Here is my brief explanation on the difference between natural and refined sugars, just in time for trick or treating! I know many children will be consuming mass amounts of chocolates and candies this evening and so I wanted to share some information with you as well as some tips on how best to consume those wee treats. Often times, we cannot totally eliminate certain experiences or foods that your child will be exposed to, but what we can do is try to intelligently support them so they do not suffer the consequences of ‘bad behaviour’ every once and a while. I hope this information helps your and your family have a happy and somewhat healthy halloween! 🙂
The natural sugars found in fruits and vegetables differ from refined sugars for several reasons. Fruits and veggies are nutrient-dense foods, whereas refined sugars are nutrient-depleted. A great way to tell the difference is to look at the colour (natural colours, of course!). Fruits and veggies come in a wide variety of colours and contain a wide variety of nutrients, whereas refined sugars are white. Another difference is that the natural sugars found in fruits and veggies are combined with fibre, protein and/or fat, which slows the rate at which sugar is absorbed into the body. This helps prevent insulin spikes and the eventual dive resulting in sugar cravings. Refined sugars are not only devoid of nutrients, but they also further rob or deplete nutrition form your body. Every step of digestion requires vitamin and mineral co-factors to occur. So, when you eat foods devoid of such important components for digestion, it uses your body’s stores.
If that weren’t enough, here are some more negative impacts of consuming candy and refined sugar.
- Refined sugars suppress the immune system for hours after ingestion, making your children more susceptible to infections.
- Refined sugars found in junk food or sweets can negatively impact behaviour, cause or increase hyperactivity in children and cause difficulty with concentration and sleep.
- Artificial food dyes and additives found in candy are made from petroleum and coal tar. They have been linked to hyperactivity and behavioural problems in children. It is a potential carcinogen and Blue 1, Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6 are known to trigger reactions in those with allergies. Tartrazine is a food colouring found in a lot of children’s products and candy and has been linked to exacerbating or causing asthma attacks and can cause sleep disturbances (please check your cereal boxes as it is found in a lot of cereals).
If or when your child is going to have some Halloween candy, limit the amount to 2-3 goodies. Also ensure they eat a substantial meal that includes protein and fats beforehand to slow the digestion of the refined sugars and to avoid the spike in insulin and the hyperactivity. This way you also prevent the serious energy crashes that can make children quite grumpy.
Dr. Michelle Peris is a Naturopathic Doctor whose goal is to inspire health through educating, motivating and empowering people. She has a family based practice out of a clinic in Oakville, Ontario.