Slaying the Sugary Beast in 2011

Since sweets abound everywhere during the holidays, the following is being republished from last year as many were helped greatly by it. It’s much easier to resist confectionary temptations when one reads this post.  

 

There you are, having waded into the Holiday Eating Scene and finding yourself knee deep in Temptation City. Platters of chocolate chip cookies, lovingly-baked and fresh from the oven, coyly call to you. Servings of sherbet shimmer seductively. The creamy pie looks especially good tonight. How do you fortify yourself against these pitfalls? 

Now, I wish that I could say that if you eat a clove of raw garlic in the morning and wear a rutabaga around your neck all day, you will never be tempted by sugary desserts. (Come to think of it, if you eat garlic in the morning and wear a rutabaga around your neck, you probably won’t be getting many party invitations, anyway, so it might not be such a bad strategy after all!)

But, seriously, I have been cursed with one of the most voracious sweet tooths (is the plural of “sweet tooth” really “sweet teeth?”) in history. Until my nutritional understanding grew to a point when most sugary treats just no longer seem as appetizing to me, any dark chocolate bar or vegan cookie within arm’s reach of me was in mortal danger. Yet, they are safe in my presence now. What has armed me with such fortitude? Why don’t I eat the cookies and the devil’s food cake this year? Because I know what they are!

 

To arm oneself with this sword of knowledge, a little sweet chemistry understanding is called for. Sugars do taste good, and there is no problem in enjoying the naturally occurring fructose in whole, fresh fruits. The problem is in eating sugar as a food! When you are holding a cookie in your hand, a piece of cake, a candy bar, you are holding a chunk of sugar in your hand. You would not consider going over to the sugar bowl and shoveling tablespoons of the white stuff into your mouth, but here you are, actually considering eating this large chunk of sugar as a food.

If you do eat it, within minutes, your bloodstream is flooded with sugar. Soon, the structural proteins in all your tissues – the elastic fibers of your skin, the hemoglobin in your blood, the filter membranes in your kidneys, the inner lining of your blood vessels, the lenses of your eyes – all get “sticky” with sugar (the chemists say they become “glycosylated.”) In the 98.6 F metabolic “oven” of our body, the sugars and proteins melt together and oxidize, like the browning of bread crust (called the “Maillard reaction.”) These oxidized, damaged, and congealed proteins, officially called “Advanced Glycation End Products” do not function normally – the gummed-up, oxidized protein fibers break, skin cracks in the sunlight, eyes become less permeable to light, muscle proteins do not contract as vigorously, brain function dwindles – sound familiar? The aging process perhaps? EATING SUGAR AGES US!  (Remember, the acronym for "Advanced Glycation End Products" is AGE's!)

So, as my eyes fall upon the plate of cookies or candy, I actually flash the image in my mind of myself eating it, and simultaneously think, “This is a chunk of sugar in my hand. This stuff ages me. It makes my skin crack, my arteries stiff, and it leads me towards frailty and Alzheimer’s disease. Do I really want to eat it? Is it really worth it?”

 

I also know, after having indulged far too many times in the same, sugary seduction, that I am always physically sorry after I eat it. That is, it is guaranteed that within 15 minutes of eating the cake or candy, I will have that sickly, light-headed, slightly nauseated “I can’t believe I just ate all that sugar” feeling coursing through my body.

Nope. Not this time.

“Been there. Done that. Got the tissue aging. Don’t need to do that no more…”

It is said, “The truth shall set you free” - and the truth is, whether mixed with fat, as in ice cream, or baked into pies, candies and cakes, or dissolved in soft drinks, refined sugars are sweet poison. Like the poisoned apple in Sleeping Beauty, sugary treats taste good upon the tongue, but silently and relentlessly, they damage us.

Fortunately, if you look around, there is usually a safer, more wholesome way to appease your sweet tooth. There is most always fruit available at festive gatherings - but to make sure, bring some grapes or melon chunks in a discrete plastic container to munch on instead of the sugary seducers. (Of course, eating a hearty, ETL-style meal at home before you go out to party will make you less likely to nibble on handy but unhealthy treats while you are there.)

It also helps to remember that temptation is usually place-specific; that is, while the visual cue is right in front of you. I know that if I move away from the site of temptation and actively do something else for 5 minutes, my mind lets the sugary treat go to focus on the current conversation or task in front of me. I know that if I keep walking past the bakery or the sweets table at the party, the sights, smells and temptations will fade away in a few minutes. So, at the festivities, move to a different part of the room, have some of the food or trail mix you brought with you, strike up a conversation with an interesting person, and let your mind move on to something less detrimental to your health.

An especially powerful strategy that worked for me recently was to understand the power of commitment and abstinence. (I know what you are thinking, “Uh-oh, here comes the dreary part.” But read on; this turns out to be a joyful, empowering strategy.)

It began at the end of a talk given by Rory Freedman, author of Skinny Bitch. She said, “If you can do without a seductive food for a month, you will seriously reduce, or eliminate altogether, your desire for that substance. So, turn to the person next to you, lock pinky fingers with him or her, and both of you vow to help the other overcome their next food stumbling block over the next month.” The person to my left was Ann Wheat, co-owner of the Millennium restaurant in San Francisco, and without hesitation, we both locked pinkies and said, “Let’s both stop eating sugar!”

From that point on, we were “pinky buddies” - and whenever I would be tempted by a chocolate treat or piece of vegan devil’s food cake, I would think of Ann’s smiling face and earnest effort and say, “No, I’m going to stay strong because I know I will be talking to Ann soon, and I don’t want to let her – or me – down."

So, the month went by with this simple commitment steeling me through each moment of temptation. As the weeks sped by, my viewing of chocolate – and my desire for it – significantly changed. I saw it for the fatty chunk of congealed sugar that it is, and I lost my desire to eat it. Tastes certainly do change! So, another way to make your “sword” even more powerful is to make it through a month without eating your “problem” food, and see if you don’t feel less driven to eat it after that time.

Finally, if you do find yourself absolutely unable to resist tasting a given treat, and you do have a bite or a whole cookie, don’t panic, don’t regard yourself as a failure – and above all, don’t say, “Well, I’ve blown it now, so I might as well eat every bad thing in sight.” Rather, make it a reinforcing learning experience. Yes, you put it in your mouth and are eating it. So, taste it for what it is – congealed sugar on your tongue. Then say, “Yep, that tastes like the chunk of sugar I knew it was and I don’t want to eat any more of it.” It is OK not to finish the piece of cake or eat the entire gooey chocolate caramel. No penalty for that confirmatory bite – just fully taste it, decide you got the taste sensation you came for, and that you don’t need to eat any more of it. Put it down, find a healthier ETL alternative, and rejoice in your inner fortitude.

 

As you demonstrate this power to yourself over and over, you will find yourself to be like the mighty lion or lioness, who, as they stride through the forest, are not distracted by the frogs of temptation that croak at them from under the leaves.

Happy, healthy holidays!

 

 

Dr. Klaper assists in answering questions on the Ask the Doctor forum of DrFuhrman.com, and is currently on the staff at the nutritionally-based True North Health Clinic in Santa Rosa, California. 

 

 

 

image credits:  flickr; chocolates by Hammer51012, teaspoon of sugar by ayelie

Let's Change Halloween

OK. I know Halloween is a really fun holiday for the younger generation, teens included, but I, as a parent, can't stand it. It is the one holiday that promotes ill-health and practically every parent/adult I know goes along with it. It is not a holiday for our children; oh no, don't kid yourself. It is a holiday for the candy industry.  Do our children really benefit from a holiday where they are given junk that is bad for their health, their psychology, their emotions? Very few understand the serious consequences to our childrens' health from this.  And, they don't just have one treat, they go home with a huge stash of brain-damaging, cancer-causing junk that lasts for weeks or months.  

I don't get it--I do get all the propaganda about Halloween. Many corporations benefit from it, like Party City for example. What I don't get is the public going along with it. I buy small, inexpensive toys to give out and the kids love it. That makes me feel better. But I can't stand seeing the aisles and aisles of candy being sold in the supermarkets and in bowls in professional offices you visit. Our country, in promoting this junk food day is promoting ill-health and if there is one thing I know, the fattening of America is getting worse and worse.  Should we really be exploiting our children and sacrificing their future to benefit the junk food industry?  

Let's make Halloween treats healthy! Give out healthy treats or toys. I know raisins don't compare to a Snickers bar, but it may stop your child from having a sugar-high tantrum that night!  We need to start changing the way we act with our children, as a nation and individually, if we are really going to help them to a healthy future.

What are you doing with your family on Halloween?  Are you going along with this insanity or not?

Spooktacular Ideas for a Healthy Halloween!!

My kids always look forward to Halloween, even though they don’t eat the candy (at least in front of me). They look forward to dressing up in costumes, being out with their friends, and staying up late on a school night.

I, on the other hand, I do not look forward to Halloween. I don’t like the focus on fear of ugly-looking creatures and giving of toxic items to children. (I don’t call the candy “treats” because they certainly aren’t nourishing.) The sad fact is that even normally well-behaved children can start acting crazy after consuming all the highly-sugared, chemicalized junk they get. And the disrupting behavior can last for as long as a month afterward.

So, I'm not a person who believes in letting eating choices turn my home into a war zone. Read my recent "War Zone" post on DiseaseProof. I believe in providing an education in healthful eating—and setting a good example! I keep unhealthful foods out of the house, and trust my kids to use their best judgment. Thankfully, we have figured out how to make Halloween a happy time for all of us, without joining in the candy craze. Here are some tips that have worked for us.

  1. Hand out inexpensive toys or gifts instead of candy. By setting this good example, perhaps a neighbor will pick up on the idea. Even if nobody follows your lead, you will feel good about your decision. Toys are perhaps a little more expensive than candy, but not much, and they definitely send a great message to both the kids and the parents.

    My children help choose what they think is cool. In recent years, we have been giving out glow-in-the-dark necklaces and bracelets*. The best thing about these toys is that they make kids safer in the dark because cars can see them when they are walking in the road. Kids say, “Wow!” or “Cool!” when they see the glowing gifts, so I know they love them. Plus, my kids are proud to hand them out. Now that my kids are older, they always remind me when it’s time to place my order (which is right around now). Other toys that we have purchased include small cans of Silly String, glow-in-the-dark animals, and glow-in-the-dark balls.
     
  2. Make your family's favorite dinner on Halloween night, including their favorite desserts. There are great healthy fall menu ideas in the Member Center recipe guide. With full stomachs, your kids will be less tempted to eat the junk they receive. You also can try the Halloween treat recipes in the September 2006 Healthy Times Newsletter, or have some delicious Pop'ems on hand from DrFuhrman.com.
     
  3. When the children come home, set a limit on how many candies they are allowed to eat. I suggest you allow them two pieces of candy, which they can pick out—and then discard or give away the rest. We let our children pick one or two candies to eat. Most of the time they only take a bite or two before tossing the rest out. Our youngest, Sean, has no desire to even taste the stuff, because as he explains, "I don't eat junk food." Luckily for us, he is too finicky to try anything new. He rejects anything he is not accustomed to.
     
  4. Some people find it easiest to throw out all the candy after the children go to sleep. Little ones probably won't even remember it once it's gone, and getting rid of it eliminates temptation for the adults in the house.
     
  5. Life is full of compromises— and this day will pass! I believe that with a little advance planning you can ensure that your children will have a good time and not be tempted to hide or sneak candy. Plus, you will be happier knowing that they will be eating a lot less candy this year than they did last year.

That's a good start!

Find more great tips on feeding kids right and how detrimental it can be if you don't!
Read Dr. Fuhrman's Disease Proof Your Child.

*Glow Stick Factory (American made glow products often at half the price of imports) http://www.glowstickfactory.com

Watch Out for Vampire Easter Bunnies!

If Peter Cocktail comes hopping along today, don’t worry. The worst he’ll do is leave a few pellets on your carpet, but should you encounter any vampire rabbits. Quick, lock the refrigerator and hide your tomatoes. If not, Bunnicula will suck them dry:

 

 

Oh, and if you’re fighting the urge to sink your fangs into some Easter treats. Satisfy your bloodlust with this candy carnage. See what happens when marshmallow Peeps meet the microwave and Cadbury Crème Eggs fall on mousetraps. It’s gruesome.

Via Diet-Blog.

Image credit: muzikman74

More Fiber, Less Sugar Cuts Diabetes Risk in Latinos

New findings in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine suggest eating more fiber and less sugar can lower the risk of type-2 diabetes in adolescent Latinos. For the study, 66 overweight Latino teenagers were put into three groups. One group attended weekly classes on nutrition, specifically reducing sugar and increasing fiber. Group two was given nutrition education twice a week and did some strength training. The final group served as a control. After 16 weeks teens who ate less sugar and more fiber had substantial drops in blood glucose and insulin levels; Reuters reports.

In New York City, type-2 diabetes hits ethnic groups hard as they abandon traditional diets in favor of standard American fare, 800,000 people in NYC have diabetes. Yesterday, a study showed 22% of Hispanic children in America, ages 1 to 4, are obese. Dr. Fuhrman recommends the whole family eat healthy early to promote good eating habits later in life.

In related news, research shows children going to high school within walking distance of fast food restaurants are more likely to eat less fruits and vegetables and drink more soda.

Image credit: mckaysavage

Corn Syrup and Sugar, It's All Too Sweet...

A 12-ounce soda can have as much as nine teaspoons of sugar. High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), an artificial sweetener made from corn, usually gets the blame, but one expert contends even if the food industry replaced all the HFCS with traditional sugar, we’d still have exactly the same health problems we have now, referring to our epidemic of obesity, heart disease and diabetes; The New York Times investigates.

And a few months ago there was a big push to prove high-fructose corn syrup is equal to sugar, which might be true, but still isn’t a reason to let HFCS off the hook. High-fructose corn syrup drives childhood obesity and leads to soda addiction in adolescents.

Then last week, a new study discovered mercury in high-fructose corn syrup, citric acid and sodium benzoate, all ingredients of soda. So yeah, don’t drink soda!

Image credit: LensENVY

Junk Food Ads in Health Magazines

Hypocrisy, thy name is advertising. A new study in the European Journal of Public Health reveals 25.5% of advertisements in 30 popular British magazines are for ready-made meals, soups and sauces, which are full of salt. Another 23% are for high-fat and sugary foods, like ice-cream, chocolate bars, sweets and soft drinks. Only 1.8% of the adverts are for fruits and vegetables. And here’s the kicker, many of these advertisements appear alongside articles with healthy messages; ScienceDaily investigates.

Can’t say I’m shocked! Now, in December, research came out claiming sophisticated marketing campaigns do not acknowledge a drug’s rarer complications and hides any lack of long-term testing, putting people at increased risk of serious side-effects.

As for food advertising, last year Kellogg’s announced it would cut advertisements aimed at young children.

Via That’s Fit.

Image credit: pigdump

VitaminWater Gets Sued!

Quite frankly, I think energy drinks are stupid. And apparently so do consumer groups. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has filed a lawsuit against Coca-Cola, producers of VitaminWater, for making undeserving claims about their product, such as preventing chronic disease and supporting immune system function. CSPI points out that VitaminWater’s 33 grams of sugar in each bottle promotes obesity, diabetes and other health problems and the advertising is misleading; via Reuters.

Other “health” and energy drinks have also drawn heavy scrutiny. A couple years ago, a whacked out beverage called “cocaine” was pulled from stores and Red Bull, which has been linked to stroke risk, has been bashed for its dangerous caffeine load and marketing to children.

I’ve noticed that some of the unhealthiest looking people are the ones chugging down these drinks.

Image credit: preciouskhyatt

New York Governor's Obesity Tax

America’s got a big obesity problem, costing us more than $100 billion a year. And, despite reports that obesity is leveling off, New York Governor David Paterson has proposed a tax on sugary beverages, like soda. In a letter, Paterson says the tax would apply to non-diet drinks and fruit juices that contain less than 70% percent juice. He compares the obesity tax to the taxes imposed on cigarettes, claiming the health and financial benefits are undeniable; via CNN.

 

Depressed Diabetics Struggle to Control Symptoms

A study of depressed type-2 diabetics revealed they had a higher than average hemoglobin A1C level, an indicator of long-term blood sugar control. Published in General Hospital Psychiatry researchers suggest the pangs of depression may impede them from making necessary lifestyle changes to control their diabetes; via Reuters.