- 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. Some natural desserts include almonds, apples, and dates.
- 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 for them by giving them sugary foods. We do not want to unconsciously reinforce the ‘treat’ pattern.
- For most of us, sugar is a symbol of love and nurturance. As infants, our first food is lactose, or milk sugar. Over-consumption 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 low calorie intake, the fat never disappears.
- 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.
- 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.
- The use of sugar in our culture sometimes resembles a drug, and can be treated as such. If you are ‘hooked,’ 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. Self-reflection 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.
- From my discussion in the article about the Glycemic Index, 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 in some juice drinks.
- If we do crave sugar, there are several supplements that can help us utilize the sugar better as well as reduce our 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 our body utilize the sugars more efficiently; it is usually supplemented in 100-200 mcg twice daily, in the morning and about 3pm. Also, the amino acid, L-glutamine (500-1,000 mg 2 to 3 times daily), helps to feed the brain and reduce sugar (and alcohol) cravings.
- Drinking plenty of water is crucial to keep the body balanced and lessen cravings and addictions. An alkalinizing diet 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.
- 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!
SNACCs Review (Sugar, Nicotine, Alcohol, Caffeine and Chemicals)
- Sugar – Review above and when you crave those sweets, stop and ask yourself, “What do I really need?” Breakfast cereals are typically loaded with sugar, seemingly instant energy, yet setting up the drug effect. Check your labels.
- Nicotine – Cigarettes are treated with chemicals and sugar as well. In this season of the lungs, isn’t this a good time to free them?
- Alcohol – How much can you handle? How do you feel the next morning after drinking? Be cautious and try to take breaks some days and use alcohol wisely for celebration. Choose organic drinks when possible.
- Caffeine – Is your cup of coffee chemically treated? What about what you add to your cup? How much sugar and milk do you use? Try some variations on your morning cup of Java? I have many listed in The Detox Diet.
- Chemicals – They are everywhere. We are exposed in the stores where we shop, at work, around many homes, and when traveling. Be cautious and protect yourself with good nutrition and the right supplements. See my article on travel tips or my books, Staying Healthy with Nutrition or The Staying Healthy Shopper’s Guide.
Make a plan. Allow yourself a minimum of celebrating and spread it out over the upcoming months. Make sure you don’t get tossed about on a sea of other’s decisions, from which they may suffer and have you share their symptom profile after they have succumbed and damaged their own health, and yours too! This is your responsibility. Who and how you are is up to YOU!
Copyright Elson M. Haas, MD, 2010 All Rights Reserved
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