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Changing Our Relationship With Sugar

Back in the 70’s Saturday mornings meant getting up and heading down to our basement to watch cartoons. Being one of six kids meant getting there first to get my dad’s chair which was the coveted spot. In between Josie and the Pussycats, Scooby Doo and Magilla Gorilla there were lots of commercials–commercials for sugary cereals, Pop Tarts, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Tang. The package food industry was booming. Little did we or our parents know that in less than 40 years time, so would the average weight of most of us.

Sugar, too much of it is dangerous and I’m going to say poisonous to our health. I’m not talking about the naturally occurring sugar in fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables also contain fiber, vitamins and antioxidants. Your body digests fruits and vegetables slowly so they release sugar to your cells at a steady pace. I’m talking about the added sugars in processed and refined foods.

In addition to most beverages, desserts and snack foods, added sugars are in everything from breakfast cereals, breads, condiments and soups. Just look at any packaged food and look at the label, you’ll see just how much added sugars are in every serving of every package.

“High amounts of sugar overload the liver and convert carbohydrates to fat. This leads to a greater accumulation of fat, which may turn into fatty liver disease, a contributor to diabetes which raises your risk for heart disease. The effects of added sugar intake–high blood pressure, inflammation, weight gain, diabetes and fatty liver disease, are all linked to an increased risk for heart attack and stroke.” -Dr. Yu, Harvard Health Studies

When I was a kid, I loved going to the drug store with my grandma because we’d each get to choose a candy bar. My lunch sandwiches were made from Wonder Bread and grape jelly. (I didn’t like peanut butter in those days.) Then my mom read a book called Sugar Blues. I remember her switching from Wonder Bread to whole wheat and eventually Natural Ovens from Manitowoc Wisconsin. My point is when we know better, we do better.

I’m not saying to not have cake on your birthday, to not go for that special treat once in a great while or celebrate the holidays with a favorite cookie recipe. But on a daily basis, how can we cut out the extra sugars in our life? Type II Diabetes is a lifestyle disease. It can be avoided and it can be reversed. Click Here to watch Dr. Jason Fung’s quick and simple explanation.

Getting back to commercials, why in a day and age when we know that processed and sugary foods cause disease and we’re looking to solve an epidemic of food related disease, are they still on the air? I’m going to be very blunt here. The food manufacturers don’t care about us. They care about the bottom line, profit. We have to care about ourselves and our families.

I don’t write this to overwhelm anyone. I’m not judging. I simply want to bring your attention to the fact that ultimately, many health problems can be alleviated by a change in lifestyle. Those sugary cereals that line our store shelves, that I loved back in the 70’s, we now know how harmful they can be to the health of our families.

Ways to cut out added sugars from our diets:

  • Read labels, look at added sugars. The FDA says limit added sugars to less than 50 grams per day. I’d go farther and say no more than 25 grams of added sugar on an average day.

  • Replace sugary drinks with water. Placing fruit in a pitcher of water in the fridge will give you a nice flavored water.

  • Eat meals prepared at home. You can control what is in your food.

  • Don’t shop hungry when iIt’s easier to be tempted by sweets and packaged foods.

  • When baking or buying for parties and holidays, less is more. Show your love for your guest by serving one special dessert or offering bite-size desserts. Leftovers set you up for days of sugar overload.

Ways to control sugar cravings:

  • Stay hydrated. Sometimes we’re thirsty when we think we’re hungry.

  • Make sure you’re getting enough protein and nutrients in your diet.

  • Get 7-9 hours of sleep. When we lack sleep, we mess with hormones responsible for hunger and satiety.

  • When a craving strikes, sit with it for a moment. Is your body hungry for food or is your body hungry for something else–rest, breath work, a walk, chatting with a friend?

  • Brush your teeth after a meal. Start a new habit that signals you’re finished eating.

  • Cutting out sugar is hard. Realize that it may take a while to get the sugar monkey off your back. But stick with it, we’re looking for progress not perfection.

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