Sugar: “The Nutrient Depleter”

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Let’s face it – sugar is America’s favorite food. The average American eats 22 teaspoons of sugar every day (355 calories). Hmmmm . . . . lets put this in perspective. That is more than 7 Tablespoons of sugar or nearly ½ cup of added sugars per day. If that is not bad enough, teens are averaging 34 teaspoons per day which amounts to ¾ cup of sugar – EVERY DAY! (1)

Sugar, grown as sugar cane, starts out as a fibrous stalk which has a slightly sweet taste. Have you ever chewed on a sugar cane swizzle stick?  This is sugar in its purest form! My boys love to gnaw on these sticks in order to extract their sweet juice. The first thing you’ll notice is how mildly sweet pure sugar cane tastes. Next, you’ll notice the roughage between your teeth!

Raw_sugar_cane Sugar can be processed from both sugar cane and sugar beets. But for the sake of our discussion, we’ll look at sugar cane today.  Have you ever wondered how the sugar cane plant is processed from a brown fibrous stalk into a pure white powder?  First, the cane is harvested and cleaned. The processing includes grinding, milling, crushing, clarifying, heating, separating, five steps of evaporation, then aeration, filtration, and crystallization. Believe it or not, all these steps are just to make “raw” cane sugar. Further processing is needed to create the refined white sugar that most of us buy in the grocery store. The “raw” sugar is next passed through a premelter, then a melter and then through chemical treatment, carbonation, decolorization, evaporation, and then vacuum pans. The final steps include a mixer and centrifugal and dryer. (2) Whew! Did that get your head spinning?

Sugar is sometimes referred to as “empty calories.” Correct. Sugar does not contain even one vitamin or mineral and I’m sure you can see why there is nothing left after such extensive refining. Unfortunately, within digestion, each metabolic conversion of sugar requires nutrients. Without nutrients of its own to contribute to the digestive process, these vitamins and minerals must be taken from other tissues within the body. Eating sugar depletes vitamins B-1, B-2, B-3, B-5, B-6, lipoic acid, manganese, biotin, magnesium, iron, sulfur, phosphorus and coenzyme Q-10 — every time you eat it. (3)

With mounting evidence linking nutritional deficiencies to so many modern health concerns, it’s not hard to see how America’s high sugar diet is contributing to massive nutrient depletion and an accelerated disease process. Eating sugary food raises your blood sugar, and can give a temporary boost of energy – but it is ultimately setting the stage for ill health and chronic disease.


1. MSN. “Cut back, way back,on sugar, says heart group.” (2009, August 24)

2. Environmental Protection Agency. “Food and Agricultural Industry: Sugarcane Processing” (1997)

3. Walker. E. Conquer Fatigue (2001)

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