Posted by: molander | December 13, 2009

Sickeningly Sweet

Sugar is all over the place lately. We’re eating more of it, thanks to the holidays, and yet the health news is throwing out warnings left and right about this “evil” substance. I suppose now is a great time to see what all the fuss is about.

1. Sugar is addictive. Elementary explanation: Apparently, the sweet stuff appeals to the part of the brain that deals with pleasure (the same part that drugs appeal to, btw). Naturally, when you stop eating it, your body will crave it. If you don’t get it, you will overeat because your body is stressing out because your brain is still looking for it. Wean yourself away from sugar. Going cold turkey is tough. Scientific explanation here.

2. Sugar can impair your immune system. A few doughnuts (100 grams of simple carbs) can reduce the ability of white blood cells by 50% for a few hours. Wow! And we wonder why there are so many colds and flu in the winter. (Think holiday goodies!) More info here.

3. Sugar can lead to osteoporosis. Elementary explanation: Sugar causes you to lose more calcium when urinating. It affects other minerals, too, which contributes to more imbalance. Scientific explanation here.

4. Sugar can make you fat. Everybody knows this but it’s not just because it’s high in calories. It sets off a chain reaction of hormonal imbalances as your body tries to compensate for the increased blood sugar levels. I explain it better here.

5. Sugar can elevate cholesterol. Yep, and high cholesterol can lead to heart disease. Since sugar messes with insulin and insulin also affects triglycerides POOF! You start the ball rolling for a whole host of health disasters. More info here.

6. Sugar is linked to behavioral disorders in children and adults… not for everyone, but many people. However, there could be some confusion here. Most sugary products are consumed in conjunction with things that are non-foods (preservatives, artificial flavors, artificial coloring, pesticides and other chemicals). Sugar is quickly metabolized in the body so it serves as fast transportation for the dreaded non-foods which are much more likely to cause behavioral disorders like grumpiness, irritability, violence, inability to focus, and excess energy. So pay attention to what you’re eating to determine what is actually setting you (or your child) off.

WARNING! Don’t resort to artificial sweeteners to cut your sugar! Elementary explanation: The sweet taste confuses your body. It tries to appeal to those pleasure receptors in the brain but yet the chemical reactions in the body are different. Your brain then tells you to eat more food in order to get more sugar. Research has determined that artificial sweeteners lead to weight gain. There’s more on the subject here, and here, and here and… well, just Google it.

Artificial sweeteners are non-foods; chemical cocktails. Do not use – no debate. Period. Currently stevia (Truvia) or Xylitol (XyloSweet) are relatively more acceptable because they are less processed and made from natural substances. Here’s a good explanation of the controversy. FYI, we use no substitute at all at our house.

So what to do?? Cut back slowly training your taste buds and brain to prefer less sweetness. (Don’t tell me it can’t be done because we’ve done it! We used to think strawberries were to tart to eat without dipping them in powdered sugar but now we think that little tradition is far too sweet!) The World Health Organization recommends we keep our added sugar to 10% of our calories per day.

Instructions for figuring out your caloric intake are here.

Sneaky names for sugar are listed here.

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