I'm contemplating changing the name of this blog from "NomiKnows" to Sugar Is Evil. I'm gonna trademark that phrase and put it on t-shirts and coffee cups and magnets. Then I'm gonna stage a sit-in in front of the Knesset and demand that Bibi place a nation wide ban on wafers, lollies, and ice blended coffees.
Until I get that organized, let us engage in a little sugar tutorial so you don't think I'm too crazy.
What is sugar?
When I say the word "sugar," I am speaking of that sticky, processed stuff available in a wide varieties of colors and flavors. That stuff that hits your taste buds and then sends a signal to your nervous system to release a bit of dopamine. Dopamine is the feel good chemical that your brain LOVES. A giant spike of dopamine releases with Heroin consumption as well. Yes, I actually am comparing excessive sugar consumption to an addictive drug.
What is the difference between glucose, sucrose, and fructose? Glucose, sucrose, and fructose are all forms of carbohydrates. They are simple sugars. Glucose plus fructose equals sucrose.
Glucose is the source of energy that your body needs and it's #1 preferred energy source.
Fructose is the sugar that can be added to foods or can be found naturally occurring in fruits. Fructose and glucose combine to make sucrose. Sucrose is what we refer to as table sugar and comes from sugar cane or sugar beets.
I could a bunch of scientific phrases and talk about molecules, but I'll spare you that one for now.
Fructose in fruit is fine for your body because when in a whole fruit form, the fiber in the fruit allows your body to process fructose in a way that is not harmful to your body. Once you remove that fiber and have plain ol' fructose sans fiber, (think fruit juices or high-fructose corn syrup), you have a poison (such strong language!), that effects your liver, metabolism, and cell reproduction. Grab a big ol' glass of lemon water and settle down to watch Robert Lustig: The Bitter Truth at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM
What inhibits cellular reproduction and causes inflammation which undermines your bodies ability to heal itself? Chronic inflammation is a symptom that something is happening to your body and putting it under stress. Chronic inflammation is what leads to auto-immune disorders, Alzheimer's, and arterial aging. Obviously this is an extremely abbreviated synopsis of the side effects of chronic inflammation, but you get the point. Stress, alcohol, and sugar all increase inflammation. So does white flour. Exercise, proper diet, and meditation decrease inflammation. Sounds pretty easy, no?
What are different names for sugar? Sucrose is like the identity theft villain of food. He assumes a different name, integrates himself into your diet, and then, surprise!, one day you find out that what you thought was some benign, little ingredient is really paralyzing your metabolism, hijacking your leptin (appetite inhibitor hormone), and making you crave more. It's creepy and downright unethical how food manufacturers engineer food to make our brains want more. Doritos are actually made in the shape, texture, and with spices appropriately layered to provide the most stimulation to our taste buds and make us crave more.
Different names for fructose could be agave nectar, barbados sugar, barley malt, beet sugar, brown sugar, buttered syrup, cane juice, cane juice, demerara sugar, dextrin, dextrose, evaporated cane juice, malt syrup, maltodextrin, maltol, maltose, maple syrup, molasses, muscovado, palm sugar, rice syrup, saccharose...should I go on, cuz I ain't done yet! Check out this rocking website http://www.sugarscience.org. These people are enthusiastically dedicated to educating the public about the dangers of sugar. For a health nerd like myself, these scientists are the coolest people on earth.
Where does sugar hide?
Oy. Like a really drawn out oooy. Sorry to tell you, but it's EVERYWHERE. That yogurt your kid loves with the cute picture of the smiling baby, yup sugar. That organic, gluten-free energy bar, yup there too. How about your marinara sauce? Probably the third ingredient. Your sports drink with much needed electrolytes, your breakfast muesli, your bread, the eggplant salad you buy for Shabbat. Mmmm-hmmmm. There is a lot of sugar in all of that stuff.
What's gonna happen if you keep eating all of this sugar? DUN DUN DUUUUUN! Cue ominous sound.
Ok. I could make a list of scary things or I could let these people explain it so much better. (Thanks Dr. Mercola!)
It overloads and damages your liver. The effects of too much sugar or fructose can be likened to the effects of alcohol. All the fructose you eat gets shuttled to the only organ that has the transporter for it: your liver. This severely taxes and overloads the organ, leading to potential liver damage.
It tricks your body into gaining weight and affects your insulin and leptin signaling. Fructose fools your metabolism by turning off your body's appetite-control system. It fails to stimulate insulin, which in turn fails to suppress ghrelin, or "the hunger hormone," which then fails to stimulate leptin or "the satiety hormone." This causes you to eat more and develop insulin resistance.
It causes metabolic dysfunction. Eating too much sugar causes a barrage of symptoms known as classic metabolic syndrome. These include weight gain, abdominal obesity, decreased HDL and increased LDL, elevated blood sugar, elevated triglycerides, and high blood pressure.
It increases your uric acid levels. High uric acid levels are a risk factor for heart and kidney disease. In fact, the connection between fructose, metabolic syndrome, and your uric acid is now so clear that your uric acid level can now be used as a marker for fructose toxicity. (Bulleted facts taken directly from www.mercola.com)
What can you do to reduce sugar in your diet? Stop eating flavored yogurts, flavored chips, store bought salad dressings, fruit juices, store bought breads. Basically, if something is made from a plant, eat it. If it's made in a plant, ditch it.
Start reading labels and identifying sugar. Top amount of sugar you should be consuming daily is 25 grams for a woman and 38 for a man. Children should have no more than 12-20 grams. If you can do with less, even better!
Once you cut sugar from your diet, you will no longer crave it. Really. Tried and tested by yours truly. And even if you have a craving, once you have been off of sugar long enough, you will be satisfied, even overwhelmed, with much less.
What about your kiddies? Well, the last thing that you want to turn them into little sugar ghremlins who go crazy at birthday parties.
1. Get it out of the house. Easier to say no if you don't have it. They'll accept that more easily too.
2. Keep sugar reserved for special times, like shabbat and birthday parties. That doesn't mean they need to eat sour sticks for breakfast on Saturday morning. Or even sugary cereal. Buy them special, high quality treats so they can appreciate their sugar and have a culinary experience all at once. I highly recommend almond croissants from an authentic bakery like Franck's Delights or Lechem Shel Tomer.
3. Educate them about sugar just like you would about tobacco or alcohol. Yup, cuz it's addictive. I recommend The Sugary Truth at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EFlnlGx0B5U for a quick intro to elementary school age kids. Discuss the effects of sugar and help them recognize how it makes them feel. Then let them make their own choices with boundaries. If my kids ask for a cookie or sweet snack after school, I make a deal. They can have a cookie only if they take a veggie and eat that first.
Small steps lead to big changes. Take it one day at a time. Don't stress and enjoy the process. This is all meant to refine our health and our character traits, so it might be hard work, but it will be worth it.