Sugar is a health-sucking dementor of disease…or is it?
It helps to take a look at the controversial history of sugar to get a better understanding, so allow me to pour some sugar history on you.
Back in 1967, the Sugar Research Foundation paid three scientists to demonize fat in their studies. Thus we entered the era of fat-free “health” recommendations, and began to consume excessive amounts of refined sugars and corn syrup instead.
Consider how the average American’s sugar consumption has risen:
19th Century 2 lbs per year
1970 123 lbs per year
Today 152 lbs per year
The sugar scandal is now well known and science is showing the downside of all that sugar – a significant rise in Type 2 Diabetes, inflammation, and other chronic diseases. Our insulin resilience has been wrecked by the consumption of so much sugar laden, processed & packaged “franken foods.”
So, sugar is the real demon, right? High-fat, low or no carb diets are all the rage right now, after all. The coin has flipped, the pendulum has swung in the other direction, and we’ve done a complete 180.
While sugary carbs like cookies, cakes & candy are indeed questionable for our health, our body still needs a source of carbs to function at its best.
Our liver needs healthy carbs to effectively do its 2000+ processes of cleaning up and protecting the body. The brain uses glucose as its number one source of energy. The brain is actually the most energy-demanding organ in the body and uses up to half of your sugar energy (Scott Edwards, Harvard Medical School). As a stroke survivor, I’m a bit of a brain geek, and this particular fact is important information to me.
Now, I’m not saying to go out and gorge on sugar. Healthy carbs come from whole foods like fresh fruits and vegetables. Blimp out on that and skip the junk food sweets. Too much sugar, especially from unhealthy sources, can accelerate brain aging. In fact, Alzheimer’s is now being referred to as Type 3 Diabetes by many health experts. So choose your carbs mindfully.
Here are a few of my favorite sources of healthy carbs:
Raw, local honey
Sweet vegetables (sweet potatoes, squashes)
Fresh fruit (apples grow local to me so I love them)
Grade B Maple Syrup
I’m personally a fan of flexibility when it comes to sweets. I enjoy indulging in less healthy treats on occasion. But moderation doesn’t work for everyone. You think you will enjoy just a few bites of Ben & Jerry’s and suddenly you’re staring down the barrel of a pint of ice cream. Oops. Can you relate?
For some people, abstaining is actually easier because you aren’t using precious energy trying to justify what to indulge in or when (and then failing!). Those in addiction recovery understand this strategy. Gretchen Rubin coined the distinction between Abstainers and Moderators, and you can read more about it here.
Still for some, abstaining can be a torturous form of restriction especially when coupled with body image issues. If your choice to eat sugar is based on how your body looks or your relationship with your body, it’s likely to backfire on you. Know this – avoiding sugar will not make you love your body. Body-love is a deep inner relationship. You’ll have physical reactions to sugar, maybe feel sick or get that crash, but sugar has no power over real body-love. Let’s stop trying to give sugar and food a power that it simply cannot take on.
When it comes to sugar, it’s important to know not just your personal tendencies but also your health needs. If you are diabetic or suffering from candida overgrowth, or coping with some other illness – that changes everything for you. Eating a bunch of sugar isn’t going to help you heal, and can even be dangerous depending on what you are dealing with.
Take ALL of these factors into consideration.
Remember your choices are not set in stone. You can always make another choice as your needs and considerations change. There is no sugar contract you are in breach of if you decide to satisfy your sweet tooth. If you are worried about the judgment of others, work on breathing into that tension and letting it go. For most of us, the biggest source of judgment is ourselves. Breath into that too, and let it go.
I like to use this mantra that is helpful for me as I make choices about sugar, food and other lifestyle factors that affect my health.
I take responsibility for my well-being.
When I come from a place of taking a stand for myself – being responsible for myself, I can trust myself to make the best choice for me in that moment. Except when I don’t. When that happens, I take a deep breath, and move on. Beating yourself up over a food choice probably isn’t the best use of your energy. Most of us have bigger priorities to direct our energy traffic to. So let’s move on when we eat something unfavorable.
These days, we have all been exposed to diet culture, sugar-demonizing, and moral implications around our food choices. We all have sugar stories. So tell me – what story have you bought into? Are your current choices about sugar serving your highest good?
Share your sugar story in the comments below!
Love & Health,