Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Cost of A Sweet Tooth

Update 12/14/12: So, I realize how very hypocritical it is for me to post this anti-sugar bit when following it are several candy activities and sugary treats. Kind of like me and Alex beginning our three week trial as vegans the day after Thanksgiving. :-) Oh well. Enjoy!

With the holidays come lots of baking and goodies. I'm no exception. I may use organic raw sugars, or honey in my recipes over white sugar, but the reality is this is a time of year when we really feel like we have a free pass to overindulge. 

Now, not to be a goody-goody (OK, maybe I am a little), but the truth is Alex and I rarely eat sugary foods. I'm personally a salt person and happily pass up ice cream and cookies most of the time. It's just not my thing. I eat sea salt, too, which is good for you, unlike table salt and sodium in packaged foods. We use honey often in tea and oatmeal, but since we eat mostly whole foods, it's a rare event for us to eat anything with added sugar in it. I also have low blood pressure, no signs of diabetes, am cancer-free, and Alex and I have never had a cavity.
So during the holidays I don't feel at all guilty about baking my heart out and eating all the yummy things that we love, because it's the exception to our normal diet and not the rule. 

But what if you have a sweet tooth? What if you, or your children, or your family eat a mostly packaged, processed foods diet, and consume sugar not just at the holidays, but every day? 

In our grandparent's and great grandparent's time, Americans consumed about two pounds of sugar every year. That sugar came from mostly natural and good-for-you sources like maple syrup, molasses, sorghum, honey, and sugar cane.

Today, Americans wolf down over one hundred pounds of sugar per annum. And they get that sugar from the rampant consumption of packaged and overly processed foods like cereal, soda, pasta, bread, canned food, juice, seasonings and nearly everything else that comes in a container, box or plastic bag. 

When sugar is hidden in everyday packaged foods, it's easy to not think about how much sugar you are putting into your body. The fact is, sugar is as addictive as cocaine. It gives that commercial 'this is your brain on drugs' a whole new meaning.  

Here is an interesting infographic to really drive this point home. 

Tip: You may want to use your screen's zoom feature to really see the details of the graphic below, or right click and 'save as' to open elsewhere on your computer and zoom there.

There is a book I read a while ago, titled Bringing Up Bebe'. An excellent read for moms and dads, by the way. An American mother raising her baby in France. She notices that new French mothers seem to have no problem shedding pounds after they deliver, and don't seem frazzled or stressed. 

She herself is doing the typical American thing of starving herself and depriving herself of all things yummy and exercising like a nut to take off the baby pounds, to little avail. Plus she's a bit of a basket case. But the French mothers tell her they would never dream of such a militant view toward their body and dieting. They are careful about what they eat during the week, eating healthy foods, but then allowing themselves to eat whatever they want on the weekends. The American mother assumes they mean whatever they want *within reason*, but no. They mean whatever they want, however much of it they want. Junk food, sugar, bread, everything. Then during the week they go back to healthy eating until the next weekend. 

The French mothers say this is how they love themselves. That restricting things all the time would doom anyone to failure (as we Americans know but haven't really learned), and knowing you get to indulge sometimes is the very thing that makes their effort successful.  

Weight issues aside, being healthy is not a number on a scale. Health is measured from the inside, and sugar and sodium wreak havoc on your body's ability to function properly when consumed so frequently your body never gets a chance to heal. So I say give your body a break from the refined sugar melodrama and then you will really be able to enjoy those occasions when you indulge your sweet tooth- guilt free.

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