Not all sugar is created equal. It is really that simple. Especially when it comes to the ADHD mind. For some reason, our symptoms seem to heighten or lesson depending on our consumption of sugar. Now, many studies out there have told us emphatically that there is no link between ADHD symptoms being worse when sugar is introduced into the diet. Yet, so many parents disagree with these scientists that there are hundreds if not thousands of blogs/forums proclaiming otherwise. You see, the studies, in my humble opinion, are rigged. They give kids a “sugar” drink to see the results. It is my belief that they use sugarcane or beet sugar, not refined sugar, in these sugary drinks for these tests. Several years ago I emailed these companies that do these studies (when I could find that information) and have exhausted myself trying to get the answer of what kind of sugar is used but no company will answer that question.
Let’s first discuss sugar, shall we? Most people think it is a simple component that we use for baking, is yummy in treats and soda, and all around “bad” for us. You will hear people discuss how unhealthy sugar is all the time, including on those health websites. It is pure carb. It has no nutritional value. Etc. Etc.
The truth is, sugar is good for us, as long as we keep food chemists out of the equation. (Sorry food chemists, I do love you, but not in this scenario.)
Let us begin. There are two types of sugar:
Sugarcane – It is a grass. Yup. A grass. Mills are used to extract the sugar from the stalks creating sugar in its true form.
Sugar beet – the roots of the beet are high in sugar. With simple refining, sugar is produced.
Those two are the natural states of sugar. Both are nutritious with Iron, protein Potassium, and calcium to name a few. If left in these stages they are good for us, however the shelf life isn’t very long, so scientists made ways for it to have a longer shelf life.
Molasses or Black Treacle – This is when the stalks of cane sugar or the roots of the beet are boiled once to concentrate it. It is also called Cane syrup on ingredient labels. When cane sugar is boiled for a second time it is called ‘second molasses’ or ‘B molasses’ and boiled a third time is called ‘blackstrap molasses’ or ‘C molasses’. In this form, one tablespoon contains up to 20% of our daily recommended value of vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium, iron, and manganese. Is it just me, or does that sound like it has some nutritional value? This form of sugar has a stable and longer shelf life.
This should have been where the refining of sugar ended. But, it didn’t have a stable colorization to it, and didn’t look pretty. Therefore, some more playing around with it was needed so it would be aesthetically pleasing.
Brown sugar – this is a bit strange, logically speaking. One way to make Brown Sugar is to refine it to the crystallization stage but keeping a touch of molasses in it. Or, it is taking completely refined sugar and adding molasses back into it. Simply put – it is refined crystalized molasses. Yes, you can use molasses mixed with refined sugar as a baking substitute for brown sugar. It’s that simple.
White sugar (aka refined sugar, table sugar, granulated sugar, and regular sugar) – This sugar is made by refining the sugar so that it removes all the molasses from it. Please see above for the health benefits of molasses. This makes sugar completely useless in the nutrition factor. It is pure sucrose. Once this is done, cane sugar and beet sugar is chemically indistinguishable. This form of sugar has an extremely long and stable shelf life. Since it has no nutritional value, and has been reduced to its simplicity, it is easier to bake with and is aesthetically pleasing. To put simply, we took all nutrition out of it so that it looks good and cooks easier.
But wait…there’s more insanity!
Now we have High Fructose Corn Syrup. This isn’t even sugar, folks. It’s made from Corn Starch. How high fructose corn syrup is made is so complicated that I cannot easily describe it. So, I’ll direct you to the Wikipedia page (which has a vast variety of highly credible references) to read on your own if you so desire. It is by no logical persons definition, natural. Yes, it uses natural products at the beginning and middle, but the end result is not something that Mother Nature would ever make on Her own. It is made only in a laboratory and has absolutely no nutritional value and is quickly digested.
Recent studies have shown that High Fructose Corn Syrup can be addictive and can lead to other addictions. But, I digress, as I so frequently do in my rants.
I did my own study on myself and my children. High Fructose Corn Syrup made our ADHD symptoms severely worse even when we took our medication. All three of us reacted poorly to it. Another self-study showed that refined white sugar also made our symptoms worse, again, all three of us. We did much better when consuming sugarcane or molasses. The only problem is, it is almost impossible to buy pre-made foods that do not have refined sugar or high fructose corn syrup in it. Our biggest problem is that I am a horrible cook. Of course, we could go the ‘all natural’ route and shop only at farmers markets or whole food stores, but we simply cannot afford that! The more addictive high fructose corn syrup is extremely cheap for some reason that defies logic. Is it just me, or wouldn’t just one simple refining process on a food product make it cheaper to buy? But heavily refined foods that require multiple layers of refining with employees in a laboratory is cheaper?
Can someone please explain that to me?
So, to sum this up. Sugar is not created equal. My own unscientific study has proven to me that the more natural and less refined the sugar is, the better it is for ADHD symptoms. We watch our diets and sugar intake and I know when my kids have gone off the wagon and had a snickers. Or, to be honest, they know when I go off he wagon and have M&M’s – my greatest, and most yummy, enemy.
Why does highly refined and labortory sugar taste so good?
*Feature image is that of “Bill the Cat” created by cartoonist Berkeley Breathed. Bill the Cat is awesome.