A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down…
But does the sugar we eat actually contribute to our requirement of medication? The sugar industry would have us believe that sugar does not contribute to diabetes, heart disease, obesity, hypoglycaemia or nutrient deficiencies. I’d like to believe them, but I don’t.
Sucrose is an essential natural substance. Green plants absorb water and carbon dioxide and use sunlight to generate sugar which provides the energy needed for life. Sugar cane and beet contain sugar in its most accessible form and are refined into a commodity that sweetens up our daily dose of drabness. No longer just a plain source of fuel, sugar has become the equivalent of an addictive, toxic drug. We abuse it when needed, and as our intake of sugar and refined carbohydrates has increased, so have all the above-mentioned diseases. Coincidence?
In the UK, the average intake of sugar is now around 2 lbs per person per week. Some people eat much more. Sugar, like other refined carbohydrates is “fast-releasing” – it provides a sudden burst in energy, followed by a slump and the desire for another sugar-fix. Nutritionists worry that the perpetual use of fast-releasing starches upsets the hormonal status quo, leading to mood and energy swings, obesity, poor immunity, fatigue, fungal infections and other unpleasant symptoms. The roots of serious degenerative diseases can, more often than not, be traced to chronic high sugar consumption.
We can’t even escape the sugar trap by choosing honey, molasses or maple syrup. These are high-glycaemic and still provide a concentrated form of sweetness which has similar effects on the body. Artificial sweeteners contain the potentially harmful substances aspartame, sucralose and saccharin as well as malto-dextrins and dextrose which affect insulin levels and may encourage weight-gain.
To wake up from a sugar-induced lethargic stupor, stay clear of overly refined and processed foods. Slow-releasing foods provide sustained energy (fresh fruit and vegetables, beans, pulses, nuts, seeds, wholegrains) so you are less likely to crave and binge. Also include small amounts of lean protein, essential fats and added nutrients to support glucose management. Exercise and the avoidance of sugar, stimulants and stress are important, too.
Can’t satisfy your inner sweet-tooth, no matter how hard you try? Don’t despair, there is a viable alternative. Xylitol is an all-natural sugar substitute derived from non-genetically engineered corn cobs or birch bark. It does not require insulin to be metabolised and is safe for diabetics (up to 60 g per day). The only side effects are loose stools if consumed to excess. Xylitol containing foods should not be fed to dogs.
See Also: Nutrition & Addiction Handbook
© 2011 Martina Watts MSc Nut Med, First Published Brighton Argus 2004