4 reasons to avoid sugar

July 23, 2013 · 10 comments

in Seeking holistic health

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If you’re not interested in dealing with the issue of sugar addiction, the new August issue of of National Geographic might change your mind. The cover story on the evils of sugar uses gorgeous photos, historical facts and trending data to show why we’re in big trouble.

Refined sugar is amazingly delicious but offers absolutely zero health benefits. In fact, it creates many, many hazards, ranging from obesity, hypertension to diabetes. Note here to men and to anyone who loves them: The medications for treating these conditions can lead to longterm issues of their own, such as impotence and erectile dysfunction.

Personally, I swore off sugar back in the early ’90s when I went holistic. It was hell because I truly love me some cake, cookies, potato chips and junk food. But the benefits of quitting sugar have been tremendous. My skin cleared up. I have more energy. Weight management is possible too. There’s just no downside. These days, I still indulge in the occasional sweet treat and it’s more fun now because there’s no guilt.

I knew I had to quit sugar because diabetes is a cruel and ugly disease that runs in my family. It’s a huge problem that has been well-documented in the Asian, Latino and African-American communities. My chocoholic mom had Type 2, the most common form of diabetes. Sugar killed her slowly and painfully by destroying her blood circulation. Her eyes failed and she could barely walk. She was also prone to mini-strokes. By the time she died at 92, she was nearly blind, bedridden and couldn’t feed herself. This is no way to live or die.

Given that personal connection, I read the magazine article with tremendous interest. Really great how the piece approaches sugar from such a variety of angles. The lush photography does wonders in making a tough topic palatable by putting things, literally, in perspective.

The story lays out the facts very clearly…Fructose, a natural form of sugar, is found in limited quantities in fruits and vegetables. The human body is built to need very little fructose.

But, horror of horrors, the average American is eating 22.7 teaspoons of sugar a day. Most of it is entering our systems as a hidden ingredient in processed foods. All those packaged snacks, canned items and beverages contain sugar, often in the form of cheap fillers like high-fructose corn syrup. This is also true for savory products, which go heavy on the salt and sugar.

No wonder diabetes is epidemic. Back in 1973, 2 percent or 4.2 million Americans had Type 2 diabetes, which used to be called adult-onset diabetes. By 2010, 7 percent or 21.1 million cases were reported. These sobering facts and more are presented in a two-page spread in the story:

So here are 4 reasons to avoid sugar that were reinforced for me by the National Geographic story:

Reason #1: Many illnesses can be traced back to sugar. The numbers are exploding. In 1900, only 5 percent of adults on this earth had high blood pressure. Today, ONE THIRD of adults worldwide suffer from this condition.

Reason #2: Sugar, which built the slave trade, had bad energy from the start. Sugar was around in the Eastern world for centuries, with poor laborers and prisoners of war doing most of the backbreaking work of harvesting and refining sugar cane. The Europeans turned it into big business as they conquered the Caribbean and set up island sugar plantations filled with slaves.

Reason #3: Sugar is a cheap trick for enhancing flavor. Read the label on any packaged food item and chances are it contains some form of sugar to make it tasty. High-fructose corn syrup is appearing in more and more products. And the recent craze for low-fat food doesn’t mean you’re eating healthier; manufacturers are often substituting more sugar to make up for the reduction in fat.

Reason #4: Sugar makes you tired. After giving us an initial rush, sugar depletes the body of energy. Americans eat too much and don’t exercise enough because sugar addiction creates exhaustion.

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This is a good time to talk about sugar because it’s summer and frosty sweets are everywhere. Ice cream, sorbet, gelato, smoothies, iced drinks, frozen cocktails…

For additional reading, here’s a link to the National Geographic story. You need to make a free user account to access it. There’s also a pretty slide show with a few extra photos that are not in the print edition of the monthly.

And if you’re interested in a holistic, sugar-free regimen, I have a blog post about Chinese medicine master Jeffrey Yuen. It includes a link to a food list that he recommends, which forms the foundation for my meals. Click here to read it.

I’d like to suggest that the effort to take better care of ourselves will lead to a summer that is truly sweet. So I hope you’ll share this post.   :)

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Asianmommy July 23, 2013 at 3:57 pm

I agree with you that most of us need to cut back on our sugar intake, but be careful when you say that “Sugar offers absolutely zero health benefits” because our brains can only survive on glucose!

2 betty ming liu July 23, 2013 at 6:19 pm

Ah, good point, Asianmommy! I am going to change the post right now to a reference to REFINED sugar. Thank you for being my morning editor!

3 Skye July 24, 2013 at 7:42 am

I will definitely share this post. How sweet (and scary) it is.

4 betty ming liu July 24, 2013 at 9:55 am

Thanks, Skye! I really saw the horrors of diabetes in my family. I had an uncle who had to have a foot amputated. And of course, there was my mother, who was such a difficult, unhappy person. If she could’ve tasted the sweetness of life, maybe she wouldn’t have needed sugar so much.

I’ll never forget the day in her 80s, when she was already wheelchair-bound and having trouble feeding herself after the first of several strokes. She could still reach a hand into a cookie tin on her dining table and pull out a chocolate wafer. “This is my affair,” she said. She knew. she absolutely knew what was going on.

5 Bobby July 24, 2013 at 10:37 am

Absolutely agree, and thanks for the reminder. I need to get back to cutting way back on sugar. I’m not that bad, but I can definitely do better.

6 betty ming liu July 24, 2013 at 11:08 am

Bobby, it’s always something! And I am so tempted by summer cocktails…thanks for stopping by to leave a comment. :)

7 Jean July 24, 2013 at 11:28 am

Thanks for this post! I’ve got to get this to my 90 year old candy addicted mother. Have you seen Clinton’s new obesity initiative? Very interesting, even from a national financial crisis point of view.

8 betty ming liu July 24, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Jean, good luck with your mom — and thanks for the tip on Clinton’s obesity initiative. Didn’t know about it but here’s the link for everyone to read: http://www.clintonfoundation.org/main/our-work/by-topic/childhood-obesity.html The National Geographic made a good point about obesity and sugar: People who are obese and consume and lot of sweets are TOO TIRED to exercise. The sugar just does them in every time.

9 Belinda Chlouber July 24, 2013 at 12:16 pm

Thank you for sharing this! I had to swear of sugar and anything that turns to sugars (breads, fruits ect.) about 2 and a half years ago because of a chronic sinus infection. The doctors were really no help but as soon as I eliminated the sugars the massive sinus headaches went away. It was very very hard—only then did I realize how much sugar we consume. I still get a headache if I have refined sugar, but can have raw honey, fruit—basically anything that still has the enzymes intact and hasn’t been heated to death. I think it might be a fungus that feeds on the sugars…..in my sinuses. Or some imbalance with enzymes that control sugars?

10 betty ming liu July 24, 2013 at 12:55 pm

Thanks for dropping by, Belinda! So interesting about sinus issues. The sinuses act as a crucial filter right there, in our heads near our brains. And they respond really well to holistic solutions. Great that going sugar-free helped you — helped me with my allergies too. It also helped to eliminate regular use of cow milk products and minimize dairy in general. Yes, a lot of this is all about the fungus connection, and what they feed on to flourish. They love sugar and cheese-y, yeasty stuff, which is why eliminating gluten helped me too.

I have a post on holistic remedies for allergies. It includes a food list, and how to do sinus cleansing — which worked wonders for me. Here’s the link: http://bettymingliu.com/2011/05/a-cheap-simple-holistic-way-to-get-rid-of-spring-allergies/

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