Steer Clear of Refined Sugar and White Flour (Ditch the Sugar Cookies)

This blog is part of the Preventative Lifestyle: Keeping Your Body Healthy (and cancer-free) blog series. While researching ways to help my cancer-stricken mother, I found a variety of things that can help reduce our risk of cancer. While we cannot guarantee that we will never get cancer, it is important we do what is within our power to lower our risk. Please consult with your doctor before making any significant lifestyle or dietary changes.

One More Reason to Avoid Sugar and White Flour

Photo by Jennifer

I absolutely love sugar cookies and shortbread at Christmas. In fact, I love the cookies and I love the uncooked cookie dough. I think you could even call me a cookie monster.

That is until I started researching dietary influences on our health. I knew that sugar and white flour (two of the main ingredients in sugar cookies) were things we should avoid for weight loss but I didn’t realize they are basically poisons for our body. Scary really, and disappointing because I happen to love them.

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There is evidence that we can help strengthen the body’s defenses against cancer by diet and exercise changes (1). The problem is that the things we should omit from our diets are often things that we enjoy, things that taste good and things that we have on a regular basis. If we accept that toxins in our environment stimulate cancer growth, then to fight cancer we must detoxify our diet as much as possible. Following a clean eating diet is not a diet but a way of life where you choose whole, unprocessed foods and avoid things like white flour and sugar.

All my research points to the need to ditch the sugar cookies and instead try a batch with whole wheat flour and stevia or other natural sweeteners. I found a  great recipe for stevia-sweetened, flour-free “sugar” cookies and they’ll be on my baking list for next Christmas.

Cancer Feeds on Sugar

The consumption of white sugar in the Western diet has increased significantly in the last 100 years (From 11 lbs a year in 1830 to 150 lbs a year at the end of the twentieth century) (2). It seems that the increased sugar consumption could be a contributing factor to the cancer epidemic.

It is documented that people with diabetes have a higher incidence of cancer (3).  It was discovered by Otto Warburg in Germany that the metabolism of malignant tumors is largely dependent on glucose consumption. When we eat white sugar or white flour (high glycemic index foods) the body releases insulin accompanied by the release of IGF (Insulin-like growth factor) to allow the glucose to enter the cells to stimulate cell growth. Insulin and IGF promote cell growth as well as trigger inflammation in the system. This acts as a fertilizer for tumors.

We now know that peaks in insulin and the release of IGF stimulate the growth of cancer cells and stimulate their capacity to invade surrounding tissues (4). Another interesting study showed that after injecting breast cancer cells into mice, that the cells were less susceptible to chemotherapy once the mouse’s insulin system had been activated by the presence of sugar (5). It seems that a new class of drugs to reduce peaks in insulin would be effective in fighting cancer.  Instead of waiting for these drugs, reducing the amount of sugar and white flour we eat daily could effectively do the same thing.

The scientific evidence indicates that to protect ourselves against cancer we should cut back on processed sugar and bleached white flour. We can do this is a couple of relatively simple ways

Easy Ways to Reduce Sugar and White Flour

  • Drink your coffee or tea  (green tea is particularly healthy) without sugar
  • If you drink soy milk, drink the unsweetened variety
  • Have dessert every other night instead of every night. Try fresh fruit (not sweetened with sugar or syrup) as they are much healthier and do not seem to cause the same intense insulin spike.
  • Use one of the natural substitutes for sugar such as agave nectar, stevia, honey, xylitol or dark chocolate
  • Eat multigrain bread or bread made with traditional leaven such as sourdough bread or Ezekial bread
  • Oh, and ditch the sugar cookies


Glycemic Index

Tosca Reno is the author of several books that explain the concept of clean eating, which endorses whole foods and replacements for sugar

Whole Food Cookbooks

Whole Food Cooking blogs

The Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen

100 Days of Real Food: 1 Family, 2 kids, 0 processed foods

The Gracious Pantry


  1. World Cancer Research fund 2007
  2. Servan-Schreiber, David. Anticancer: A New Way of Life
  3. Wiederpass et al, “Risk of Endometrial and Breast Cancer in Patients with Diabetes Mellitus” International  Journal of Cancer 71,no.3(1997): 360-63
  4. Long et al “Regulation of the Mr 72,000 Type IV Collagenase by the Type I Insulin-Like Growth Factor Receptor” Cancer Research 58m, no. 15(1998):3243-47
  5. Dunn et al “IGF 1 Alters Drug Sensitivity of HBL 100 Human Breast cancer Cells by Inhibition of Apoptosis Induce by Diverse Anticancer drugs” Cancer Research no. 15 (1997):2687-93

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