After reading Sugar Blues by William Dufty, I believe that over the years, my sugar consumption has caused a host of various ills and set off a round of food sensitivities including corn, wheat, dairy, yeast, and citrus. Even my baby book notes my first formula as "Pet Milk, water, and Karo Syrup" -- six bottles a day. Yikes! It's no wonder I'm addicted to sugar!
I supposed a little sugar is not such a bad thing. It's when we crave and consume it every day that it causes problems. It's in everything, or so it seems now that I'm obsessed with it. I can't watch TV, listen to the radio, walk into a store, or talk to my family without encountering some reference to it. At Easter dinner, people were pushing the stuff at me. My favorite ice cream place opened up for the summer. Girl Scout cookies were delivered! Aaack!
Dufty likens sugar to a very addictive drug, as addictive as alcohol, nicotine, opium, cocaine, and just as hard to kick. Well, it can't be that bad, right? Our Moms made chocolate chip cookies and pies for us...We stopped for ice cream cones as a "treat"...But, according to Sugar Blues, sugar consumption causes many health problems we might not think of (see related article).
According to Laurel's Kitchen, "the average consumption of sugar in this country is 100 pounds per person per year and 15 pounds of corn syrup -- about 500 calories of sugar per person every day. You may not think you eat this amount -- but do you know that aside from the obvious desserts, soft drinks, and sugar-coated breakfast cereals, sugar is also added to canned and frozen vegetables, soups, mayonnaise, peanut butter, baby foods, flavored yogurt, and many other products? Under the current labeling laws, added sugar does not even have to be listed on the labels of many foods because their legal definition includes the extra sweetener. Yet some physicians are claiming that sugar should be listed on the labels of all such foods, not simply as another ingredient, but as a potentially dangerous additive.
"Many of the detrimental effects of table sugar can be attributed to its chemical composition. Contrary to long-established opinion, table sugar (or sucrose, as it is called chemically) is not metabolized in the body in the same way as starch and other carbohydrates. In digestion, sucrose is immediately broken down into its two component simple sugars, glucose and fructose. The body has a well-developed capacity for handling large amounts of glucose, which is its primary fuel. But its capacity for metabolizing fructose is rather limited, and it may develop 'fructose overload' when flooded with this sugar in large amounts."
But, turning around is possible. To kick the sugar habit, Laurel's Kitchen suggests getting plenty of good-tasting whole foods at every meal, avoiding sugar and other refined carbohydrates like "balloon bread," white- flour pastries, and commercial snack foods, and eliminating between-meal sweets altogether. She suggests eating fruit instead, but no more than three pieces a day, because many fruits have more sugar than most people realize. Three oranges, two apples, and a banana -- not an uncommon amount of fruit for some vegetarians -- adds up to more than 500 calories of sugar, as much as the average American consumes in table sugar every day. During your "kick-the-habit" transition period, Laurel also suggests eating high- protein, high-fat foods like cheese, nuts, and peanut butter -- foods that will stay with you throughout the day -- just until your body adjusts to the no-sugar routine.
Sugar Blues says kicking cold turkey is probably the best way to go -- that means brown sugar, molasses, honey...all those, too. He also says switching from red meat to fish or fowl reduces your desire for a sweet concoction at the end of a meal. I've actually resorted to cooking and baking from scratch more, simply because it's difficult to find anything canned or frozen or boxed that doesn't have sugar in it.
I'm reminded of something I heard several years ago: A person walked down the same street every day. Every day they fell into the same hole on that street. Even when they walked down the street, knew the hole was there, and walked right up to it, they still fell in. Then one day they walked down a different street. When we want to make a change for the better, sometimes we have to go down a different street. If we keep doing the same things, we're going to keep having the same problems.
When it comes to diet, we have to continually educate ourselves to the realities of the foods we eat and depend less on what we think we know. For me, this means that sugar isn't a reward, it doesn't indicate love, it's not a warm, fuzzy thing that makes people feel good, it doesn't bond families or protect children from harm. It is an unnecessary life ingredient.
Even though I'm still irritated about not getting my sugar "fix" and am still experiencing periods of "withdrawal," I know it's the right path for me. But, it's one day at a time, slowly moving toward a healthier existence. My diet, one of the few things totally under my control, has prohibited me from living life to the fullest. Thirty-five years of this is enough!
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