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Don't Let Sugar Beat You!

Posted Nov 03 2008 8:47pm
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The Candy Onslaught has arrived. . . hundreds of thousands of pounds of candy have been purchased and a huge amount of it has been handed to your child! It may be too late to change your  plans midstream, but see some of the suggestions posted in the group discussion on Nutrition: Ctrl+Alt+Delete! Some Moms have created a game they do with the kids to keep the candy consumption to a minimum!
In addition I'd like to point out some of the effects of sugar, and list the safe and unsafe alternatives so you can make informed choices.

Why is sugar harmful? ‌ It is a form of simple carbohydrates because it has been stripped of its nutrients. A sugar plant has nutrients. Sugar cane and molasses are more directly utilized, not extracted from the sugar plant, and therefore carry more of the nutrients that are supposed to help us metabolize the sugar. Sugar and other simple carbohydrates drive insulin levels to abnormal heights and this creates a host of problems, either Type 2 Diabetes or a condition often referred to as Syndrome X.

Sugar also depresses the immune system response.  It slows the ability of white blood cells to move to the site of an infection and do their jobs.  Think about a group of kids just after breakfast; they're very susceptible to passing around viruses and bacteria due to the sugar they've just consumed in their cereal.

According to Dr. William Sears, "Eating or drinking 100 grams (8 tbsp.) of sugar, the equivalent of about two cans of soda, can reduce the ability of white blood cells to kill germs by forty percent.  The immune-suppressing effect of sugar starts less than thirty minutes after ingestion and may last for five hours." (from Feeding Your Immune System

Our body has a way that it deals with having excess sugar. It begins to create more insulin. What is the purpose of Insulin‌ Insulin controls many internal body functions. It is a hormone secreted by the pancreas. Its main function is to store energy from food into our cells. Only a small amount of what we consume is able to be stored as glycogen, the rest of the carbohydrates are converted into triglycerides. Yes, triglycerides! Maybe you thought as I did that triglycerides are only formed when fat is consumed. (from Dr. Ron Rosedale )
There are so many reasons we don't want our insulin levels fluctuating. The biggest is that our cells become resistant because too much insulin is being pumped. They turn off their insulin receptors and then are not ready to receive energy from food. The cells are trying to protect themselves from the excess, so they send a signal that they've had enough. It is like a key that doesn't fit being jammed into a lock, or like clapping your hands over your ears when music is too loud.

What are some alternatives to consuming refined sugar? ‌ Our food industry has tried to create chemical imitations for sugar, to help us avoid calories. Water is the only drink that truly has zero calories. A chemical concoction like diet soda is actually going to dehydrate the body because it takes water away to dissolve and try to break down those chemicals.

All of the chemical sweetners have side effects.

Sweetener Equal_200 Aspartame, or Nutra Sweet (brand name), is a particular cause for concern. It is found in so many drinks, yogurts, gums, usually in food items traditionally sweetened with sugar, which people have decided they want to avoid, either to avoid calorie intake or tooth decay. When the FDA approved aspartame it was never intended to become so widely used, and the threshold for consumption by which they figured it would be “safe” for humans is usually surpassed by anyone taking more than one serving per day. It was tested only in its powder form and then it was stated that it does not produce cancer in the animals, only brain lesions. In its liquid form it turns into poisonous wood alcohol (methanol). Methanol is stored in the liver and accumulates. Sadly, this substance is in such high demand that it is not being taken off the market. Discovered by accident, this sweet tasting chemical has become entrenched in our food supply. I’ve noticed especially with chewing gum that they do not usually list “Nutra Sweet” on the front but if you check the ingredients you will find aspartame in almost all gum. You can find gum at the health food store that does not contain aspartame. Aspartame use has also been linked to the rise in the rate of childhood seizures. (adapted from Chemical Crazy and Insulin Resistant by Sherrie Attila)

Speaking of the health food store, you can also find more alternatives to sugar that are not chemicals.
Sucanat (a contraction of "Sugar Cane Natural") is non-refined cane sugar. Unlike refined and processed white sugar, Sucanat retains its molasses content; it is essentially pure dried  sugar cane juice. The juice is extracted by mechanical processes, heated and cooled at which point the small brown grainy crystals are formed. (excerpt of definition from WikiPedia)

is a sweetener that is extracted from fruit, usually strawberries, raspberries, or blueberries. It is very safe and also very good for preventing tooth decay. Many chewing gums and natural toothpastes are made with xylitol.

Both sucanat and xylitol are able to be measured and used in a way similar to white sugar in cooking and baking.

Agave Nectar is plant based, from a type of cactus plant that is similar to an aloe vera plant. It looks like honey but does not effect blood sugar levels.

is another plant based sweetener. It is a sweet herb, not a sugary substance. It can be in liquid or powder form and is measured in drops. Ten drops will sweeten a cup of coffee. Many find this to be a very satisfying alternative that has no effect on blood sugar.
Sweeteners honeybees_52823bHoney is a great choice because the sugars are surrounded by nutrients our bodies can use to metabolize the sugar. Honey is also found in the Bible many times, like in Proverbs 24:13, "My [daughter], eat honey because it is good, And the honeycomb which is sweet to your taste."

Maple Syrup is for more than just pancakes! I buy plain yogurt and sweeten with either hone y or maple syrup. We add our own fruit and granola. This also saves money! Sweetener maple syrup

Molasses is what you would have if the sugar cane was not refined or whitened. It contains a good  compliment of B vitamins. The strong flavor makes it inappropriate for some recipes and tastes, but it never hurt anyone. Molasses and honey are also available in granule form (like Sucanat).

Another surprise candidate for an alternative sweetener is dates. Ground dates can be used in place of sugar. Also don't forget unsweetened applesauce which can add moisture and sweetness to baking recipes.

All of the above ideas came from the ladies in either my homeschool group or my food coop group. One of the responses was an inspiriation to me. Though I have tried several of the above ideas, I have not yet fully implemented them in my home, so writing this article has inspired me to make some additional changes. Here are some thoughts from Catherine Miller.

A number of years ago we jettisoned white sugar and brown sugar from our pantry forever. Yes forever.

However, to make the transition for our 5 children doable we kept honey, maple syrup, stevia and agave. We told the children that when they passed up the white sugar stuff , at church or party etc, we would create a nutritious snack at home for them. So...if dessert was served at a church pot luck we'd either bring a dessert our family could eat OR have it waiting at home to enjoy together later. All, I mean all, our favorite recipes have been revamped to be made with raw honey. In fact, our 16 year old son wants chocolate cake and frosting with homemade ice cream for his birthday this coming weekend. Done. My 20 year old daughter and I will make chocolate zucchini cake with chocolate frosting and homemade honey ice cream. All sweetened with only honey. We grind our own grain...mostly spelt and kamut, and bake fresh and freeze when we have left overs.

With honey you may need to increase your flour or decrease your liquid a bit. You want to make sure you are using a bit of both baking soda and baking powder.

I've been using honey and maple syrup for a long time, but I would like to take my commitment to another level by following Catherine's example. At this point, the main idea I want to convey is that sugar may be entrenched in our diets, but with a little creativity, nutritious additions and alternatives can be found. Some families may wish to delete sugar completely. Artificial, chemical sweeteners definitely need to be deleted. Any change you can make to control sugar intake will be an improvement, and step by step, we can all build healthier habits for our families.

My [daughter], give attention to my words;
Incline your ear to my sayings.
Do not let them depart from your eyes;
Keep them in the midst of your heart;
For they are life to those who find them,
And health to all their flesh.
Keep your heart with all diligence,
For out of it spring the issues of life.

                                Proverbs 4:20-23

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