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After a busy, stressful day, what could be more comforting than something sweet? The possibilities are endless: a thick slab of German chocolate cake, a nutty chunk of fudge, a heaping bowl of rocky road ice cream with butterscotch sauce. Or, for a quick fix, a snack of Oreos, a Snickers bar; or maybe a root beer float.
What do they all have in common? These "comfort foods" all contain refined sugar—and lots of it. And we're eating more of it every year.
In the late 1800s, the average American's diet contained very little sugar—only about five pounds1 of sugar per year. By 1970, we were eating 24 times more sugar: 122 pounds a year!2 Today, many authorities estimate an even higher total: an unbelievable 150 pounds per person per year!3 That's more than a cup a day!
Before you argue that you couldn't possibly be eating that much sugar, remember that most of the sugars we consume are hidden in food we eat. Sugars are not only in obvious places like soda, cookies, cakes, pastries, candy, donuts, and ice cream. They are also unsuspected guests in most processed and refined foods, including gravies, sauces, peanut butter, seasoning mixes, ketchup, mayonnaise, salad dressing, crackers, canned fruits and vegetables, processed cheese spreads, stuffing and bread mixes, sweet pickles, dry cereals, and even salt! Just read the labels. You'll be shocked at the places sugar turns up!
All that sugar doesn't seem to be making us any sweeter. in fact, it may be contributing to mood swings, fatigue, and a host of diseases. Some researches believe that those who become addicted to other substances begin with sugar: that is the "basic addiction"—and one of the hardest to kick. Sweet foods do affect brain chemistry. Researchers at Yale University found that children who ate sugar on an empty stomach had high levels of adrenaline, which resulted in shakiness, anxiety, excitement, and problems with concentration. A relationship has also been found between refined sugar intake and destructive, aggressive, and restless behaviors in hyperactive children. That's not all: Other studies have shown that high sugar intake is associated with lower intelligence and lower achievement test scores in children ages 5 to 15! Sugar has been show to drain energy and cause tension. Excess sugar depletes vitamins and minerals, especially the B vitamins, from the body. This can cause irritability and anxiety. In other words, the more sugar you eat, the more likely you are to feel stressed and out of sorts. Too much sugar has also been shown to be a cause of premature puberty and aging, cataracts, headaches, tooth decay, bowel cancer, irritable bowel syndrome, breast cancer, lowered immune function, ulcers, and hypoglycemia.
How can you cut all that refined sugar our of your diet? Remember that most processed foods contain sugar in one form or another. So go natural! Cook dry beans instead of using canned ones. Try fresh or frozen vegetables rather than canned. Make gravies and sauces from scratch. And instead of reaching for a candy bar, try God's naturally-packaged sweets—a juicy, fresh apple, pear, apricot, or mango. Remember also that when you eat more whole grains, beans, vegetables, and fresh fruit, you won't have such an urge to snack.4
At breakfast-time, choose unrefined, whole grain cereals instead of instant, pre-sweetened ones. Try millet, rice, rolled oats, barley grits, and multi-grain cereals, sweetened with bananas, chopped dates, raisins, or a little honey or rice syrups. By the way, pure honey has been shown to have healing properties that are absent in other sugars. Honey is sweeter than sugar, and raises blood levels higher, but less is needed to sweeten the food. but steer away from artificial sweeteners. Their potential side effects can be serious.
What happens when you shift your focus from "fast food frenzy" to "fabulous, fresh, and fiber filled?" Time released energy, a better mood, vibrant health, and more even temper are just a few of the rewards. As we come closer to the "Designer Diet" God gave our first parents, we will experience satisfaction instead of hunger, energy instead of fatigue, and health instead of chronic sickness and disease. Our Creator truly is a God "who satisfieth they mouth with good things, so that they youth is renewed like the eagles" (Psalm 103:5).
Copyright © LifeStyle Matters, Inc.
1. Misner, Bill, Ph.S., Killer Sugar! Suicide With A Spoon. Note that these figures include sugar in its many forms, including glucose, sucrose, fructose, honey, corn syrup, etc.
2. San Jose Mercury News, January 17, 1999, page 7.
3. Newsweek, July 13, 1998, pages 72-74. While some reports indicate that white refined sugar consumption is down, that is largely due to the fact that high fructose corn syrup, a concentrated sweetener processed from cornstarch, has increased almost 250% in the last 15 years, according to the Department of Agriculture.
4. This is because these foods are high in fiber, which increases satisfaction and takes longer to digest.
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