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Is Sugar Really Toxic? Healthy Ways to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth

April 3, 2012

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Is sugar poisonous? According to UCSF researcher and pediatric endocrinologist Dr. Robert Lustig, very. Though most people are quick to condemn sugar as an unhealthy choice, Dr. Lustig took sugar slandering to a new level when he asserted in February that sugar is toxic and should be regulated similarly to alcohol and tobacco.

On Sunday in an interview with Dr. Sanjay Gupta on 60 Minutes, Dr. Lustig argued that sugar, more than any other substance, is to blame for the skyrocketing rates of obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease.

New research backs up Dr. Lustig’s claim. UC Davis nutritional biologist Kimber Stanhope has found that people who consume high-fructose corn syrup have increased levels of LDL cholesterol and are at a higher risk for developing cardiovascular disease than those who consumed the name number of calories without the added sugar.

But others fear that Dr. Lustig’s statements oversimplify the issue. Dr. David Katz, renowned director of the Yale Prevention Research Center and IIN visiting teacher, cautioned in a MSNBC article yesterday:

“It’s not the sugar that’s the poison, but the dose that makes the poison ... The food industry will be happy give [us] whole new cart-loads of ‘low sugar,’ artificially sweetened junk food. It will be low in sugar, but will still be junk food."

The discussion also unfairly lumps all sweeteners into one black list of foods to avoid. There are plenty of natural sugar alternatives that are healthful, and when eaten in moderation, do not cause insulin spikes, blood sugar crashes, or uncontrollable cravings.

Next time you’re in the mood for something sweet, we encourage you to try these delicious and nutritious sugar alternatives:

Dates: full of natural fiber and a good source of vitamins B, A, C, iron and potassium. Date sugar, made of finely ground, dehydrated dates, can be used as a substitute for sugar.
Try our Pumpkin Spice Muffins

Maple syrup: pure, high-quality maple syrup is a good source of manganese and zinc. Researchers have found that its antioxidants may also have anti-cancer, anti-diabetic, and antibacterial properties.
Try our Apple Rosemary Cornish Game Hens

Blackstrap Molasses: a nutritional powerhouse full of iron, calcium, potassium, manganese, copper, magnesium, vitamin B6, and selenium.
Try this Iron Woman Gingerbread Smoothie

Honey: used by humans for thousands of years as a healing balm, locally sourced honey is also said to help alleviate allergy symptoms.
Try our Tofu Ice Cream recipe

How do you satisfy your sweet tooth the healthy way?

About the author

Laura Binder is the Editorial Manager of Wellness Today. She enjoys running in Central Park, traveling to the far corners of the world, and eating big dinners with her family. She is a 2013 graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.