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Refined Sugar – good or bad?

Updated: Feb 1, 2023

Do we need it in our diet? Why do we crave it so badly?

How Does Sugar Affect the Body?

Refined sugar from sugar cane and beets depletes B vitamins, zinc and reduces the body’s ability to digest and absorb glucose. It is pro-inflammatory, which means it can increase pain and raise cholesterol levels. [i]

Additionally, consumption of refined sugar damages the mitochondria and negatively affects energy generation.[ii] Basically, the more sugar we eat, the harder it is for us to feel energetic the whole day. We can think of it as riding a rollercoaster. When you consume refined sugar, your blood levels skyrocket, causing you experience a quick and temporary burst of energy. But as we all know, what goes up must come down. You probably can guess what happens next – a sugar crash – because our body is screaming for more sugar.

To make matters even more difficult, sugar is also known to be an antidepressant – because it triggers the release of the brain chemical serotonin, which improves the way we feel. Unfortunately, this feeling only lasts for a short time, causing us to crave more sugar. However, you can boost your “happy hormone” in different, more beneficial ways including light exercise such as walking, spending time in nature, and getting restful sleep.

Problems Associated with Sugar Intake

  • Tooth decay and cavities

  • Obesity and risk of diabetes

  • Mood swings and anxiety

  • Candida and yeast overgrowth

  • Hypoglycemia

  • Nutritional deficiency

  • Digestive problems

  • Brain fog

  • Headache

Why Should We Eliminate or Limit Sugar?

40% of American health care dollars are used to treat problems directly related to overconsumption of sugar. Another study shows that if kids drink soda and fruit juices, they have a 60% higher risk of becoming obese. As we know, obesity is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes. [iii]

Sugar Detox

Ready to fight your sugar addiction? Elimination is the best way. Unfortunately, sugar is highly addictive and doesn’t make it easy on our bodies, but there are ways to help get you past the pesky withdrawal symptoms.

  • Some nutrients can help reduce your sugar cravings and symptoms of sugar withdrawal (B-vitamins, Vitamin C, Zinc, and Chromium)

  • Foods rich in Chromium like cinnamon and broccoli

Following a protein rich diet for a couple of days can also help with withdrawal from sugar and refined carbohydrates. During that period, you should try to eat small amounts of protein six times a day (approximately every 3-4 hours), with two servings of root vegetables, like sweet potatoes, carrots topped with ghee butter, along with salads and raw greens. After 7-10 days, you should lose your cravings. From there, you can add carbohydrates and fruit in moderation. [iv]

Don’t forget to hydrate. It’s also important to drink adequate amounts of water during the day, because this can help reduce those cravings. Aim for 8-10 glasses a day.

Once you’ve removed sugar from your diet, it’s still possible to use it every so often. It’s better to eat it once in a while, than get super stressed about sticking to a strict zero tolerance diet. Stress is just as harmful as sugar!

Healthy Sugar Replacements

  • Fresh fruit

  • Protein smoothie with fruit and veggies

  • Almond butter

  • Nuts and seeds (including almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds)

  • Coconut syrup (rich in minerals and low in glycemic index, made from the evaporated sap of the coconut tree)

  • Raw honey

  • Stevia (a hundred times sweeter than sugar, natural sweetener)

Baking substitutes: replace white sugar with monk fruit sugar.

What we also have to remember is that too much sweetener in any form will have negative effects on our health. This includes refined sugar but also corn syrup, fruit juice, soft drinks and honey.

Beware artificial alternatives. The most popular artificial sweetener aspartame (NutraSweet, AminoSweet, Benevia) isn’t a good replacement, because this substance is actually a neurotoxin. Aspartame breaks down into methanol, and then is converted into formaldehyde. Longer exposure of even low levels of formaldehyde can damage your nervous and immune system. Overconsumption of this artificial sweetener is linked to migraines, anxiety, depression, learning problems and insomnia.[v]

How much is okay? When we read nutrition labels, sugar is provided in grams – but what does that really mean? Let’s break it down.

As an example, 1 teaspoon of sugar equals 5 grams.

Activia yogurt contains 19 g of sugar in one container (113g). This is the equivalent of 5 teaspoons of sugar- which is a lot! A better choice is to buy plain Greek yogurt and add fresh fruit and nuts on top.

Other good example is a can of Coke, which has 39 g of sugar. This is the equivalent of 8 teaspoons of sugar.

So, you are probably thinking that the better choice is a zero-sugar Coke, right? Let’s see.

What do they use instead of sugar? Of course, they use aspartame. As I mentioned before, it’s not the end of the world if you consume a little bit of sugar and enjoy a can of Coke. In this case, drinking a regular Coke is in fact the better option!

Let’s be honest, cutting sugar is tough. We need it, but not to the levels that we actually consume it. Being mindful about our sugar consumption and the impact is has on us is the first step to a lower sugar lifestyle.


[i] Korn, Leslie E. Nutrition Essentials for Mental Health: A Complete Guide to the Food-Mood Connection, W.W. Norton & Company, New York, 2016, pp. 196–197. [ii] DiNicolantonio, James J, and Amy Berger. “Added sugars drive nutrient and energy deficit in obesity: a new paradigm.” Open heart vol. 3,2 e000469. 2 Aug. 2016, doi:10.1136/openhrt-2016-000469

[iii] Gundry, Steven R. The Plant Paradox Family Cookbook: 80 One-Pot Recipes to Nourish Your Family Using Your Instant Pot, Slow Cooker, or Sheet Pan, HarperCollins, United States, 2019, pp. 26–27.

[iv] Korn, Leslie E. Nutrition Essentials for Mental Health: A Complete Guide to the Food-Mood Connection, W.W. Norton & Company, New York, 2016, pp. 196–197.

[v] Choudhary, Arbind Kumar, and Yeong Yeh Lee. “Neurophysiological symptoms and aspartame: What is the connection?.” Nutritional neuroscience vol. 21,5 (2018): 306-316. doi:10.1080/1028415X.2017.1288340

3 則留言


Very interesting read Thanks for sharing



Great article, finally i know what i should mind


Thanks for sharing your knowledge! Now when I know which nutrients can reduce my sugar cravings I will implement them to my diet!

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