Healthy Days and Nourishing Ways

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We know that refined sugar and other refined sweeteners (hereafter referred to as sugar) are common ingredients in candy, cookies, cakes, pies, soda, and ice cream. Sugar is also in ketchup, barbecue sauce, breakfast cereals, granola bars, and many reduced fat products. We expect this since sugar is an inexpensive filler that makes things taste good. However, we may not expect sugar in bread, peanut butter, crackers, tomato sauce, bread crumbs, frozen pizza, salt, and toothpaste.

Manufacturers use lots of different types of sugar in their products. Some are obvious, such as brown sugar, invert sugar, honey, and molasses. Others are not so obvious, such as dextrose, sorbitol, maltodextrin, barley malt syrup, corn syrup, and my favorite, high fructose corn syrup.

Besides causing tooth decay, what’s so terrible about sugar? Just about everything. Because sugar has no nutrients, the body must draw on stored nutrients to metabolize it. A diet high in sugar (as well as starches) puts pressure on the pancreas to produce insulin, the hormone needed to process sugar. An overworked pancreas may weaken, produce less insulin, and cause a high level of sugar (glucose) in the blood.

The body stores excess sugar as fat. Also, there is evidence that as sugar consumption increases in the diet, triglyceride levels increase in the bloodstream. This may lead to heart disease and other medical issues.

Because it lacks fiber, sugar slowly works its way through the digestive tract, feeding bacteria, fungi, and yeast along the way. Sugar creates free radicals, interferes with the absorption of vitamin C, and stresses the immune system. Sugar speeds up the aging process and shortens lifespan. The more sugar we eat the more we crave.

So, what can we do to decrease our intake of sugar, maintain good health, and still enjoy our food? Let’s take a look.

·         Be sugar smart. Know the names for sugar and check the ingredients that are listed on product labels.

·         Check and compare grams of sugar per serving as well as serving sizes listed on product labels.

·         Reduce or eliminate as many processed foods as possible since these are the main culprits.

·         Gradually use less sugar and cravings will decrease over time.

·         Fruits and vegetables contain sugar, some more than others. The body will treat this sugar the same as refined sugar but the difference here is that these are real foods that provide fiber and other nutrients.

·         For those of us who still cook and bake at home, most recipes will allow the sugar to be reduced. Also, experiment with nature’s sweeteners: real maple syrup, raw honey, date sugar, and raw cane sugar.

Sugar has increasingly become an important part of our lives and something we believe we cannot live without. The explosion of artificial sweeteners on the market and their sales show how important sweet things are to us. However, instead of using refined sugars or artificial sweeteners, how about trying to reduce the amount of sugar we consume. We’ll soon discover that the cravings for it will also reduce. Satisfying our cravings for sugar with fruit or nature’s sweeteners will keep us going strong and lead to more healthy days and nourishing ways.