By now, I'm sure that you already know that sugar feeds cancer. (source) But, did you also know that there are natural sweeteners in your pantry that have been shown to fight cancer? Yep! And not those artificial sugars that taste horrible and don't have any nutritional benefit!
In this article, I discuss the dangers of consuming processed sugars, share three of my favorite natural sweeteners for cancer prevention, and cover the importance of balancing the “glycemic index” with taste and health. And, don't worry, it's not as confusing as you may think!
Current Health Care Crisis
Our health and our health care system both rank at the bottom of virtually every study and survey today, yet Americans spend more on health care and supplements than any other country. (1, 2, 3) As we take every supplement under the sun and bathe ourselves in coconut oil and fish oils, people are coming to the realization that their food choices – especially processed sugars, artificial sweeteners and high-processed carbohydrate diets – have more to do with causing cancer and other diseases than what they may have initially thought. As a result, a growing number of people are looking for natural sweeteners for cancer prevention that not taste great and satisfy their sugar cravings.
The Sugar Habit
First off, I am convinced that consuming processed sugars is the primary cause of cancer today. Why?
Because processed sugars:
- Feed cancer
- Dampen the immune system
- Has no nutritional value
- Are in virtually EVERY processed food on the market
They are everywhere, which is why it's so difficult to cut harmful sweeteners out of your diet!
Consuming processed sugar and simple carbohydrates can lead to an addictive dopamine cycle, and most people are addicted to the stuff without even knowing it! Research has actually shown that there is a neurochemical similarity between intermittent binging on sucrose and drugs of abuse: “both can repeatedly increase extracellular [dopamine levels] in the nucleus accumbens.” (4) In fact, sugar is more addictive than cocaine. (5) Eight times more addictive, to be precise, according to Mark Hyman, MD. (6)
Have you ever wondered why it’s so challenging to eat just one cookie or have one slurp of a cola? Like narcotics, the dramatic fall back to Earth after riding high on the sugar clouds will create an intense craving in your body for another “hit.”
This is why it’s important to consume as many natural, whole foods as possible because they will trigger a gradual, moderate amount of feel-good hormones. However, eating sugary treats will cause a spike in these feel-good hormones which then causes people to crash soon afterwards.
How Sugar Affects Immunity
Everything should be done in moderation, right?
Absolutely not! Nothing could be further from the truth.
In addition to being horribly addictive, sugar dampens your immune system, making you more susceptible to falling prey to an infection and can even lead to chronic disease because of the inflammatory response it triggers in the body.
Immediately after it's been consumed, sugar literally shuts down white blood cell effectiveness and puts the body in danger for up to 5 hours. (7) Most people don't realize this.
According to nutritionist K.C. Craichy (Quest for the Cures), just 100 grams of sugar inhibits our white blood cell’s ability to kill the pathogens in our body by up to 90%. And this happens within 15 minutes of consumption. (8)
To put this in more familiar terms, American Anti-Cancer Institute Founder Bob Wright confirms that data from a 1973 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition still holds true today: “One can of [soda] has enough sugar to shut down 50% of our immune system for a minimum of 4 hours.”
And, according to the American Anti-Cancer Institute:
When we consume sugar, we are simultaneously shutting off our defenses while pouring gasoline on the fire that is Cancer. When we take into account that “50 to 70% of our total immune system cells cannot see cancer … even on our best day,” the notion of adding sugar to our diet seems even more blasphemous (A.J. Lanigan, Quest for the Cures).
More Risks With Sugar Than Previously Expected
Sugar is conceivably the most dangerous substance on the planet and we should avoid it like the plague. Nancy Appleton, PhD, even claims that there are literally 141 ways sugar ruins your health. (9)
- Cause dental cavities.
- Cause skin conditions like acne and eczema.
- Contribute to hormone imbalance and adrenal fatigue.
- Deplete your body of natural energy and prevent mineral absorption in your bones.
- Encourage stomach ulcer formation.
- Feed candida.
- Greatly inhibit metabolism.
- Lead to osteoporosis and arthritis.
- Cause gallstones.
- Spike blood sugar levels.
- Suppress the immune system.
Sugar is literally everywhere and that's the real danger of sugar.
The American Nutrition Association says:
“According to the American Heart Association (AHA), the average adult in the United States takes in 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day, or a whopping 150 pounds a year, while teens pile in 34 teaspoons a day. That’s more than twice the amount of sugar we should be eating.” (13)
A lot of so-called “natural sweeteners” have gained a lot of fanfare recently because they are low on the glycemic index.
Spearheaded by the Boden Institute of Obesity, Nutrition, Exercise and Eating Disorders and Charles Perkins Centre at the University of Sydney, the glycemic index (or GI) is a ranking of carbohydrates on a scale from 0 to 100 according to their ability to raise blood sugar (glucose) levels after eating. It is also an important factor to maintaining weight loss. (21)
- High GI foods – those which are rapidly digested, absorbed and metabolized, which result in marked fluctuations in blood sugar (glucose) levels.
- Low GI foods – those that produce smaller fluctuations in blood glucose and insulin levels and are thought to be one of the secrets to long-term health, reducing your risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
It's important to keep in mind that there is a lot more to the story than just the GI score. Whether or not a sweetener is natural, artificial, loaded with chemicals, and is digestible should be considered before consuming it. This is why I'm a big fan of the three sweeteners: stevia, honey and maple syrup.
For a list of common sweeteners and their glycemic index, see below.
3 Natural Sweeteners Safe To Enjoy
When it comes to cancer prevention, eating the right foods is just as important as NOT eating the bad ones, so keep this in mind when making baked goods and satisfying your sweet tooth. Thankfully, natural sweeteners are readily available so kicking the sugar habit can be a cinch if you use these three instead of sugar.
1. Stevia – By far one of the healthiest and sweetest natural sweeteners, stevia is an herb that has been shown to help reverse diabetes and obesity. Stevia is one of the best natural sweeteners for two reasons:
- It is a natural plant that has powerful healing properties.
- It has no calories and has a 0 glycemic index. When it is used instead of sugar (and other natural sweeteners), blood glucose levels are not affected.
Of the 350 scientific articles referencing stevia, we are starting to see that stevia can help with more than diabetes and obesity, which are known causes of cancer. The Nutrition and Cancer Journal, for example, recently published a groundbreaking study showing how stevia can actually help prevent and kill breast cancer! (14) Time will tell how truly effective this wonderfully sweet herb can benefit our health and wellness.
- Amino acids
- B vitamins (B6, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid)
Honey is an extremely effective wound healer and has also been known to help with irritable bowel syndrome, acne, eczema, MRSA, tooth decay and a slew of other disorders.
Taking just one teaspoon of local raw honey has been shown to enhance immune function by building a tolerance to local pollen.
The International Archives of Allergy and Immunology published an article that discovered that pre-seasonal daily use of birch pollen honey decreased allergy symptoms by 60%! (16)
If you can afford it, get some Manuka honey. It's a little pricey, but is a powerhouse immune booster. If it's out of your budget, you can find raw, local honey at your local health food store for pretty cheap.
3. Maple Syrup – Shown to kill colon cancer cells, maple syrup is a delightful replacement for most baked good recipes. (17) It is rich in calcium, iron, zinc and manganese. University of Rhode Island researcher Navindra Seeram states:
“I continue to say that nature is the best chemist, and that maple syrup is becoming a champion food when it comes to the number and variety of beneficial compounds found in it. It’s important to note that in our laboratory research we found that several of these compounds possess anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which have been shown to fight cancer, diabetes and bacterial illnesses.” (18)
We buy our maple syrup a few gallons at a time in Michigan at a Farmer's Market near my wife's old hometown when we visit family. Try to get yours local and organic if possible. You can also get maple syrup here.
Honorable Mention (BlackstrapMolasses) – being exceptionally nutrient-dense, molasses also contains cancer-fighting properties. (source) According to one study, “Blackstrap molasses is rich in a variety of essential minerals including iron, zinc, selenium, magnesium and potassium as well as the majority of the vitamin B complex, deficiencies of which confer a major cancer risk. Molasses also contains high concentrations of amino acids and linoleic acid, an essential lipid that has a documented anti-tumor effect.”
Make sure your molasses is organic and unsulphured.
What About Agave & Sugar Alcohols?
Both agave and sugar alcohols like xylitol have been praised for being “natural” sweeteners and many health care providers are recommending them because they are low on the glycemic index. First of all, they are anything BUT natural. Secondly, they are quite toxic to the body.
- Cannot be properly metabolized by humans.
- Causes digestive issues like gas, bloating and diarrhea.
- Gets stored in the liver, which can contribute to long-term liver damage.
Agave is even worse. A great explanation came from a recent Dr. Oz article where the famed medical celebrity retracted his opinion of agave.
“After careful consideration of the available research, today I’m asking you to eliminate agave from your kitchen and your diet. Here’s why:
“We used to think that because agave has a low-glycemic index and doesn’t spike your blood sugar like regular sugar does, it would be a good alternative for diabetics. But it turns out that although agave doesn’t contain a lot of glucose, it contains more fructose than any other common sweetener, including high-fructose corn syrup.” (20)
Does It Sound Too Good To Be True?
Let common sense be your guide when it comes to choosing sweeteners. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Enjoy stevia, raw honey and maple syrup – these three have been tested by both time and science to not only satisfy your sweet tooth, but are also healing and life giving.
Glycemic Index of Common Sweeteners
The University of Sydney publishes a searchable database containing the results of glycemic testing.
|Golden Syrup||Modified Sugar||60|
|Inverted Sugar||Modified Sugar||60|
|Refiners Syrup||Modified Sugar||60|
|Blackstrap Molasses||Sugar Extract||55|
|Maple Syrup||Natural Sugar||54|
|Sorghum Syrup||Natural Sugar||50|
|Cane Juice||Sugar Extract||43|
|Barley Malt Syrup||Modified Sugar||42|
|Coconut Palm Sugar||Natural Sugar||35|
|Brown Rice Syrup||Modified Sugar||25|
|Agave Syrup||Modified Sugar||15|
|Yacon Syrup||Natural Sweetener||1|
|Luo Han Guo||Natural Sweetener||0|
|Acesulfame K||Artificial Sweetener||0|
What about YOU? What natural sweeteners do YOU love?