Everyone knows that too much sugar is not good for you. Tooth decay, weight gain, and diabetes are commonly linked to too much sugar consumption. The problems with sugar, however, are so much bigger and effect so many more people that it is amazing.
- Adults who drink just two sodas a day while eating a 2000 calorie diet are 20 times more likely to die of heart disease than those who consume less than 10 percent of their calories from sugar. This risk was even after other risk factors like being overweight or smoking. (http://www.cbsnews.com/news/study-too-much-sugar-is-linked-to-fatal-heart-disease/)
- High blood sugar levels are increase risk of developing dementia even if diabetes is not present. (http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1215740)
- Dr. Robert Lustig found that sugar makes the brain think it is hungry while increasing fat storage. That’s a perfect recipe for obesity. (https://www.ucsf.edu/news/2009/06/8187/obesity-and-metabolic-syndrome-driven-fructose-sugar-diet)
- Sugar increases inflammation in the body leading to many health conditions including heart attacks, strokes, and possibly cancer. It also can cause increased blood pressure. (http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2010/04/20/sugar-dangers.aspx#_edn1)
Despite the clear evidence of the health consequences of eating sugar, Americans are eating more sugar than ever before. We now consume a 12 ounce soda’s worth of sugar every 7 hours, compared with every 5 days in 1822. (*) That is approximately 100 pounds of sugar per person per year. Can anyone really afford to eat 167,000 calories with no nutritional benefit?
Even more disturbing is the large increase in the amount of fructose, often from high fructose corn syrup, that we are consuming. Notice the correlation between the introduction of HFCF in the 1970’s and the increase in the obesity rate in the US.
One problem is that the body does not metabolize fructose the same as sucrose (table sugar). Lustig explains that fructose is damaging to the liver and increases the amount of fats produced by the liver. Fructose is also up to 60% sweeter than fructose. This is disturbing in light of findings that show how addictive sugar can be. “Our findings clearly demonstrate that intense sweetness can surpass cocaine reward, even in drug-sensitized and -addicted individuals. ” (*) This sounds like a perfect storm with dire health consequences.
The solution seems so easy – just limit the amount of sugar we consume. It is possible, but not easy. Sugar is in almost every processed food. A can of soda has about 39 g of sugar and a tablespoon of ketchup without HFCS has 4 g. Considering that according to WHO guidelines an average adult should consume less than 25 g of sugar and a child less than 12.5 g each day(*), things get a little trickier. Just cutting out sodas and sweetened cereals isn’t enough. These guidelines do not include “intrinsic” sugars from fruits or vegetables when consumed whole. For example oranges are not included, but orange juice, even fresh squeezed at home, is included. All added sugar including honey, maple syrup, agave, etc. are also included.
For our family that means no added sugars in anything we prepare. Not even birthday cakes with frosting! (Yes, it is completely possible to make a Pooh Bear shaped cake and decorate it with colored frosting using no sugar or food coloring. I’ll post more about that another time.) We only use fruit as a sweetener and we do that sparingly. It was a hard change to make, but so worth the effort. Our kids really aren’t deprived of all treats. We eat fruit daily. We have dessert a couple of times a week. Any time we go to a party I make something special my kids can eat. Our goal is to teach our kids that eating healthy is worth the effort. To do that, I have to make the effort to keep only good foods in our kitchen and plan ahead to get them cooked every night. I also have to make it enjoyable for the kids. We do have a couple of sources of sugar that I am still working on, but I am confident that we are well under the WHO guidelines.
Now for two things to help you kick sugar out of your house.
First, you will experience sugar cravings. Be prepared! Make a meal plan and shop for at least a week before you start purging sugar. The grocery store is full of temptations! Be sure you have lots of fresh fruits and veggies and tons of good fats. The fruits will help satisfy your sweet tooth and the fats will fill you up. Your body will be transitioning from burning excess carbs for energy to burning more fat. We ate lots of smooth nut butters, avocados, cheese, etc. Nuts are also good, but they can be hard to digest.
When making your meal plan, focus on things that are new and different. Everything will taste different without sugar, so trying to convert a family favorite will probably result in disappointment. Whatever you do, don’t use any artificial sweeteners of any kind. They are full of nasty chemicals. I’ll post more on that later. You might take the kids on a fruit safari and try several new fruits or focus on fun presentation.
Also, don’t plan to do anything requiring lots of clear thinking (another reason for the meal plan). I had horrible brain fog and exhaustion for the first week or two of no sugar. It didn’t effect my kids or husband as much, so your mileage may vary. My symptoms cleared up when I finally gave up my last tsp of honey in my tea each morning. Once I got through the transition, I had more energy than I could ever remember. Now I don’t fall asleep reading to my kids each afternoon.
Second, I wish I had known more about essential oils when we stopped eating sugar. There are several oils that are known to help reduce cravings and balance blood sugar.
One of my absolute favorites is peppermint. I like to drink it in my water in the afternoon. It is so yummy and refreshing and it curbs appetite.
I also add Lemon to my water to help with “brain fog” and reduce anxiety.
A quick caution, please never use any aromatherapy grade oils internally. I only use Young Living Therapeutic Grade essential oils because of their wonderful Seed to Seal process. I’m not willing to take any chances with my family’s health, so I researched for several months before deciding what oils I could trust. If you have any questions about Young Living essential oils, please let me know. There are two options for purchasing Young Living oils, online through the retail site or as a wholesale member (a much better deal). After purchasing individual oils for several months, I finally signed up as a wholesale member both to save money and get a free diffuser. Both Lemon and Peppermint are in the kit I purchased with the diffuser. I have not regretted it. If you decide to purchase oils or become a distributor, please use my member number 1628286 when signing up.
Now that you have seen the effects of sugar on our bodies, are you ready to explore the other source of sugar in you most diets? My next post will look at how starches and grains effect our bodies.