Friday, November 2, 2012

Is Sugar Poison?

So I've been trying to eat healthier for a while. Last fall I started adding more complex carbohydrates (whole grains etc.) to our diet and trying to replace all of the refined foods. I also have been balancing our meals better with more fruits and vegetables (larger portions and eating more proportionately in relation to the grains and proteins in our diets.)  I worked on it throughout the holidays but when the new year began I resolved to do even better.  I find that making lifestyle changes are difficult and I try to do it gradually for my sake and for the sake of my family (don't want to put them in shock).

Changing diet alone I lost about 8-10 pounds in a few weeks.  Then I got more serious about exercising (changing my diet really gave me a jump start and losing those pounds I felt thinner but I was still feeling flabby and un-toned).   I've lost another 10 pounds since probably February.  I am almost down to my goal weight.  These last 5 pounds are the hardest... I'm working on converting the bulk of my fatty areas to lean muscle mass. So I believe, I've been gaining muscle while I slowly whittle down my problem areas.  The scale is not registering the conversion as well but I feel and see the difference.
I use a Gazelle Freestyle Elite (similar to this model ) 3-4 times/wk.  A gazelle is similar to an elliptical but cheaper and much better than a low-end elliptical and more compact. Unless you have space and money for a top-of-the-line (Gym quality) elliptical, I recommend a gazelle.
 Okay, got a little side-tracked... So the hardest change I've had is eliminating sweets from our diet.  I've always loved desserts and have had a sweet tooth...  I really am a sugar addict.  So my general game plan for years is not to buy ready made sweets and goodies (my dessert recipes).  If I really want something sweet I have to go through the effort of making it and then I discipline myself to not eat too much at once (make the batch of cookies last over several days).  I've also been eliminating overly sweet things from our diet.

We do not drink juice very often (we eat the actual fruit instead).  Quenching my thirst with water and not eating because I'm thirsty (see my Finding Balance post). If we drink juice (100% juice) we dilute it so it's just a little flavor and we can drink more w/out adding a lot of extra calories and sugars.  We add lemon and a little sugar for a very mild lemonade (on occasion) Forget about soda (here's an article that gives some of my reasons) I cut that one out a while ago.  I've cut back on sugar in a lot of my recipes.  I do keep Dark Chocolate on hand (one or two pieces are much more satisfying than a handful of candy sugary candy).

Eating more Sugar to avoid eating Fats
I've found that I enjoy mildly sweet things much more lately (okay, until Halloween just messed me up)... I don't feel that I've been dieting or denying myself anything.  I have been replacing it with healthier choices that I feel good about.  Eating more whole grains keeps me fuller longer and I feel less of an urge to binge on desserts and sweets.  I also have not been cutting fats from my diet because fats help you to feel full (I have been substituting trans-fats like processed veg. oil and eliminated shortening).

Last night I was listening to the Radio (a program called Coast to Coast) and they had a naturopathic doctor as a guest. Here is an excerpt from the program that they shared on the website... A key part of the discussion I found to be so enlightening.
" Farley also stressed the necessity for cholesterol in the body, which is a needed precursor for hormones, and a primary part of cell walls. Cholesterol is not the cause of heart disease, he continued, but serves to plug leaky arteries or lesions in the arteries. It's actually sugars (from white bread, sweets etc.) in the form of insulin that causes the lesions in the arterial wall, but cholesterol gets the blame, he explained." (

One major problem in American diets is that we've villainized fat.  Eating fat doesn't make you fat.  Eating more calories than you burn does.  I brought home 2 yogurts and was looking over the nutrition facts.  I had accidentally bought a fat-free yogurt (which I usually avoid).  One was fat free and the other was low-fat.  The fat-free (what people would assume is "healthier") was the same size as the other yogurt and it had MORE calories.  It had zero calories from fat but it had more sugar in it. The majority of the calories were from the sugar.  The fat-containing yogurt had less sugar and the same number of calories.  Eating the low-fat yogurt leaves me feeling more satisfied than the fat-free yogurt and less of a sugar buzz. I would rather consume calories from natural fats than sugar. 

Sugar and Inflammation
So as Dr. Farley above was sharing, fats are not the problem it's the sugar.  When I was pregnant with my second baby I was very tired, busy, and I wasn't eating the best. I was probably doing what I often do. Substituting sugar for sleep and proper nutrition, trying to get an energy boost. I started having issues with my breathing and couldn't get over little colds.  I know that pregnancy complicates things and your body is more sensitive to stuff.  My doctor said I had asthma (which I never had before).  I started reading about it and found that it was an inflammation issue.  I realized that a lot of my issues have to do with inflammation.  I am very prone to it. I react highly to mosquito bites, I have had issues with my complexion exacerbated by inflammation, I bruise very easily... I do not need sugar to compound this problem.  I just read an article on the Relationship between Sugar and Inflammation. She explains how it messes up our digestion leaving un-properly processed protien particles: 
"One of the things these particles can do is cause the classic symptoms of allergy, the inflammatory response, the runny eyes, sinusitis, sneezing and scratchy throat.(8),(9) These particles can go to the joints, tissues or bones and cause arthritis.(lO),(ll). They can go to the nervous system and cause multiple sclerosis.(l2) Medical research shows that this foreign matter can go to the skin and cause psoriasis,(13) hives,(14), and eczema.(15) The inflammatory process takes place in all these diseases.
From my clinical experience, acne and water retention also are caused by food allergy. Ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease are also caused by undigested protein.(16)" (my immediate family and several people I know suffer from these issues).
I started realizing the Connection
When I had colds and a cough I would often drink hot sugary beverages (cocoa and cider). I started waking up wheezing and had so much mucous and a constant tickle at the back of my throat.  The doctor prescribed an inhaler to treat the symptoms (when the cough got really bad and my airways inflamed from all of the coughing that I began to wheeze).  It calmed the airway deep in my chest but I still had the mucous and the tickle in my throat. It didn't address the cause... plus the albuterol made me jittery and made it hard to get back to sleep at 1am.  One night I remembered gargling salt water was something I had done before and it REALLY helped.  I decided the salt actually helped the inflammation at the back of my throat and calmed the tickle. Then when I had a cough I would limit my sugar intake and I would drink hot broth, chicken soup, or gargle salt water and it never got to the wheezing stage.  I also got over my colds and didn't have coughs that lingered for a month.

Make Gradual Changes
With each thing you eat, think about how you can make a better choice. Eat an apple instead of drinking juice, Drink more water. Substitute short grain brown rice for white rice. Use a crock pot to cook your legumes and higher fiber soups and meals. Buy whole Grain Pasta (we notice very little difference in taste/texture and enjoy it more).   It takes a little more planning to eat whole foods and they usually take a little longer to cook (so a crockpot is an awesome way to cook them while your busy doing other things).

Next year for Halloween:  We're handing out glow sticks (plus extras are still good next year), microwave popcorn, nuts and dried fruit, or whole grain bunny or fish crackers... any other good ideas?
I'm sending our excess amounts of candy with DIY Dad to set out for customers at work.

Recommended viewing and reading:
An excellent youtube video on the Sugar Epidemic: Sugar: The Bitter Truth 
a summarized version of Sugar: The Bitter Truth


  1. This video series: The Skinny on Obesity better illustrates the Info from 'Sugar: The Bitter Truth'

    I made a link on my Recommendations page.

  2. I loved reading your post. We've been trying to eat healthier and find that making small slow changes work the best for us too. We switched to whole wheat a while ago and now we actually prefer it. It's interesting how your tastes can change. Thanks for the great tips. :)

    1. That's awesome. White bread is so blah compared to all the yummy wheat and multi-grain breads available. Plus I hate how it sticks to the roof of your mouth. When you think of wholesome food, how it makes you feel, and what it does for your body (while tasting so good and satisfying), processed food loses its desirability.


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