Most of us have a variation of some diet we follow. It’s rare to meet someone who just naturally eats anything and still is both physically and physiologically healthy.
However, there’s only few of us who have a definitive idea of what works and what doesn’t in terms of adding to our health. This debate of what’s healthy and what’s the best thing we can do for our bodies and thus ourselves is even more important in western countries, not because of a lack of choices but because of an abundance of both food and choices available to us.
Through the myriads of choices and rules proposed some key ones are slowly emerging. Here are some I am aware of and I would like to share all I have learnt on one particular one (highlighted in bold) from reading this very lightly written yet heavy topic one year family journal.
1. Eat less processed foods
2. Learn how to cook and then cook as many meals as possible (time and know how being the two big limitations)
3. Eat more fibrous food (available in plants, nuts and fruits)
4. Eat less or drastically reduce added sugar.
5. Exercise or move more (in office, at home, walk, bike..)
The reason I wanted to focus on the sugar rule is because a. not many of us understand how dangerous it is for us and b. there’s a lot of confusion regarding the various forms of sugar and if all is bad, some is bad and such questions. When I told a relative about the book and the experiment the author did on her family, he questioned if it was healthy to deny children sugar as in his opinion it was a building block for a strong and healthy body. So is it?
A good video primer: for those who don’t like reading or want to here a doctor’s opinion on it:
Dr. Robert H. Lustig, MD, explores the damage caused by sugary foods. He argues that fructose (too much) and fiber (not enough) appear to be cornerstones of the obesity epidemic.“Sugar: The bitter truth”.
And here’s a very short primer on the different kinds of sugar:
- Glucose is the sugar in blood and is what is required and converted into energy by our bodies.
- Dextrose is glucose produced from corn. For the most past, the author used commercially available dextrose syrup/powder as a substitute for sugar in when required in her prepared meals.
- Fructose is the principal sugar in fruit. In fruit, it raises no issues because it is accompanied by nutrients and fiber. Eaten in anything else, it is akin to poison for the body.
- Sucrose is table sugar. It is one part each of glucose (50%) and fructose (50%).
High Fructose Corn Syrup also known as HFCS is made from corn starch. It contains roughly equivalent amounts of glucose and fructose. “H.F.C.S.-sweetened beverages, as the Sugar Association prefers they are called) are bad for us not because there’s anything particularly toxic about the sugar they contain but just because people consume too many of them.”
According to the author, in our society, we are consuming added sugar (in the form of sucrose, HFCS, fructose) in almost everything and many things you wouldn’t think would have sugar. Examples being pasta sauce, bread, salad dressing, sauces, and so many other ingredients we take for granted as being “healthy”.
The book was an eye opener on how bad sugar is for us and how addictive it is. The author is fortunate that she’s someone who enjoys cooking and gets to work with food so she’s able to carve out a life of no sugar for her family. Yet it wasn’t easy for them. Our society has come to view sugar treats and desert with celebration and happiness as well. So it’s a tough climb but I think if we could educate ourselves a little more and listen to both sides of the stories and decide for ourselves, we would make the right decision because it’s not hard to see the truth once we seek it.
To answer my relative’s question. Yes, natural sugar is not bad for kids and they can get plenty of it by making sure the source is natural or limiting the added sugar in their diet. There is no confusion in anyone’s mind that too much sugar is harmful to all, especially kids.
Here are some more related resources:
1. Is Sugar Toxic?– NYT article by Gary Taubes
2. Sweet Poison – Book by David Gillespie
3. Weight of the Nation– HBO documentary series
4. Year of no sugar blog– with delicious recipes such as: No sugar poppy seed cake, Coconut Cake with cream cheese icing, Birthday bread, Rhubarb pie, and Christmas cookies
Happy reading and dieting!