NutritionPlant-based 101Plant-based Living

Sugar and the Diet Matrix Scale

Whether or not you believe sugar is a poison, you probably know it’s not on the top ten list of “Best Foods for Health”, right? Let’s consider sugar in relationship to a scale of refined to whole foods.

This is what the scale  looks like:

On the left side you can put any food that has been refined or highly processed. Refined, means that something has been taken away. Processed, means that it is no longer in the form it occurred in nature.  Things like oil and sugar get a score of 1. Food that has a large proportion of oil and/or sugar or other refined foods will score between 1 and 5.

Some examples of refined foods are white sugar, white flour, white rice, degerminated cornmeal and oils of all kinds. Refined sugar no longer has the fiber that was with it in nature, whether from the sugar beet or the sugar cane. Along with the fiber, many vitamins and minerals have also been removed or lost in the process. White flour has lost the bran from the wheat kernel (very rich in fiber) as well as the germ, which is rich in B vitamins and heart healthy fats and Vitamins. Even enriched flour only contains 4 of the original vitamins and minerals, so the term “enriched” is a real misnomer. White rice has lost its bran and germ as has degerminated cornmeal. In the process of refining these foods, important nutrients, essential for good health, have been lost. In fact, for the body to burn sugar for energy, it actually has to rob body stores of vitamins and minerals, because there are none at all in sugar. Processed meats like hotdogs, bacon,  and luncheon meats are also at this end.

On the other end of the continuum are whole foods. These are foods as found in nature. Whole grains of all kinds, nuts and seeds, legumes, fruits and vegetables without added ingredients are here. Organic, naturally raised animal products without antibiotics or other chemicals would also be at this end. A fresh apple, tossed salad with nuts instead of salad dressing would be be examples of foods that would score a 10.

Anything you can do to eat more of your foods toward the whole end of this continuum will improve your health. Aim to have your meals score between 8 and 10 for optimal health. By following the suggested action step at the end of this post, you will have taken a step in the right direction – toward more whole foods!

Action Step:

Replace your brown sugar or syrup on hot cereal with Lucia’s Creamy Topping. Click on the link to go to the recipe. This is also a great topping for fruit salad or fruit crisp, or waffles and pancakes.

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