Monday, January 11, 2010

Sweeten or Not to Sweeten- Perils of Sugar

Two weeks have passed since New Years; it is still not too late to consider a New Years resolution. The top resolution studies show us that we always think about our health; it is, and always has been in relation to changing eating habits related to weight gain, or poor health. It is never too late to reconsider eating choices and a proper diet. Below I am sure many of you will not think what I have to say below is so sweet, and it is not the sugar coated truth.

How many of us have a sweet tooth?

How many of us feel we are addicted to sugar?

We all have some kind of addiction!

Sugar causes diseases- Myth or fact?

My greatest addiction has always been sugar; it is a battle I have had to deal with on a daily basis.

While eating sugar is pleasurable, we have been told in the past that sugar consumption may pose some health risks. However, recent research indicates that many of our beliefs about sugar are more myth than fact. According to a number of prestigious organizations -- including the American Dietetic Association, the Food and Drug Administration and the National Academy of Sciences -- there’s no evidence that sugar is associated with any disease but dental caries. Sugar in moderation is okay as part of a balanced diet.

Moderation is the key! Bad eating habits can still be eliminated!

Both my parents were sugar fiends. My mom baked sweets on a daily basis, and it became apparent their addiction was spilling over into my brothers, sisters, and my own life. Sugar filled foods replaced regular meals on many occasions. Sweets were used as rewards. I witnessed it being used as a mood elevator till I had children. In reading sugar is believed to be a false high that leaves you crashing within two hours of consumption. Even though pure cane sugar, one of the first natural sweeteners and as I grew up was the primary sugar on the shelves; it was soon replaced by many other choices.

Did your mother give you a spoonful of sugar or honey after a spoonful of medicine that tasted horrible?What are we teaching our own children?

When I was young my thin body weight seemed untouchable. Don't most young adults feel they are invincible? Eventually after having children of my own I became over weight like my mother. Sugar and processed foods (fast food) was my main enemy. Sugar brought a false sense of joy for me, as I witnessed in my parents daily lives. I was challenged to eat foods loaded with sugar in moderation. Eventually exercise was an absolution in my daily routine. I got my weight under control, but I still need to get my sugar eating under control. I feel that if given better nutritional choices in my eating while growing up I might have had a better handle on eating as an adult.

A fear is of mine is being told by my doctor I have diabetes*; it does not run in either side of my family, but with obesity the percentage is higher my physician has told me. I have restricted my eating and eliminated foods with added sugar, and white pasta. I try and trade point per point in my eating. My choices have been to eat high cacao chocolate, and bake with more natural sugar like maple syrup, and eat quinoa and less pasta. My son also has been made aware of the sugar addiction in our family, and knows he faces the same challenges with obesity. St Louis boy has chosen to eliminate sweeteners in his diet by way of no soda, candy, processed foods, and food with added sugar.

How many thin people out there feel they are healthier than overweight people? Many do, and eat just as unhealthy as any one else who is in danger of bad health from bad eating choices.

Whether we choose to not eat candy, cakes, pies, or any baked goods that are considered dessert, we still consume products that contain natural sugars or most likely added sugar that can wreck our health if not eaten in portion control. At one time, and still is thought that sugar causes hyper activity. Sugar is simply harmful all around, and we should start with teaching our children to consume in moderation. Part of that education is teaching that sugar comes in many shapes and forms, and is a dangerous substance no matter what form it takes on if not eaten in moderation.

One culprit is high fructose corn syrup, or also known on labels as HFCS. If you notice adds are popping up from corn producers trying to convince us that it is natural and okay for you to consume HFCS, and that it is so much of our food. When the book Omnivores Dilemma by Michael Pollack hit the book shelves we all became aware of its affects on our society- a trickling effect on the economy and in our diets. Mainly because so many products contain HFCS, and unless you read your labels, you would never know.

To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation…

~ William Shakespeare, Hamlet, 1603

My chosen parallel is in Hamlet's dilemma. Although he is dissatisfied with life and lists its many torments, he is unsure what death may bring (the dread of something after death). He can't be sure what death has in store; it may be sleep but in perchance to dream he is speculating that it is perhaps an experience worse than life. This may seem crazy to compare eating sugar to that of Shakespeare's Hamlet, but think of unseen suicide by way of eating hidden additives in our foods. Are we aware we are committing suicide by way of our eating? We should, because many of us are: artery blockages, obesity related diseases, and many more. illnesses come from over eating...

Studies have shown that there is not much difference between cane sugar and refined sugar except a few vitamins. The subtle difference in composition between the two is simply the evaporated cane juice (ECJ) has a teeny bit more vitamin A, C and calcium (in a 100 grams sample). Take a vitamin. Lots cheaper in my opinion.

Sodas has 10 level teaspoon fulls of sugar per 12 ounces! Can you imagine the calories, and in candy, fast grab cakes and pies? Diet soda contains some kind of artificial sweetener that cannot possible be good for us! I myself cannot stand the taste of even the newer diet sodas that boast a better taste. I myself can taste artificial sugars no matter what form.

Six million people suffer from Diabetes; it is one of the worst top  diseases and killer to exist. Many Children suffer from type 1 and now are finding themselves diagnosed with type 2.  If you already suffer from type 2 diabetes...well, then you probably have to watch exactly how much you are putting into your body. Having to deal with checking your blood sugars on a daily basis is no fun for an adult or child!

Watching a friend of mine in Dallas die years ago from not controlling this disease was horrible. Her choice to continue to eat foods she loved no matter the consequences. This was the toughest part to witness. Her friends and I watched her go into kidney failure; go through dialysis; and then she had no transplant options. Many people now days can keep it under control, but what if someone has no will power to resist foods and sugar in their diet? What if they are unaware of the hidden additives in the foods they eat?

I have to limit white and even whole wheat pasta in my own diet due to having High Blood Pressure*, another hidden killer...

The use of one sugar over another health benefits has never really been proven. Only just the fact that obesity in America has gone up in the last ten years by leaps and bounds. Like the commercial on HFCS said, sugar is sugar, no matter the form. Eaten in modest amounts, along with exercise and a well balanced diet is often approved by most medical societies. Although walking into a market filled with so much junk food is hard for a sugar addict to deal with. Become an educated consumer, and change your eating habits before its too late.

Choices are the first step in changing ones diet and health down the road. Have you ever really looked at our sugar choices? Do you realize that when you reach for  'Raw' sugar it is only regular sugar with molasses added back in, after they have removed it to begin with? Not the healthy alternative you thought huh? Light and Dark Brown sugar has also had molasses added back in. All sugar forms equal the same- Sugar is sugar! They are just produced in different forms. Have I repeated myself enough?

Addicts like me have to cut it out from our diets all together. That means reading labels and educating ourselves. I show items that I bake on my blog, but in reality...I do not cook with regular sugar. Most people who eat my baked goods do not even know they are eating a healthy version of a recipe, and I make sure I let them know. They find my food tasty and are always ready when I offer them more. If I do list regular sugar when posting, because I want to show the recipe in its true form. I try and list substitutions; unless I have trouble with the results.

Did you know honey is considered a refined sugar (simple sugar)?

Honey has the highest calorie content of all sugars with 65 calories per tablespoon, compared to the 48 calories per tablespoon found in table sugar. The increased calories are bound to cause increased blood serum fatty acids, as well as weight gain, on top of the risk of more cavities. Honey is also not the healthy alternative you thought, think about that when you reach for something to add to your tea.

Sugar and Honey can come from crops sprayed with pesticides which are harmful to our health!

Pesticides used on farm crops and residential flowers have been found in commercial honey. Honey can be fatal to an infant whose immature digestive tracts are unable to deal effectively with Botulism Spore growth. What nutrients or enzymes raw honey does contain are destroyed by manufacturers who heat it in order to give it a clear appearance to enhance sales. If you are going to consume honey, make sure it is raw, unheated honey, and grown in organic surroundings. Good to use in special cures, but not as an every day food. It is not much better than white or brown sugar. Raw honey is a better choice, but in moderation.

Maple syrup is a good example of a natural sugar to use for everyday cooking. I create all my pies and cookies using maple syrup. Eventually your taste buds adjust, just as one who reduces salt in cooking. My whole family has adjusted to this form of habit changes. Like my son I have cut out sodas, sweet tea (caffeine altogether), I make my own stock, or buy boxed stock without added sugar. I avoid the sweet isle in the store, and limit my foods that turn into sugar in your blood stream, such as pasta. I am a recovering sugar addict, but each baby step has counted in my quest for better health. Over indulging in alcohol has been restricted in my weekly diet. A glass or two of red wine is allowed, and even recommended for our health benefits, but I am talking about mixed drinks, or cocktails (I know, bummer huh?).

The bottom line- Sugar is sugar, no matter what shape or form. Be an informed consumer and read labels. HFCS is in bread, stock, many canned products, cereals, most prepared processed products, and lurking somewhere in your pantry as I speak. Cooking from scratch is not always an option, but the best and healthiest alternative to eating out and processed foods should be eaten in moderation. Think of our future generations, and what we are teaching them. Use pure cane sugar when you can, or alternatives such as maple syrup.

I am still out on the use of artificial sugar and have never used it for anything, nor will I ever.

There are many shapes and forms of sugar compared to my mother's day in the kitchen. Fifty years ago her only choice was pure cane, light and dark brown, and powder sugar, but the danger to disease and long term health effects via obesity were still present.

The ultimate New Years resolution is to eliminate unhealthy sugars and foods from your diet before it is too late. If you have too eat sugar and high fat foods in moderation, eat more fruits and vegetables. Eating fruits and vegetables that contain natural sugar, and exercising on a regular basis is the first step to good health.

Go over and read Oyster Food and Culture blog post on sugar. We are doing a duo 'Sugar Information' post this week. She has done some awesome research on the many forms sugar sold here in the US and other countries. I find it amazing how many forms of sugar even exist out there, and she explores many of them!

But remember, Sugar is Sugar no matter what shape or form!

Scientific Sugar Facts: (Information from my Nutrition Text, 2010)

The average American consumes an astounding 2-3 pounds of sugar each week, which is not surprising considering that highly refined sugars in the forms of sucrose (table sugar), dextrose (corn sugar), and high-fructose corn syrup are being processed into so many foods such as bread, breakfast cereal, mayonnaise, peanut butter, ketchup, spaghetti sauce, and a plethora of microwave meals.

In the last 20 years, we have increased sugar consumption in the U.S. 26 pounds to 135 lbs. of sugar per person per year! Prior to the turn of this century (1887-1890), the average consumption was only 5 lbs. per person per year! Cardiovascular disease and cancer was virtually unknown in the early 1900's.

The "glycemic index" is a measure of how a given food affects blood-glucose levels, with each food being assigned a numbered rating. The lower the rating, the slower the absorption and digestion process, which provides a more gradual, healthier infusion of sugars into the bloodstream. On the other hand, a high rating means that blood-glucose levels are increased quickly, which stimulates the pancreas to secrete insulin to drop blood-sugar levels. These rapid fluctuations of blood-sugar levels are not healthy because of the stress they place on the body.

One of sugar's major drawbacks is that it raises the insulin level, which inhibits the release of growth hormones, which in turn depresses the immune system. This is not something you want to take place if you want to avoid disease.

An influx of sugar into the bloodstream upsets the body's blood-sugar balance, triggering the release of insulin, which the body uses to keep blood-sugar at a constant and safe level. Insulin also promotes the storage of fat, so that when you eat sweets high in sugar, you're making way for rapid weight gain and elevated triglyceride levels, both of which have been linked to cardiovascular disease. Complex carbohydrates tend to be absorbed more slowly, lessening the impact on blood-sugar levels.

Four classes of simple sugars to avoid (over 15% in one's daily diet): Sucrose, fructose, honey (raw organic certified is best), and malts.

There are two types of sugar: Refined, and natural.

Almost all of the sugar consumed in the United States originates as sugar cane, which accounts for about 60 percent of the sugar. Sugar beets account for about 40 percent. Sugar cane is grown primarily in the tropical and subtropical regions of the world where temperatures and humidity are high. Sugar beets are grown in more temperate zones. Other sources of sugar include fruit (fructose), honey, sorghum and the sugar maple tree.

The juices of sugar cane and sugar beets contain natural sucrose. This natural sugar is concentrated through a refining process that involves numerous cycles of washing, boiling, centrifuging, filtering and drying. The initial result is "raw" sugar, which is not actually raw but has yet to undergo the final stages of refining. Sugar left at this stage is sometimes steamed for sanitizing purposes and sold as turbinado.

All white table sugar at one point was similar to turbinado; that is, brownish in tint and consisting of larger, rougher individual crystals. The final stages of the refining process involve the use of bleaching agents like lime or carbon dioxide to whiten the sugar and passage through a bone char filter to remove any other impurities. "Pure" sugar, as it is often labeled, refers to the chemical purity of the product and its lack of other nutrients, not a particularly natural or wholesome state.

*White pasta contains a large amount of high GI (glycemic index) carbohydrates. That means that the carbohydrates contained in pasta made from refined white flour will release sugars into the bloodstream quickly. This causes a steep rise in blood sugar and a similarly steep reactive rise in the body’s sugar regulating hormone, insulin in order to counter its effects. This is something that diabetics and people with high blood pressure must avoid and is something that in itself can trigger type II diabetes to manifest in a person who eats a lot of white pasta a lot of the time.

Myths or fact?
*Sugar can suppress the immune system.
* Sugar can upset the body's mineral balance.
* Sugar can contribute to hyperactivity, anxiety, depression, concentration difficulties, and crankiness in children.
* Sugar can produce a significant rise in triglycerides.
* Sugar can cause drowsiness and decreased activity in children.
* Sugar can reduce helpful high density cholesterol (HDLs).
* Sugar can promote an elevation of harmful cholesterol (LDLs).
* Sugar can influence hypoglycemia.
* Sugar contributes to a weakened defense against bacterial infection.
* Sugar can cause kidney damage.
* Sugar can increase the risk of coronary heart disease.
* Sugar may lead to chromium deficiency.
* Sugar can cause copper deficiency.
* Sugar interferes with absorption of calcium and magnesium.
* Sugar can increase fasting levels of blood glucose.
* Sugar can promote tooth decay.
* Sugar can produce an acidic stomach.
* Sugar can raise adrenaline levels in children.
* Sugar can lead to periodontal disease.
* Sugar can speed the aging process, causing wrinkles and grey hair.
* Sugar can increase total cholesterol.
* Sugar can contribute to weight gain and obesity.
* High intake of sugar increases the risk of Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.
* Sugar can contribute to diabetes.
* Sugar can contribute to osteoporosis.
* Sugar can cause a decrease in insulin sensitivity.
* Sugar leads to decreased glucose tolerance.
* Sugar can cause cardiovascular disease.
* Sugar can increase systolic blood pressure.
* Sugar causes food allergies.
* Sugar can cause free radical formation in the bloodstream.
* Sugar can cause toxemia during pregnancy.
* Sugar can contribute to eczema in children.
* Sugar can overstress the pancreas, causing damage.
* Sugar can cause atherosclerosis.
* Sugar can compromise the lining of the capillaries.
* Sugar can cause liver cells to divide, increasing the size of the liver.
* Sugar can increase the amount of fat in the liver.
* Sugar can increase kidney size and produce pathological changes in the kidney.
* Sugar can cause depression.
* Sugar can increase the body's fluid retention.
* Sugar can cause hormonal imbalance.
* Sugar can cause hypertension.
* Sugar can cause headaches, including migraines.
* Sugar can cause an increase in delta, alpha and theta brain waves, which can alter the mind's ability to think clearly.
* Sugar can increase blood platelet adhesiveness which increases risk of blood clots and strokes.
* Sugar can increase insulin responses in those consuming high-sugar diets compared to low sugar diets.
* Sugar increases bacterial fermentation in the colon.

Chef E Stelling is certified in Nutrition via culinary college courses in Texas, and New Jersey. Certification refresher courses are required to be taken every two years. *This information is taken from Sugars Defined, Nutrition Knowledge, and Obesity In America. This chart is not Chef E Stellings personal feelings, only witten in a spirit meant to make you think.


1) Clementine oranges are my choice of sugar when they are available in the market. They are high in vitamin C to help boost your immune system, and help fight off colds. They are sweeter than most oranges due to their size and which adds to their concentration of natural sugar. Their zest packs a good orangy punch in recipes.

2) Baking with orange juice and apple sauce are a healthy alternative to adding sweetness to baked goods.

3) Pan or oven Roasting vegetables brings out their natural sugars and adds wonderful flavor to soups and salads.

DISCLAIMER: This is not diet advice, but a reinforcement for my own healthy lifestyle. We all have our own struggles in our lifestyles, but with encouragement and support from one another we will know we are not alone in our battles. I have lost weight and have kept it off for the past six months, and hopefully I will be revealing a new slimmer, and HEALTHIER me by the summer. Exercise is an important part of being healthy.