdom comes from seeing the big picture: how *many* different things come together to create a result ..I think the Hundza probably didn’t have much trouble with honey because they didn’t also have: 1. isolated, fast paced city lives (stress) 2. Artificial light messing with their sleep, 3. Addictive foods made from *flour* available on every corner, and an $8.5 min wage…or whatever it is in the US (more stress). I’m guessing their was also not a high incidence of childhood sexial abuse, an epidemic today…which sets up many people for a lifetime of anxious and depressive tendencies, along with the digestive issues that attend that. (Not to be negative but thems the facts!) An organism that is constantly stressed and malnourished might have a very different response to sweeteners than one that is rested, nourished and loved. When stressed out and exhausted, something sweet might suddenly become compulsively attractive…so that we no longer know when to stop. I know your new book Chris addresses this bigger picture of lifestyle quite nicely. Also I love how you included a chapter on play. .

    • Lisa says

      I agree 100%. We live in a very different world than the Hadza or any other HG tribe. EMFs, GMO’s, processed food, plastics, etc. etc.

      I would like to know more on the differing opinions on sugars and gut health. You have those touting no sugar at all (at least initially), even no fruit, sweet vegetables, or resistant starch. You have others who say resistant starch IS necessary to heal the gut. So what is it, no sugar to heal, for example candida, or do we need some sugar (especially glucose) to heal candida?

  84. says

    Good stuff Dr. Kresser. I’d like to see what the research indicates about the subtleties in how different sweeteners are metabolized. Perhaps it’s the nutrients in honey that make it so different from table sugar. Perhaps not. I occasionally use artificial sweeteners too, so I’d like to know the full extent of their impact. Maybe a post on different types of real sugars (both natural and artificial), followed by a post on sweeteners that do not contain sugar (both natural – stevia, and artificial – sucralose/aspartame).

    Thanks!

  85. Lauren says

    I’d like to know more about the glucose, fructose and sucrose types of sugars, where they are found, and what impact consuming these in large or small quantities might have. Does type matter? I.E. Honey get’s its sweetness from glucose and fructose, so does that differentiate it from table suger (sucrose)?

    Also, how does all of this play into the glycemic index?

    Very interesting article, thanks!

    • Dee says

      I would love to know too.

      +1 on the request to date posts. I usually scroll down to the comments section to get an idea of the post’s date.

    • Flyingsod says

      Sucrose (table sugar) is a glucose and a fructose molecule stuck together so its 50% of either.
      Fructose does not raise “blood sugar” (there’s a reason its medical name is “blood glucose” ) but it has a wicked metabolic pathway causing all kinds of bad things along the way. Fructose is also very sweet.
      Glucose will spike your blood glucose levels and accordingly your insulin levels. After that it has a more benign pathway through your metabolism. It’s less than half as sweet as the fructose molecule.
      HFCS varies but generally is 55-60% fructose and the rest glucose. This is why the propaganda says its nearly identical to sugar.

  86. Carneiros says

    I would really like to know more about stevia and its impacts on human health. I like to combine stevia with other natural sweeteners (fruit, sugar, honey, etc), so I can reduce the total amount of added sugar. I know artificial sweeteners are suspect and I’m worried about stevia. I’ve found that adding small amounts of different kinds of sweeteners creates a more sweet flavor than a larger amount of any one by itself. I’m not too worried about the whole plant, but it’s hard to add a bunch of leaves to my baked goods. Is the concentrated extract safe?

  87. girl says

    I find honey in any significant quantity so sweet as to be unpalatable (I’ve heard older generations use the expression “sweet enough to choke a fly”). I’m not sure I really believe in the universal preference for very sweet foods–to me there seems to be a universal capacity to acquire a taste for sweeteners, but that it is an acquired taste.

    So it’s no surprise to me that a hunter-gatherer community with access to large quantities of honey or syrup would acquire that taste. But you haven’t really said anything about how that’s worked out for them. Do hunter-gatherer communities that consume large amounts of sweeteners, such as the Hadza and Mbuti, enjoy the same health as hunter-gatherer communities that do not? Or are they exceptions that prove the rule?

    Being able to enjoy the sweetness in vegetables and in berries and other uncultivated fruits seems more valuable in all the environments in which these are more plentiful than honey and syrups. Can the same palate appreciate the slight sweetness of uncultivated fruit, once it’s adapted to the sweetness of a syrup?

    • Glenn Atkisson says

      Great questions, girl!

      How did it work out for the honey eaters?

      How does one’s appreciation of, and therefore one’s demand for, modestly sweet fruits and veggies, change, after one begins ingesting highly sweet foods such as honey?

      I can only speak for myself, and I have been hypoglycemic, then type 2 diabetic, for many years. But if I were to be living in a paleolithic time, and wanted to survive and also compete with able bodied humans for sustenance, it would be critical that I stay totally off anything that affected my absolute ability to be strong, resilient, and sharp witted. Once I experienced the effects of certain foods, I would have to take measure to avoid certain foods and eating habits.

      And this would include total elimination of sweets that affected my brain power and stamina. Another thing would be keeping meals restricted in size. Too much meat could mean too much lethargy and extended sleep.

      Few people think about survival minute by minute like this any longer. We’ve reached a place in modern societies where survival is almost guaranteed for a certain number of years. And so our feeling of competence and ability, minute by minute, just doesn’t measure into our daily living equation.

    • Cat says

      +1
      I really don’t know how anyone can eat 20% of their calories as honey . . it just seems inedible to me. So what I wonder is whether there’s some genetic basis to liking very sweet foods (which seems to occur in a large majority of people), versus people who prefer sour, salty, or even ‘bland’ foods (other than the well known supertasters). I think more recent evolutionary pressures may have shaped some people away from sweet cravings, perhaps. My culture emphasizes fermented dairy products and salted meats, but I had access to both those foods and the typical Western oversweetened foods, any my tastes in adulthood aligned with those of my ancestors.

      While it’s interesting to read about what present-day hunter-gatherers ate, I don’t really think it’s as important as finding more data on more recent genetic pressures, and things like diabetes incidence and dental caries in different groups, and seeing how that matches to current and more recent ancestral diets. Maybe eating so much honey is perfectly fine for the Hazda, but would be terrible for groups that didn’t (more recently) evolve with that type of access to honey.

      I’ve also noticed that after cutting out sugar, people’s palates change so they no longer enjoy the oversweetened desserts they used to (this take some time of course). In fact, some fruits even seem too sweet. I call fruits ‘Nature’s candy’ at this point, though I’ve always preferred tart fruits (like wild apples) anyway. I think it would be great if you (Chris) could gather success stories of people who’ve managed to change their palates away from sweet cravings, and see how they did it.

  88. Ryan Sampsell says

    Do these referenced HG’s eat the entire Honeycomb? I’m curious if that is a good idea/better approach? I have found multiple locations that sell honey in the comb/chunk form.

  89. Cynthia says

    Hi again Chris,

    I intentionally didn’t try to quote Dr. Ballantyne because she has a whole article on why she doesn’t recommend stevia (for AIP followers). But she was talking about testosterone and other suspected hormonal effects from stevia, not insulin. I realized many readers would get the wrong take-away from my comment as originally posted.

  90. Andrea says

    I was recently diagnosed with very high levels of yeast in my gut, so avoiding all sugars has been my focus for a few months now. I’ve been shocked at how often I still crave sweets! However, once my treatment is complete (I’m also taking antifungals), I’d like to know what sweeteners — and at what amounts — are safe to add back in.

    • Felicia Dale says

      I use a specific probiotic, Saccharomyces Boulardii (NOW brand) and it really helps me with sweet cravings.

    • Christie says

      I read that the cravings for sugar come from the candida itself which then feeds on it! So it’s not really you that wants it! I’m also doing a low sugar diet and I use stevia. It tastes great as long as there are other strong flavors in the recipe. I found a great chocolate mousse recipe that is (added) sugar free. It is:
      1 ripe avocado
      1 ripe banana
      2 stevia packets
      1 tbsp cinammon
      1 cup coconut milk (unsweetened)
      1 tsp vanilla extract.
      I sometimes eat this for dinner when I’m lazy :)

  91. Lynn says

    I’d like to get your thoughts on Grade B maple Syrup as a sweetner. My naturopath is doctor has me using it because it is lower than fructose and I am n an elimination diet (using MRT as a guide.) how do you know when enough is enough or you have had too much? I do not eat any processed foods. Thank you.

    • SJ says

      I would like to know more about this too, as it’s the only sweetener that I like. (I use it very sparingly, about once a month.)

    • says

      Maple Syrup is the healthiest sweetener around due to it natural nutrients but Grade A is even better than Grade B as it has more nutrients left due to less processing time in the boilers.

      HINT: Choose your Maple Syrup brand wisely as most companies combine many different producers syrups and this equates to different tasting bottles on occasion.

      On the subject of natural sweeteners compared to processed ones it is a no brainer. If you are consuming anything raw, your body will naturally break it down and use it up properly and discard all excess. Don’t over indulge and you will only benefit from the enjoyment of eating natural sweeteners.

      Health Issues are caused by human error so don’t error in your intake including quantity.

      That is my 3 cents worth.

        • Lisa says

          I just found many articles about the difference in maple syrup grades. The only difference is color, odor and perhaps viscosity. There is no difference in nutrients or processing. Maple syrup of any kind shouldn’t be processed other than boiling the sap, in order to reduce it, to make a syrup.

  92. Cynthia says

    Hi Chris and thanks as always for the great info!

    I’ve recently read from Dr. Sarah Ballantyne that stevia perhaps has a negative effect on hormones. I’d love to hear from you on that angle.

    I’m guessing you’re planning to include posts on the pros and cons of many popular sweeteners today…coconut sugar (including sustainability), whole leaf stevia, maple syrup, molasses, modern raw honey (including the theory that human mass raiding of hives is contributing to colony collapse)…can’t wait for the next post on this!

  93. Wilhelmina says

    I have always wondered how so many health food gurus can justify all these ‘healthy’ snacks with tons of sugar replacements, facebook is full with those kinds of posts. I think the difference between Hadza, early ancestors and us is that we barely move anymore. Everything is done by machines and computers. People drive to the shop 10 minutes away, sitting behind the desk. We just become too non-active and if that wasn’t bad enough people just overindulge in the goodness the food markets have to offer, it’s just too much. Next to that we are dealing with an artificial world, like plastics and chemicals.

    • elizabeth says

      exactly wilhelmina!!!!!! one of my thoughts while reading the article was that breast milk is sweet (: great choice for new topic chris!

  94. Daniel Scott Traweek says

    I’m a stevia guy, primarily because it does not spike insulin. The taste takes some getting used to. I also tried coconut nectar on a whim, it was a very weak sweetener, but I like the benefits of coconut overall, so I tried it.

  95. Ana says

    I don’t really think sugar per se is the problem. I think the overload of chemical toxins, and denaturing of foods so that they no longer resemble real food, has damaged us metabolically to such an extent that our bodies can no longer handle an excess of healthy sugar without repercussions.

    Thanks Chris! As always, a thought provoking article.

  96. M says

    I would also like to know if stevia spikes insulin. It makes great organic lemonade to start off the morning. Combine it with organic raw cacao paste and you have an amazing hot chocolate! If it spikes insulin is there a chart of how much does what? If it is non-caloric HOW does it spike insulin? Not fair!

    • Karen says

      Stevia improves insulin sensitivity and also improves the pancreases ability to product insulin. It does NOT elicit an insulin response when ingested. It is suppose to be somewhat healing to the pancreas. “Metabolism”; “Rebaudioside A Stimulates Insulin Secretion”; R. Abudula et al.; October 2004

      • Lisa says

        I read somewhere that there is no long term study on erythritol.. can you help answer something for me? I thought erythritol was created in a lab and not naturally occurring, so how can it be gmo free? I also read that it’s created by the raw materials used to make gmo’s, so the whole thing seemed fishy to me. If you have more information or reference to a study please reply, I would be willing to learn more about this sweetener for info purposes. I personally have totally cut all sugar from my diet and will only eat honey once in a while, or a piece of fruit if I truly have a craving, which i’m subtly trusting because i’ve been following gaps/wapf.

  97. Liddlem says

    Both my parents were just diagnosed as prediabetic, in their mid 50s, being a healthy weight (thin, really), moderately active, and following a healthier than average SAD (especially my mum, who is almost paleo). I would like to know how to fit in sweeteners without increasing my risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. And, for someone with a likely genetic predisposition, how to shape my diet accordingly.

  98. Colleen says

    I find it remarkable that the consumption of sugar has only increased 1 teaspoon from 1970 to 2012. While you point in the change of consumption from sugar to HFCS, I have never heard a biochemical explanation for any difference in the consumption of the two as to weight/health. Thus, it leads me to conclude the explanation is more likely as suggested in a recent post by Stephan Guyenet, simply the result of increased consumption of calories. As for the Hadza or Mbuti, imagine if they had unlimited quantities of honey available year round right outside the dwelling — I suggest the result would be an obesity epidemic. Another interesting question would be do the Mbuti put on weight during that 2 month period where they consume so much honey? Based on my own and other anecdotal reports, I suggest that how much sugar or carbs one can consume and maintain weight will also be affected by whether and how long a person was previously operating in a metabolically derranged state.

    Interesting post, but I wish you would date the posts!

    • Chris Kresser says

      I removed that section because it was confusing the way I worded it. I agree that the primary contributing factor to the rise in rates of obesity and metabolic disease over the past 50 years has been an increase in calorie consumption, not a switch from sucrose to HFCS. Excess sugar is harmful in any form.

      • Karin says

        Chris,

        What exactly do you mean when you say that “excess sugar is harmful in any form”? I’m not trying to be confrontational, but it seems like a somewhat meaningless statement. Isn’t “excess” of ANYTHING, by definition, harmful in any form?

        On another note, I would love to see you address the healthful properties of honey. It seems to me that the “fructose is poison” folks (like Lustig, Lalonde, etc.) have some explaining to do.

        Oligosaccharides might contribute to the antidiabetic effect of honey: a review of the literature
        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22205091

        Honey–a novel antidiabetic agent
        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22811614

        Effect of honey in diabetes mellitus: matters arising
        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24476150

    • John says

      There is one study out there that has suggested that HFCS may contain 4-5 times the number of calories listed on the label (http://www.fasebj.org/cgi/content/meeting_abstract/24/1_MeetingAbstracts/562.1). If true, it would mean a 12 oz can of soda has closer to 500-600 calories than the listed 120. I’ve always been dubious of the claim that HFCS was the same as sugar or honey. The same was thought for over 70 years about vegetable oils and animal fats (and is still assumed by many today), but it is well documented that they are highly different.

      It seems to me that there’s a disconnect in the paleo community. Mainly, that our taste for fatty foods is there to improve our health, and our taste for sweet foods is there to undermine it (even if that means fruit and honey). Looking forward to the series.

    • Corrie says

      I agree with this request to date articles. I can get an idea of its date from the comments, but when doing a search for specific information, it would be handy to see the date at the top of the article. If the article is four years old, for example, I may read it, but will probably keep looking for a more current opinion.

    • Michelle says

      I would also like to see dates on your posts. You’ve mentioned in some of your posts and podcasts that your views have changed since the earlier days of your website, and I’d love to see at a glance when the post was written so that I can look to see if you’ve updated the information or your opinion.

    • MC says

      I don’t think just an increase in calories is responsible for the obesity epidemic. You would have to control for the quality of calories for one thing to really prove that point.

      What if the increase in calories since 1970 came solely from us eating more haddock fish and white rice, instead of from us eating twinkles, wonder bread, cereal, soy, pizza, Pepsi, and fast food? Not only the calories that were consumed, but not consumed, would play a part. Such as less breast milk, red meat, fish, vegetables, and whole foods in general.

      The quality of your calories will impact your weight, as I don’t think 3000 calories of M&M’s a day will lead to the same results as 3000 calories of haddock. So you have to do a lot more than show a correlation to prove calories are the real culprit.

      You also have to consider that people that weigh more, tend to need more calories, so is it an increase in calories since 1970 causing weight gain, or weight gain leading to a need to consume more calories?

      • Raymonencq says

        Obesity was always caused by increase caloric intake. The quality of the food hardly matters. 400 cals of white rice is = to 400 cals of poptarts. It’s just much harder to eat 3k cals of unprocessed foods than 3k of processed (or a mixture) though.

        • Patrice says

          I have to disagree with Raymonencq. 2 years ago, I ate 1500 calories per day on the SAD. now, I eat 2500 calories per day now of unprocessed, paleo food (with carbs). I am now within my ideal weight range, and weigh 15lbs less than I did when I ate less calories. I maintain this weight with no effort, compared with the constant struggle I faced before. There are many factors that affect body weight, not just the oversimplified calories in/out theory.

        • Glenn Atkisson says

          Raymonencq, you and Chris, of course are right about calories and weight gain. But, I think when Chris said “…the primary contributing factor to the rise in rates of obesity and metabolic disease over the past 50 years has been an increase in calorie consumption,…” he obviously had other things in mind as causes of obesity, and they probably were, as MC suggests, strongly pertaining to quality of the food supply.

          So the critical thing that many have hinted at, but none have focused on in this particular article (even MC) is the satiety of food. If you look at, or actually experience satiety, from different types, freshness, and mixtures of foods, you find that caloric intake drops.

          Therefore, when you yourself say “It’s just much harder to eat 3k cals of unprocessed foods than 3k of processed [food]…” I wonder if you actually meant to imply that it’s all about the difficulty of getting the food into one’s body, and that modern man gets fat because the chore/time involved is now much less due to refined foods. Do you think we have a certain daily need for calories, and that it is excessive compared to what paleo man had, and it’s only because we can easily satisfy that need that we meet our goal and get overweight?

          Or, do you agree that satiety is a factor, and there is a feature of modern refined foods that, if eaten almost exclusively, prevents one from being satisfied, and this is the real cause of so much over eating?

          This is more the line I think along, and I am suggesting that satiety could be brought by nutrient density: factors such as high vitamin, mineral, enzyme, and phyto-nutrient content and possibly even by bacterial load. These were more prevalent in foods before the modern era, and are still disappearing, thanks to poorer soil, longer shelf life, less nutritious plant varieties, etc.

          I’m guessing that as long as this trend continues, obesity will reign, and it’s highly due to a lack of satiety in the food. My n=1 personal example is that I no longer like the taste of sweet. My emotions rise and I have better mental and physical performance if I eat nutrient dense foods that give long lasting satiety before I’m even full.

          I’ve met several people who claim to be so well nourished, and therefore healthy, that they “let their body” choose the foods they need. I believe them when they say it is all intuitive, or impulse driven. I am becoming this way also — trusting my body to choose the food. And for none of these people is a craving for sweetness part of the food selection equation.

    • says

      Stevia does NOT spike blood sugar. That’s the reason a lot of people choose to use stevia. It is, however, just as refined as white sugar if you buy the clear drops or white powder. The paleo way to eat stevia is to grow your own plants and pluck fresh leaves to sweeten your tea.

    • Bonnie Larush says

      Someone commented on Stevia in an earlier post. I think responses to sugars are individual, as are responses to everything else we eat. The smartest I’ve done in a long time is follow Chris’s suggestion to pick up a blood glucose monitor. It has been extremely informative for me to see how different foods, and exercise, affect my blood sugar.

    • Kate says

      “Sweetie” was referring to a spike in insulin, different than a spike in blood sugar. From the research I’ve read, Stevia can actually have a lowering on one’s blood sugar after a meal, which suggests that it IS spiking insulin (insulin’s job is to put away sugar that is in the bloodstream). The very taste of sweet can trigger our pancreas to secrete insulin, and the insulin will go to work putting the sugar in our blood away, thus contributing to a blood sugar LOW, if we do not consume Stevia with other sources of carbohydrates simultaneously.
      Having insulin circulating in the blood above certain concentrations ensures we cannot break down our fat cells into glucose to use for energy, and if it does its job (putting sugars in the blood away, whether for cells to take up or to store as fat), and we’ve consumed no actual carbohydrates, then it will take too much out of the blood, causing a “LOW”. At this point, we would then we need to get glucose our body needs in the blood from our diet (read: cravings!!!) and on top of that, low blood sugar triggers the release of cortisol.
      I beileve this explains part of the reasoning behind why artificial sweeteners in general can lead to weight gain . I don’t see why Stevia would work any differently, since, natural source or not, it has the sweet taste. I don’t think there’s any verdict on this yet, but this is what logically makes sense to me.

        • Lisa says

          Check out Robert Lustig and Gary Taubes for their lectures on sugar, how it’s basically alcohol without the buzz due to identical processing in the body, and how sugar, even excess fructose in fruits will simply make you fat.

      • says

        Right on Debra – my biggest personal and professional struggle is fungal overgrowth and how devastating it is to human health – honey is out for sure :) :) !!

      • mitchell says

        If you try and eliminate candida by eliminating sugar you’ll just stress yourself and the candida out. The candida will become aggressive and grow hypha (roots) through your gut in order to get the glucose in your blood. Every healthy person has candida and it’s not usually problematic. I don’t know the fix that will work for everybody but I’m pretty sure eliminating sugar isn’t it. Introducing other bacteria and eating saturated fats (especially coconut for the capric acid and lauric acid) should help bring it back into balance.

        • Jennifer L. says

          That sounds unpleasant, to say the least. I’d like to not think of yeast in my gut growing roots.

        • Bill J says

          The standard Perfect Health Diet does a very good at combating Candida. Worked very well for me.

          The problem with eliminating all glucose and sugar is that Candida and yeasts are eukaryotes, and eukaryotes have mitochondria that can adapt readily to ketones over time. So, by eliminating all carbs, you just give Candida a super fuel that ignites it.

          Mark Sisson does a good job of covering the different angles on this:

          http://marksdailyapple.com/candida/
          This is further compounded by the fact that Candida grows pathogenic in an alkaline environment and becomes benign in an acidic environment. On an earlier podcast, Jeff Leach explained that low carb diets tend to be low in fermentable fibers and this leads to an alkaline intestinal tract. Whereas a diet high in fermentable fibers like Resistant Starch (even supplemental Resistant Starch) can promote higher acidity in the colon, from SCFA fermentation.

          So, shifting to a diet that promotes SCFA fermentation, like the Perfect Health Diet, can help turn Candida from a pathogenic state to a benign state, while avoiding the feeding of the Candida ketones.

          Reducing Candida also usually requires a biofilm disruptor. Here’s a great write up on how to use resistant starch in conjunction with biofilm disruptors to kill Candida:

          http://www.gestaltreality.com/2013/09/16/how-to-eliminate-candida-biofilms/

      • K says

        I went very low sugar for many years to try to deal with what I thought was hypoglycemia. I ate lots of whole starchy foods. During that time I had recurring thrush (amongst other issues). I just realised a while ago that I haven’t had any trouble with thrush for the last few years. I think it stopped about the same time I eased up and started eating more sugar. I’m not claiming the sugar cured it; there were probably several other things changing at the same time. But I do claim that eating sugar was compatible with this issue improving, at least for me. I currently eat quite a bit of sweet food, and less starchy ones, and try to get my other nutrients too. My guess is the main problems with too much (especially refined) sugar arise if we don’t get all the other nutrients we need too. Sugar may feed candida, but it also feeds our own defenses.

    • Rob says

      I don’t believe in candida. What most people think is candida is actually is SIBO (Small intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth) A ketogenic paleo diet for 80-90% of the time keeps SIBO in check for me. Google Specific Carbohydrates Diet for best results.

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