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sugar

  • The use of sugar and its effects on health and weight is important to discover for all of us who want to remain trim and vital. Of course, the wise use of sugar is crucial for everyone, children especially. As mothers, fathers and support guides for our youth, keeping sugary foods in check is a valuable lesson to learn. Paying attention to the foods that constitute “real food” and “treats” is an important guide for kids to learn as early as possible. Real foods are fresher and most natural, while treats are more typically processed and sugary, such as baked goods, sodas, candy, chips and more.

    Therefore, given this is one of the key principles for healthy eating; here are my 10 tips for sugar use. Remember, there are many foods that have natural sweetness. Just think of the juice of a peach, apple or strawberry running down your chin, or the fresh sweetness of corn on the corn, peas and carrots, and most fresh fruits and veggies. Plus, grains like rice have a wonderful sweetness. These natural foods are primarily where we should get most of our dietary sugars. Watch out though, even too much of a good thing can be excess! Those of us trying to lose or maintain our weight often go on a “low-carb” diet.

    Even away from Halloween and other holiday times, we can often find treats everywhere, so stay centered and follow the guidelines that are best for you and your health. Even so, we tend to use birthdays and any holidays to increase the offerings and consumption of sugar.

    1. Sugar is found in so many foods that are now available in the modern grocery stores and even natural food stores. It goes into food primarily as refined cane sugar (including brown sugars) and high-fructose corn syrup (the new leader of sugar consumption). More natural sugars include honey, maple syrup, malt sugar, date sugar, molasses and others. Foods that are high in sugars should be used only as occasional ‘treats’ in the diet, not as a main component of our food consumption. The best natural sugar may be the herb, stevia, also called sweetleaf. Xylitol is an alcohol sugar, tolerated by most people and a good substitute for refined sugar. There are also many naturally sweet desserts that include almonds, apples, dates and other fruits.

    2. Traditional Chinese Medicine views the desire for sugar, or the sweet flavor, as a craving for the mother (yin) energy, a craving that represents a need for comfort or security. In Western cultures, we have turned sugar into a reward system (a tangible symbol of material nurturing) to the degree that many of us have been conditioned to need some sweet treat to feel complete or satisfied. We continue the pattern with our children, unconsciously showing our affection by giving them sugary foods. We ideally do not want to unconsciously reinforce the “treat” pattern.

    3. For most of us, sugar is a symbol of love and nurturance. As infants, our first food is lactose, or milk sugar. Overconsumption and daily use of sugar is the first compulsive habit for most everyone with addictions later in life. Simple sugar, or glucose, is what our body, our cells and brain, use for fuel for energy. Some glucose is stored in our liver and muscle tissues as glycogen for future use; excess sugar is stored as fat for use during periods of low-calorie intake or starvation. If we don’t exercise or take periods of lower calorie intake, the fat never disappears.

    4. Our problem with sweets comes from the frequency with which we eat them, and the quantity of sugar we consume. The type of sugar we eat is also a contributing factor. Refined sugar or sucrose (a disaccharide made up of two sugars — glucose and fructose) is usually extracted from sugar cane or sugar beets, initially whole foods. However, most all of the nutrients are removed and retained only in the discarded extract called molasses. When the manufacturing process is complete, the result is pure sugar, a refined crystal that contains four calories per gram and essentially no nutrients. The biggest concern in my sense over the past 20 years is the wide use of highfructose corn syrup; I suggest people use this at a minimum.

    5. Many nutritional authorities feel that the high use of sugar in our diet is a significant underlying cause of disease. Too much sweetener in any form can have a negative effect on our health; this includes not only refined sugar, but also corn syrup, honey and fruit juices, and treats such as sodas, cakes, and candies. Because sugary foods satisfy our hunger, they often replace more nutritious foods and weaken our tissue’s health and disease resistance via stressing our immune system.

    6. The use of sugar in our culture sometimes resembles a drug, and can be treated as such. If you are “hooked” on sugar make a clear plan for withdrawal, while working emotionally to eliminate the habit. Our responses to certain flavors, and the feelings we get from them are usually conditioned. Selfreflection can be valuable when trying to understand these compulsions. To stop bad habits and see things clearly, we may need to talk these feelings through, transitioning from compulsion to a safe and balanced lifestyle. Talk to your hands and guide them to reach for healthier foods and snacks. A desire to improve and the use of will power can often get us through our sugar cravings. Although often emotionally hard to stop, the physical withdrawal is not as challenging as many other substances, such as with nicotine and alcohol. Still, it takes a full-fledged plan to clear and change any habits.

    7. The Glycemic Index basically rates how quickly foods are turned into sugars and/or absorbed into our blood stream. This is an important concept to know about. In simple terms quick-absorbing sugars are more of a concern with our blood sugar and energy. It may be helpful to consume some protein, such as a few nuts or nut butter, when eating some simple sugar like fruit, or easily assimilated carbohydrates like rice, bread, or potatoes. Remember to read those labels in the stores; there are loads of hidden sugars in items you wouldn’t even think should have added sweetener and concentrated sugars, like in some juice drinks. There are now many glycemic index resources online and as apps for your phone so check them out to learn more.

    8. If you do crave sugar, there are several supplements that can help you utilize the sugar better as well as reduce your desire for those sweets. These include the B vitamins (25–50 mg of most twice daily), vitamin C (500–1,000 mg twice daily), calcium (250–500 mg), and magnesium (150–300 mg). Chromium helps the body utilize the sugars more efficiently; it is usually supplemented in 100–200 mcg twice daily, in the morning and about 3:00 p.m. Also, the amino acid, L-glutamine (500–1,000 mg two to three times daily), helps to feed the brain and reduce sugar (and alcohol) cravings.

    9. Drinking plenty of water is crucial to keep the body balanced and lessen cravings and addictions. An alkalinizing diet high in greens and vegetables reduces cravings as well and helps with detoxification. Also, regular exercise does the same. Don’t be afraid to move that body for fitness with active aerobics and weight training. Yoga stretches can also give you inner and outer strength to be your true self. Walking in nature is another way to get in touch with your inner nature and gain your will power.

    10.There are usually emotional issues around excess sugar and carbohydrate consumption, and being overweight. Be open to explore these areas as you attempt to heal your habits and create a healthier body and weight. A support group or a counselor can help in this healing process.

    Good luck and make wise choices.

    Stay Healthy.

  • As I mentioned in my TEN Tips on Wise Sugar Use in the May 2017 issue of Total Health , the use, overuse and abuse of sugar in the typical American diet and lifestyle are increasingly known to be significant factors in creating poor health and chronic disease, especially among young people. Sugar is the number one reward system in the world. I wanted to address this important topic in more detail in this article.

    Clearly, the high consumption of refined sugar and refined flour products are the greatest factors in overweight and obesity. This includes breads and baked goods, candies, and sodas. Both refined cane sugar and more recently, high fructose corn syrup, constitute an excess of non-nutrient calories, which rarely satisfy hunger or the body's need for nutrition. As a result, we still need and crave food. However, if we are focused only on eating the quick, readily available foods typically around us, we'll keep getting too many calories with too little real nutrient value and we'll gain weight. Many of us tend to eat or overeat this way at stressful or transitional times, particularly in adolescence or in mid-life. When we add to our fat cells and the areas around our belly and hips, this is more "dangerous" weight gain and more difficult to lose. The key is to prevent added weight by replacing highly sweet and starchy foods with lower calorie and high nutrient foods we enjoy that won't cause weight gain.

    It's a good idea to start by evaluating our sugar intake and our connection to, or need for, added sugars in our diet. Here, I don't mean fresh fruits, but foods that are made with added sugar, such as candy, sodas, breakfast cereals, cookies and other baked or processed/packaged goods. Even foods that don't taste sweet, like savory sauces and dressings, often have hidden sugars in them. So watch out and remember to check the labels of the foods you buy for their sugar and high fructose corn syrup content. Try replacing them with healthier or more wholesome choices.

    TOO MUCH SUGAR IN OUR FOOD, and TOO MUCH LOBBYING MONEY AS WELL

    Not only do we need to pay attention to what food we buy and consume, but also what nutrition information we ingest and digest. The sugar industry has much invested in promoting and selling their products. The political lobbying to keep sugar popular (and not subject to additional taxes like alcohol or tobacco) has been going on for many decades and highlights the conspiracy to promote sugar as "safe" and blame fats for many diseases. The truth is now coming to light and the great "Sugar Cover-up" is in the news.

    It's not just advertising that's deceptive; multinational food corporations also fund and promote questionable scientific research through such organizations as the International Life Sciences Institute, a group based in Washington, D.C. and funded by giant food and agrochemical companies including Coca-Cola, General Mills, Hershey's, Kellogg's, Kraft Foods and Monsanto.

    These are not isolated incidents. They echo other news of sugar industry shenanigans going back decades, which successfully shifted the focus away from sugar and onto dietary fats as disease causing agents. For many years nutritional guidelines were adversely affected by these shady practices. Remember that part of Staying Healthy is becoming a well-informed consumer.

    The news isn't all bad, however and there are signs that we are making progress with the whole issue of sugar in our Standard American Diet (SAD). For example, in the November 2016 election a number of cities in California passed a soda tax putting sugar drinks in the same category as alcohol and tobacco, which is where they really belong given their addictive and disease-causing potential. Also, more recently, the nation's largest drugstore chain, CVS, announced that it will be reducing space devoted to junk food and allocate more space to nutritious food and health products. CVS executives said that they would implement the new format at several hundred stores by the end of 2018, demonstrating the company's commitment to remake itself as a beacon of healthy living rather than a place devoted primarily to treating illnesses and selling candy bars. We hope that other cities and corporations follow these leads.

    USING THE GLYCEMIC INDEX

    Many consumers are already aware of the role that excess calories and carbohydrates can play in weight gain and poor health, and they read food labels to try and monitor what they eat. This is common sense, but rather than just describing foods as simple and complex carbohydrates, they can also be rated on the Glycemic Index. This is a very useful tool in understanding sugar in our diet. Extremely sweet or very starchy foods are high on the Index, meaning they break down and are absorbed quickly and cause the release of extra insulin, burdening our metabolism. Foods low on the Index are metabolized more slowly and provide a steadier stream of glucose and other nutrients. As a result, they take less work and stress for the body to handle.

    (See the Glycemic Index chart at the end of this article)

    Magnesium And Chromium Can Help Keep Sugars In Balance
    Research indicates that magnesium intake also has a "modest but significant effect" on keeping blood sugar steady and stabilizing insulin metabolism; in other words magnesium deficiency can weaken sugar metabolism. Magnesium is found in whole grains and nuts and seeds, as well as leafy green vegetables. People can also supplement with capsules of 125–250 mgs 1–2x daily. (Note: The common magnesium citrate can cause loose bowels, and many consumers use magnesium supplementation for constipation. Magnesium glycinate has a lesser affect on the bowels.)

    Studies have also shown that the majority of people eating typical Western diets consume less than the suggested daily dietary intake of chromium, which is set at 50–200 micrograms per day. Insufficient chromium intake is associated with signs and symptoms similar to those seen in diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. People with sugar issues or pre-diabetes often supplement with 200 micrograms of chromium (commonly picolinate) twice daily.

    DIETARY GUIDELINES
    In summary, the dietary guidelines for lowering sugar intake include consuming a low glycemic diet, consisting mainly of proteins and vegetables, with a focus on leafy green veggies, as well as nuts and seeds, whole grains with legumes, berries and some stone fruits. This way of eating also means lowering the intake of highly starchy foods, such as potatoes, carrots, beets and intensely sweet fruits like melons and bananas, limiting juice intake as well.

    Some More Diet Tips Include:
    • If you were raised on meat and potatoes (and desserts), or if you feel that a meal without bread isn't a meal, there are some favorite starches that are still relatively low on the Glycemic Index (see chart). Filling foods that are in the optimal range of 55 or below on the Index include:
    • Healthy Starches—brown rice and wild rice, whole wheat pita bread, sweet potatoes and yams, oatmeal, popcorn, seeds, nuts, and nut butters, as well as most peas and beans including black beans, pintos, limas and kidney beans
    • Healthy Fruits—berries, mangos, kiwis, pears and apples, stone fruits such as peaches, plums, apricots and cherries, as well as citrus such as grapefruit and oranges.

    THE GLYCEMIC INDEX

    Eating Low on the Index Makes Everything a Little Easier

    • Any food below 55 tends to conserve insulin and hormones.
    • It's the blast of insulin from foods high on the Index that drives hunger cravings.
    • With a diet of whole foods, appetite seems to drop quite naturally.

    Note: this is a basic list to get you started. It is from my book, The Detox Diet, which has a whole chapter on Sugar Detox. You can also search online for more complete data.

    Basic List of The Glycemic Index

    Grains, Breads, Cereals

    • White bread 95
    • Instant rice 90
    • Rice cakes 80
    • Pretzels 80
    • Corn flakes 75
    • White flour 75
    • Graham crackers 75
    • Regular crackers 75
    • White bagel 75
    • Cheerios 75
    • Puffed wheat 75
    • White rice 70
    • Taco shells 70
    • Spaghetti 60
    • Pita bread 55
    • Wild rice/brown rice 55
    • Oatmeal 55
    • Popcorn 55
    • Green peas 45
    • Green beans 45

    Vegetables

    • Baked potato 95
    • Parsnips 95
    • Carrots 85
    • French fries 80
    • Sweet Corn 75
    • Beets 70
    • Sweet potatoes 55
    • Yams 50
    • Pinto beans 40
    • Lima beans 40
    • Butter beans 30
    • Black beans 30
    • Kidney beans 30
    • Artichoke 25
    • Asparagus 20
    • Tomatoes 15
    • Green vegetables 15
    • Nuts 15 to 30

    Fruits & Dairy Products

    • Watermelon 70
    • Raisins 65 to 95
    • Pineapple 65
    • Ice cream, premium 60
    • Ripe bananas 60
    • Mango, kiwi, grapes 50
    • Blueberries 50
    • Pears 45
    • Apples, oranges 40
    • Peaches, plums 40
    • Yogurt, with fruit 35
    • Raspberries 32
    • Milk, whole 30+
    • Milk, skimmed 30
    • Dried apricots 30 to 70
    • Grapefruit 25
    • Cherries 25
    • Yogurt, plain, no sugar 15

    Sweeteners

    • Maltose 105 to 150
    • Glucose 100
    • Honey 75
    • Refined sugar 75
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