I have a problem with sugar, and I know it. For me, chocolate seems to be the irresistible lure. If I see anything with chocolate in it, be it chocolate chip cookies, chocolate cake, or a big hunk of the good stuff itself, my willpower dissolves within seconds, and before you can say the word “chocoholic”, it’s found its way into my mouth.
For others, it’s the sugary drinks that get them. Soft drink manufacturers have made a killing over the last several decades by offering us the ultimate vehicle for sugar injection. The sugars found in soft drinks and other mass market juices are so easily absorbed that our blood sugar peaks within minutes, giving us a satisfying rush that is often likened to an addictive drug.
This collective love of sweetness has caused sugar consumption to increase from an average of 4 pounds per annum in the year 1700, to 100 pounds per annum today, and now accounts for a fifth of all calories consumed. It’s likely because of the quick energy sugar provides that we crave it so much. The trouble is, once our tastebuds have been stimulated by the stuff, we can’t seem to stop. According to a New York Times article on sugar written in 1977, “if saccharin is injected into the womb, the fetus will increase its swallowing of the sweetened amniotic fluid. Newborn rats will consume sugar water in preference to a nutritious diet, even to the point of malnutrition and death”.
While many doctors and researchers have warned of the negative effects of sugar for decades, it’s only recently that a loud consensus has been reached. This is due to two recent revelations: the first being the discovery of a number of 1967 memos proving that Harvard researchers were handsomely paid to downplay links between sugar consumption and heart disease in the past. The second being the consequent promotion of a low fat diet by most public health bodies, which inadvertently caused carbohydrate consumption to spike, and resulted in alarmingly high rates of diabetes and obesity, while failing to provide the hoped-for reduction in heart disease.
Clearly, we should all be avoiding sugar as much as possible if we want to maintain our good health. But how do we go about doing that? Well, the old advice is still good advice. As much as possible, eat real food, not snack bars, dessert-like breakfast products, or pre-made smoothies. All of these foods have alarmingly high amounts of sugar added. If you like to drink smoothies, make your own. It’ll contain healthier ingredients and fewer calories.
Another good rule that’s tried and true: never shop for groceries when you’re hungry. You’ll always make poor food choices. Finally, choose foods with plenty of colour, and by that I don’t mean coloured candy. Fresh fruits and vegetables come in plentiful shades of green, red, orange, and yellow, all indicating a high nutrient content. Try to bring a rainbow of colour to all your meals, by eating a wide variety of steamed or stir-fried vegetables, mixed with whole grains and small amounts of protein. Ideally, your vegetable portion will make up at least half your plate. Essentially, eat more like the Asians do, and you can’t go too far wrong.
As for other chocoholics like me, consider indulging in a single square of dark chocolate once in awhile. Dark chocolate contains high amounts of flavenoids, which have antioxidant activity. If you do it with a friend, you’ll stay honest and be prevented from finishing off the entire bar in one sitting. My husband and I buy a dark chocolate bar every so often, and then we each eat one square a day until it’s gone. Because I know he’s watching, I never eat more than one square at a time, and that small taste of chocolate each day is enough to satisfy me.
For women who chronically crave chocolate or other sugary treats, it can be a sign of “blood deficiency” in Chinese medicine. Menstruating women can become blood deficient easily because of our monthly release. I usually find that when my sugar cravings get out of control, it’s because I haven’t taken a blood tonic in awhile. Consider trying our Shou Wu Plus tincture, which contains several Chinese tonic herbs known to nourish your liver, kidneys and blood. I find that as long as my blood is well nourished with such longevity herbs, sugar holds a much weaker appeal for me, and I have less difficulty avoiding it, even when I’m hungry.About the author: Rebecca Wong has an honours degree in English Literature from the University of Waterloo, and has been working in the herbal business since 2000. She has received her training in acupuncture and herbalism from respected authorities Paul Des Rosiers and Vu Le at the Ontario College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Toronto, and Michael Tierra at the East West Herb School in California.