Sugar. Oh how I (heart) thee!

Lemon Shortbread Heart Cookies

Lemon Shortbread Cookies photo by Craig Cutler

This Valentine’s Day I must confess my secret love affair. Yes, you guessed correct…it’s with sugar.  I love sugar! All foods taste yummier with sugar.  Whether it’s sugar in my coffee, sugar in my pastries, sugar in my yogurt, sugar in my, well, candy…I crave sugar! Sugar is delightful and never fails to lift my spirits. It gives me that extra energy at the end of a long day. When I’m bored it entertains me with its sweet kiss on my lips. When I’m sad it consoles me better than any therapist. When I’m PMSing it saves me and others around me! (sigh) But my love affair with sugar is coming to an end.

I have finally decided that I must give up this addiction and only taste sugar’s sweet delight occasionally. Not every day. How in the world and I am going to do this? Better yet, why?!

Well, I have always known that sugar is bad for my health. But aren’t all addictions bad for you in some way? I know that in order to get fit and healthy, I must conquer my addiction to sugar. I know it can be done. I have friends that actually don’t eat it at all. I know! Sounds insane, but apparently it can be done and you do survive. So they’ve told me.

In the process of convincing others how sugar affects our health, perhaps I’ll see the benefit in going through my (painful) sugar withdrawals and know that better health awaits me.  First let’s begin with how ubiquitous sugar is in our diet. It’s not going to be easy to give it up, unless I eat mostly freshly prepared meals and snacks. I’ll have to be strong when I bake chocolate chip cookies for my sons and not have any. (groan)

Sugar is in ketchup, yogurt, cereals, breads, brownies (seriously?! I thought it was just chocolate), instant oatmeal, pancake mix, and most conventionally package good foods/snacks. I’m talking about sugar, not high-fructose corn syrup. HFCS does not exist in my diet. But the sad thing is you can’t completely avoid all sugars because they are in fruit in the form of fructose. So I will have to get my sugar high from my fruits. (I wonder if anyone ever struggles with strawberry addiction.)

And then to top it all off, your body converts carbohydrates to sugar! What’s up with that?!  Whole wheat bread, potatoes, white rice…all gets converted to glucose and stored as FAT. Not fair! All the yummy things to eat in life are bad for you…unless you eat them in MODERATION. That’s the key.

You may wonder just how is sugar addicting. Well, when you eat sugar it triggers dopamine, (a neurotransmitter and neurohoromone in the brain) which is our “pleasure” hormone. What brain wouldn’t like that feeling? So of course you crave it more. I was horrified to learn that heroine, morphine and sugar all trigger the same pleasure centers in the brain! This is when I learned I was an addict. And one of the first steps in conquering any addiction is knowledge, then acceptance. So is depression the next step because all the pleasure sensors in my brain will wither up and die without sugar giving them that instant gratification on a regular basis?!

Where do I begin? Well, I’ve already started by not putting sugar in my morning coffee (latte). I use Organic Blue Agave Nectar. It has a much lower glycemic index. And that’s the key in keeping your blood sugar level and staving off diabetes and other chronic diseases. If you’re not familiar with the glycemic indices of foods, check out http://www.glycemicindex.com and learn more. Here’s a quote directly from their website.

The glycemic index (GI) is a ranking of carbohydrates on a scale from 0 to 100 according to the extent to which they raise blood sugar levels after eating. Foods with a high GI are those which are rapidly digested and absorbed and result in marked fluctuations in blood sugar levels. Low-GI foods, by virtue of their slow digestion and absorption, produce gradual rises in blood sugar and insulin levels, and have proven benefits for health. Low GI diets have been shown to improve both glucose and lipid levels in people with diabetes (type 1 and type 2). They have benefits for weight control because they help control appetite and delay hunger. Low GI diets also reduce insulin levels and insulin resistance.

Next, I’m going to have to give up ice-cream…oh the horror! I know there is not one redeeming health quality of ice-cream, but it’s just so, um, delicious. Better yet, I’m going to have to replace my craving with something that will satisfy me and help my body get through “detox”. Yes, when you eliminate sugar from your diet, your body goes through detox. I’m told that I might experience feeling lightheaded, headaches, lack of energy (duh!), skin itching/rash/pimples, mood disorders (another duh!) and intense cravings. But apparently this should only last 3-4 weeks. That makes me feel better. (note sarcasm) I have to have incredible self-control for a month. Then it gets easier.

There are two major health reasons that I want to eliminate sugar from my diet. The first is that sugar feeds yeast in the gut.  When yeast takes over your gastrointestinal tract, it creates immune dysfunction and gastrointestinal distress. Yeast lives and feed off of sugar and foods that convert to sugar. Yeast is a huge biomedical factor in autism and ADHD and its related behaviors in children. The second health reason is cancer. Sugar feeds cancer cells and helps them grow and proliferate in your body. Cancer cells thrive on cell inflammation and sugar/glucose promotes inflammation. This is the one step that I’ve failed miserably at when following the recommendations of “The Anti-Cancer Diet” book by David Servan-Schreiber. I know, I’m an addict and I need to acknowledge that fact. But still.

So I’m going to keep reminding myself that I am giving up sugar for my health and my children. Next step is to stock up on healthy snacking alternatives like veggies, fruit and nuts. I’m going to package them up in my BPA-free snack bags and take them with me wherever I go. When I’m feeling low-energy, they will give me that lift I usually seek from sugar. If anyone has any tips on how to overcome sugar addiction, I welcome them! Oh, and Happy (sugar-free) Valentine’s Day.

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Artificial Food Coloring Is Evil (Part 2)

The U.S. Food & Drug Agency (FDA) is holding hearings over the next two days on artificial food coloring in our food supply and the effect it has on children with ADHD. They have asked for a panel of experts to present evidence of a link between these artificial dyes in food and ADHD in kids, with possible recommendations on policy changes like warning labels on food. Believe me, I’m pleased to see the attention it is getting which means more parents are learning about the harmful effects of artificial food colors. Here are the links to some of the mainstream media coverage of it.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/30/health/policy/30fda.html

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704471904576228550619608050.html

http://www.usnews.com/mobile/articles_mobile/fda-panel-examines-possible-links-between-food-dyes-adhd

http://abcnews.go.com/Health/food-dyes-hyperactivity/story?id=13221478

http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-rainbow-of-food-dyes-in-our-grocery-aisles-has-a-dark-side/2011/03/21/AFyIwaYB_story.html

http://healthland.time.com/2011/03/28/does-food-dye-make-kids-hyper-an-fda-panel-will-investigate/

I am not holding my breath that the FDA will actually ban the dyes, in fact I know they won’t. Maybe a warning label, but I doubt it would be stern enough to draw any attention from unsuspecting consumers. Yes, I’m cynical when it comes to our FDA actually doing something that is good for us, the consumer. They lean more toward protecting the food and drug manufacturers that will put a lot of money against any initiative to ban or label their products with artificial dyes. After all, their future job security at these consumer packaged goods companies are at risk if they do their present job at the FDA correctly. Yes, the job exchange program between food and drug manufacturers and our FDA and CDC happens all the time…and it’s been going on for years.

All that really needs to be done is have some of the high level decision makers at the FDA feed their kids a diet filled with these toxic food dyes for two days and monitor their behavior at home and school. Then take them completely off the dyes for a few days and see the dramatic difference. And it does not ONLY affect kids with “sensitivities” like some media outlets are reporting. You don’t have to have ADHD or autism to be affected by these dyes. Read my original post to learn more about them and how they are manufactured.

https://healingautismandadhd.wordpress.com/2010/02/12/artificial-food-coloring-is-evil/

I’m sure if food and drug manufacturers do have to put a disclaimer on their packaging we will see some really awful television ads renaming their artificial food dyes to something like “natural colorful additives”.  You may think I’m being sarcastic, but have you heard how the Corn Refiners Association (corn farming industry) has renamed High Fructose Corn Syrup to “Corn Sugar”?  And they even have the audacity to say that corn sugar is handled the same by your body as sugar or honey. HA!  You can read just how our body processes that artificial sweetener in my post below. This deceptive marketing is tolerated by our FDA.  Enough said.

https://healingautismandadhd.wordpress.com/2010/02/17/just-say-no-to-high-fructose-corn-syrup/

The Food Revolution

 

Jamie Oliver

Jamie Oliver has started a food revolution.  I’m excited someone with media clout made some noise about American’s poor eating habits. He’s not just talking about how to change it, but actually doing something about it. I signed his petition to save cooking skills and improve school food.  My hope is that more Americans will follow.

Jamie’s message is simple,

This food revolution is about saving America’s health by changing the way you eat. It’s not just a TV show, it’s a movement for you, your family and your community. If you care about your kids and their future take this revolution and make it your own. Educate yourself about food and cooking. Find out what your child is eating at school. Make only a few small changes and magical things will happen. Switching from processed to fresh food will not only make you feel better but it will add years to your life.

America needs this revolution. Our kids need it and future generations will definitely need it. Saving cooking skills may seem a bit old-fashioned, but think about how much processed food is in the average American diet. Does anyone cook from scratch anymore? How many times does a family dinner consist of prepackaged ravioli with a jar of pasta sauce, or lasagna in a box?  Let alone the fast food drive thru window. Families are so busy, they’ve put cooking fresh meals last on their list of priorities.  Unfortunately at the cost of their health.

Our bodies need whole food to sustain, grow, and function properly. Whole food is a food in its most natural state. Our body thrives on whole foods because it is more easily recognized by the digestive system. A diet that consists of primarily whole foods will help your body control weight or even lose it, depending on the amount eaten. Processed food on the other hand has been modified and striped of its nutrients so that it doesn’t go rancid on the supermarket shelf.  Additives extend the shelf life and further separates the whole food from it original state. This refining process results in a reduction of taste so sugars, flavors and other artificial additives are added to make it taste good.  The nutritional value is lost in this process and is so far down on the list that it’s questionable what value processed foods have in our diet.

We really do need to get back to the basics. Parents need to learn how to cook whole foods from scratch if they don’t already know. We need to teach our children how to cook and place an emphasis on the importance of eating healthy.  Teach your child how to read ingredient labels so they can see the additives in processed food. Our kids are smart, but they won’t stay that way if they are fed a diet filled with sugar, artificial colors, hydrogenated vegetable oils, MSG and high fructose corn syrup. Their body and brain need good, whole foods to thrive and grow the way it was designed.

Jamie Oliver is one cool dude in my book. Join the revolution! Live a healthy life.

 

Red Gatorade, Blue Jello, Purple Yogurt. What the __?

What is the consumer packaged goods industry doing to our children?  Better yet, do parents know what makes that yogurt neon purple, the Gatorade fire engine red, or the Jello bright blue? Do you know what is in your child’s junk, er, I mean snack food? I’m not even sure they should qualify as a food item.  Junk food is an oxymoron; junk is not a food.  Our bodies don’t require red dye #40 to function properly. Nor does it need high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) for energy.

What ever happened to giving our children water when they are thirsty?  Kids on the soccer field are panting, drenched in sweat, thirsty and refueling their bodies with Gatorade that contains red dye #40, blue #1, or yellow #5.  Not to mention the HFCS, citric acid (aka MSG), and artificial flavors.  I’ve heard it before,  “my kid won’t drink water”.  Well, it is boring and unflavored. But does everything a child consumes need to have a color and flavor added?

My kids, given the choice, would choose a sugary drink like Capri Sun or a juice box over water (most of the time) when they want a drink.  But when they open the refrigerator door at home, their only option is water. Juice is there, in a jug. But my seven-year-old said juice is only for breakfast. Today, he chose to drink water over juice with his eggs at breakfast. Sounds strange, I know. But our children don’t always make the right, healthy choice for themselves. So it is up to us parents to help them.

And it’s increasingly hard to do that with all the unhealthy, popular options the consumer packaged food industry provides.  So what is a parent to do? Well first off, try to shop alone, without your kids who have been bombarded with t.v. commercials touting the latest and greatest snack food. Here’s what I have done, and it works for us in our home.

  1. Thirsty? Only bring water in BPA free bottles. Kids will drink it, if they are thirsty enough. And once they get used to it, their thirst will only be quenched by water. Their body will crave it.
  2. Soda? Not in our house. Our “special treat” drink for my eleven-year-old is the Virgil’s Root Beer sold at Trader Joe’s. It uses natural spices and cane sugar. Another option is Izze Sparkling Juice drinks. They contain no refined sugars, caffeine, preservatives, artificial colors or flavors.  These drinks are only bought as a special treat, once in a while. Not stocked in our fridge on a regular basis.
  3. Pop tarts? For those of you not on a GF/CF diet, and your kids can’t live without a Kellogg’s Pop Tart, try Nature’s Path Organic Toaster Pastries sold at Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and your local grocer.  Free of artificial colors and flavors!
  4. Snack chips? Well, no Doritos or Cheetos at our house. Too much MSG, artificial colors, flavors and preservatives.  We buy Lay’s Potato chips. Plain, no added flavor (or colors).  Trader Joe’s sells an alternative to Cheetos, called Cheese Puffs (not gf/cf).  Sun Chips (also not gf/cf) original flavor are the only ones without artificial colors, flavors, preservatives and MSG.
  5. Yogurt? Please read the ingredient listing on any yogurt you buy in the grocery store. You’ll find numerous colors, artificial flavors and tons of (hidden) MSG. The worse offender is Trix yogurt with the artificial colors and flavors, but Dannon’s Danimals have a lot of hidden MSG.  Better options are available at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods.
  6. Chocolate syrup?  Well, Hershey’s is made from high fructose corn syrup and has artificial flavor and preservatives. Nesquik Chocolate syrup has HFCS, artificial flavors, preservatives and colors. Trader Joe’s sells Midnight Moo that doesn’t contain HFCS or artificial ingredients. Whole Foods sells one that is gf/cf.  Better yet, make your own with your own natural ingredients.
  7. Ketchup? Heinz contains HFCS and natural flavoring (where MSG hides).  We use Trader Joe’s Organic Ketchup.
  8. Fruit Roll Ups?  Try Stretch Island Fruit Co. fruit leathers, Florida Natural’s Fruit Juice Strings/Nuggets or Clif Kid Twisted Fruit Ropes.
  9. Breakfast Cereal?  There are so many unhealthy brands in the grocery store. They are chock full of sugar, artificial colors, flavor and preservatives and hidden MSG. Our alternatives are Kellogg’s Crispix, EnviroKids Gorilla Munch (found at Trader Joe’s/Whole Foods) and Trader Joe’s Honey Nut O’s.
  10. Cookies?  Bake my own with natural ingredients. We also will purchase Trader Joe’s All Natural Joe Joe’s. Just like Oreos, but without the artificial ingredients and HFCS.

I know it may be less expensive, convenient and popular to buy the packaged foods available in our local grocery store. But what are you sacrificing to save that money, time and whining from your kids?  Our children need us to play food cop and teach them the right choices so they can avoid obesity, diabetes, cancer and unnecessary hyperactivity. Ideally they are eating fresh fruits and vegetables, and good sources of protein. Right now, I’d settle to just see our generation of children eat better packaged food choices. And less of them.


Related blogs:

https://healingautismandadhd.wordpress.com/2010/02/12/artificial-food-coloring-is-evil/

https://healingautismandadhd.wordpress.com/2010/02/17/just-say-no-to-high-fructose-corn-syrup/

https://healingautismandadhd.wordpress.com/2010/03/04/get-extra-msg/

Just say NO! to High-Fructose Corn Syrup

My son’s elementary school promotes the anti-drug campaign Just Say No To Drugs! each year. It’s a wonderful awareness campaign. I really wish they could include high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in that campaign. Does that mean I am comparing HFCS to drugs?  No. But I believe it’s something our kids should be taught to avoid, for their long-term health.  I know, for those of you out there that feel some HFCS won’t hurt and tell me, besides “my kids don’t drink sodas”, well, I may have some news for you. HFCS is in almost everything on the grocery store shelf that requires a sweetener. Why? Because it’s a much cheaper ingredient than sugar in the manufacturing process and it extends shelf life. Cheaper ingredients, extended shelf life means less cost to the consumer. Less cost equates to a  higher volume of products that will fly off  the shelf and into America’s stomach. Ugh!

In case you’re not familiar with what exactly HFCS is, I’ll give you the less technical, modified version of the manufacturing process. First off, it’s an artificial sweetener. Granted, it’s a byproduct of corn (which isn’t artificial) but it is processed in such a way that it becomes artificial. Corn kernels are soaked in warm water containing sulfur dioxide. This warm solution hydrates the kernels and makes it easier to separate its starch, hull, protein and oil components. After soaking, the kernels are wet milled to remove the oil containing germ. In this process, the wet starch is mixed with a weak solution of hydrochloric acid and is heated under pressure. The hydrochloric acid and heat break down the starch molecules and convert them into a sugar.  Next, the remaining corn starch is washed, and three types of enzymes are added to the resulting mixture. The resulting syrup is then place through an evaporation process to create the desired consistency for shipping. Sound natural to you?

Me neither. But the Corn Refiners Association put a lot of effort and money into “debunking” myths surrounding HFCS. One of them being that it’s the leading cause for America’s obesity epidemic. I’m not blaming obesity on HFCS, but it is in most processed foods that America eats.  When HFCS is ingested, it travels straight to the liver which turns the sugary liquid into fat, and unlike other carbohydrates HFCS does not cause the pancreas to produce insulin; which acts as a hunger quenching signal to the brain.  It makes sense to me that eating food that gets immediately stored as fat and never feeling full might lead one to obesity.

Because HFCS extends the shelf life of foods, and farm subsidies make it cheaper than sugar, it’s added to a staggering range of items, including sodas, yogurt, cereals, crackers, ketchup and bread — and in most foods marketed to children. So, unless you’re making a concerted effort to avoid it, it’s pretty difficult to consume high-fructose corn syrup in moderation.  Try buying a loaf of bread at your local super market chain that does not contain HFCS. I nearly went blind reading all those tiny labels trying to find one. I gave up and purchase my HFCS free bread at Trader Joe’s.

A pilot study reported that some HFCS manufactured in the U.S. in 2005 contained trace amounts of mercury. The mercury appeared to come from sodium hydroxide and hydrochloric acid, two chemicals used in the manufacture of high-fructose corn syrup. The Washington Post wrote an article on January 28, 2009 that stated “Almost half of tested samples of commercial high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) contained mercury, which was also found in nearly a third of 55 popular brand-name food and beverage products where HFCS is the first or second-highest labeled ingredient, according to two new U.S. studies. The chemical was found most commonly in HFCS-containing dairy products, dressings and condiments.”  Now I don’t think I need to point out that ingesting mercury, a neurotoxin, is bad for your health. For the complete Washington Post article, click on the link:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/01/26/AR2009012601831.html

The good news is, I think the tide is turning. Public outcry and perhaps a few lawsuits thrown at food/drink manufacturers (Kraft was sued in 2007 for claiming Capri Sun was “all natural” even though it contained HFCS) has prompted some companies to switch from HFCS to sugar in their sodas/drinks.  Soft drinks groups, HFCS’s core consumers, are “preferring to switch to sugar given the poor health image of high-fructose corn syrup,”  Credit Suisse’s report stated on January 7, 2010 (http://www.agrimoney.com/news/corn-groups-hit-as-drinks-makers-return-to-sugar–1183.html). Snapple, Ocean Spray and Capri Sun had switched some months ago, with Gatorade in November saying it would replace corn syrup with sugar. That’s huge! Mainly because corn syrup was selling for about half the price of spot sugar.

My hope is that more people read ingredient labels so they are aware of the types of additives they are consuming.  Next time you pick up something at the grocery store, spend a minute reading the ingredient list and ignore the marketing on the front of the package. My family just says NO! to HFCS and perhaps more families out there will join us. And live long, healthy lives.

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