Sugar – a “SANE” indulgence


Sugar substitutes still show that you are still addicted to SUGAR.

“On the surface of the tongue, certain proteins act as detectors for specific tastes. The sweetness receptor is made of two proteins in what is believed to be a structure like a Venus’ flytrap. When a sugar molecule attaches to the receptor, the receptor jogs neurons that send a signal to the brain that says something sweet has just been tasted.”                           ~ From the New York Times

Sugar sneaks in many of our foods, most do not even realize it.  From tomato sauces, ketchup, salad dressings, it’s crazy!  Sugar is a Paleo no-no.  Seriously, it’s the one thing that has evolved out of control since it was first introduced in society.  Sugar is a carbohydrate.  Insulin is produced from ingesting carbohydrate -all carbohydrates – but out of control insulin is caused by sugar and high glycemic index carbohydrates – carbohydrate bombs! – not necessarily non-starchy vegetables.  Fruit in limited quantities won’t cause an insulin spike, but a gallon of watermelon will…

Which leads us to discuss the importance of familiarizing ourselves with the Glycemic Index:

The Glycemic Index ranks foods on how they affect our blood glucose levels. This index measures how much your blood glucose increases in the two or three hours after eating.  The Glycemic Index is about foods high in carbohydrate. Foods high in fat or protein don’t cause your blood glucose level to rise much.  There are two main, good, credible sources on the Glycemic Index.  One is more user friendly than the other.  The University of Sidney has the best, searchable site HERE and there is good, well-resourced and cited information HERE.

Charles Poliquin has a more colorful summary of the Glycemic Index here:  What We Know About the Glycemic Indexby Charles Poliquin…

On to the sugar substitutes now…the bitter truth!

Artificial sweeteners and Nonnutritive Sweeteners
Currently there are several kinds you should look for when reading labels and these are some of the more common ones:

  • Aspartame
  • Acesulfame K
  • Neotame
  • Saccharin
  • Sucralose
  • Stevia

…and interesting…their “sweetness factor“! (see chart below). No wonder we all “crave it” and when you have to use actual sugar….it takes a lot to equal the power of artificial sweeteners!

Saccharin Sweet’N Low, Sweet Twin, Necta Sweet, Equal 200-700 times sweeter than sugar Tabletop sweetener, beverages, baked goods, jams, gum. Heat stable 1879
Aspartame Nutrasweet 200 x sweeter than sugar In processed foods and beverages Not heat stable 1981
Acesulfame-K Sunett, Sweet One 200 times sweeter than sugar General purpose Heat stable to 392 degrees F 1998
Sucralose Splenda 600 times sweeter than sugar General purpose Can be used in home baking 1998
Neotame No brand name 7,000 – 13,000 times sweeter than sugar General purpose Similar to aspartame 2002

Earlier this year, the NY Times Well Blog did a nice summary on artificial sweeteners…and it’s not a tough read.  The conclusion was great: eat and drink less sweet stuff.  Love it! And the general gist, if you really “think” about what you’re reading is it’s all about “are these artificially concocted chemicals that produce a super-sweet taste safe?

Now do some reading here before you ask any questions!

 It’s hard to read this and not wonder.  “Choosing a Sugar Substitute”  They followed up with this post “Artificial Sweeteners: The Challenge of Tricking the Taste Buds”.

In an nutshell, artificial sweeteners are just that:  artificial.  Non-Paleo. Don’t go there.  And if you do go there, just remember how much sweeter they are than regular sugar.  You are training your brain that you prefer that over-sweet, unnatural taste!

And worse yet, many of them are “engineered” to make you want more. I remember seeing this CBS New Special Years ago: Flavorists: Tweaking Tastes and Creating Cravings.  This completely explained why I could go through a pack of gum a day!

Charles Poliquin recently posted a new article on non-nutritive sweeteners. If you like to geek out on this stuff, OR, if you’re thinking you might be addicted to artificial sweeteners (soda, coffee creamer, ice tea, gum…). The Real Problem with Non-Nutritious Sweeteners.

And Diane Sanfilippo of Balanced Bites posted this great read on Sugar and Artificial Sweeteners…check it out!

Moral of the story: Robb Wolf states it bluntly that there is NO 100% everyday sweetener, rather it should be a managed indulgence we have from time to time. Insulin secretion is not something we want happening all the time.   But, on a daily basis, sweetners, regardless of calories are not Paleo. 

So let’s ditch it, what do you say?  Say goodbye to daily high sugar consumption!  Instead, let’s save it for a treat, weekend date night, pancake breakfast….an OCCASIONAL event versus a habit. And this way, your body may actually use that spike in insulin to benefit your body composition! 


Paleo Challengers – Bonus points – Worth 2 points, 1 point rewarded for the FULL (2-part), correct answer for question A and for question B. No ½ points will be rewarded. Please clearly submit answers making sure they are labeled and in order.

A1. The most common naturally occurring monosaccharide?

A2. What foods can you get this from?

B1. True or False: Foods high in extrinsic sugar may adversely affect nutritional adequacy

B2. True of False: Sorbitol and mannitol are considered Paleo.


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