Sunday, July 06, 2014

Sugar Rush

Four Pack Donut Painting by DoubleStarRanch 
A few weeks back my Dad asked Eric and I to see Fed Up, a documentary about processed food in the American diet. It was a compilation of the usual litany of offences.

There was a critique of the food pyramid, suggesting that it supports America's corporate bread basket instead of nourishing the American public. Did you know the FDA was created to sell more food to the American public? But that it is also entrusted with caring for public health? This documentary argues that there is a basic and impossible contradiction inherent in these two agendas. Fed Up also touched on the interesting correlation between a marketplace saturated with low fat, lite and low calorie options and our nation's expanding waistlines. Since removing fat also removes flavor and in manufactured food, this means that sugar or salt, or both, in large quantities are added to make up the difference. Bottom line- don't eat low fat foods. (Michael Pollan and many others have been telling us this for years.)

But information that was new to me, or that at least sunk in more deeply this time, was that sugar in nature is almost always accompanied by fiber, which slows the body's digestion, allowing it to absorb more nutrients and release insulin more slowly. In processed foods, the fiber is removed, meaning that sugar is dumped directly into your bloodstream as insulin, which is eventually converted to fat. So a calorie from an almond is not the same as a calorie from a bottle of Coke.

Donut Conversation by Mgenomgenom

This all reminded me of a recent article in National Geographic magazine, Sugar, A Not So Sweet Story, charting the Western obsession with sugar, it's ugly association with slavery and our exponentially increasing consumption of it.

"In 1700 the average Englishman consumed 4 pounds a year. In 1800 the common man ate 18 pounds of sugar. In 1870 that same sweet-toothed bloke was eating 47 pounds annually. Was he satisfied? Of course not! By 1900 he was up to 100 pounds a year. "
I eat a staggering amount of sugar every day. We don't eat much processed food in our house, preferring to cook for ourselves whenever possible. But I let my sweet tooth run the show, often having as many as three sweet treats in a single day. (Take yesterday for instance- I had a slice of rhubarb pie, a bowl of ice cream with chocolate sauce and cookies and not one, but two slices of strawberry cake iced with cream cheese frosting!)

Half a Dozen Donuts by ShopAnnShen

That's in addition to all the hidden sugars I'm likely eating, in foods like peanut butter or bread. Shameful, really. I'd like to curb this terrible habit, especially with my baby on the way. If I want my little one to have a  healthy relationship with sugar, I need to cultivate my own moderation.

Cutting sugar out completely has proven extremely difficult. Limiting it to weekends via the common sense saying "No sweets, seconds or snacks except on days that start with S" hasn't worked either. Even limiting it to one treat a day has tested my willpower. What to do? Have you battled a sugar habit? What did you do to help curb your appetite?

For now, I'm keeping the fridge stocked with gorgeous fruit so it's the first thing I see when I open the door and I bought a little supply of chewing gum to pop when the craving hits. I also brewed a big batch of mint iced tea to sip on with ice and lemon- a perfect summer treat. From what I've read, cravings lessen after a week and can dissipate completely after 8 weeks. The trick is making it that long!

1 comment:

Banana said...

I have a big sweet tooth too! It's especially hard to curb it when you are pregnant because your body needs those extra calories. Things I find helpful are to 1) really fill myself up at meals so that I only have room for a little sweet (definitely works during the 3rd tri) and 2) have a decadent bar of chocolate around at all times. A small square (or maybe 2) of dark chocolate is usually enough sweet to curb the craving. And the hefty dose of fat in chocolate helps to moderate the effects of your blood sugar too!

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