Goblin Sweets

Nothing is scarier on Halloween than the amount of sugar kids eat

It’s late October. Here in the United States, we celebrate Halloween, a 2,500-year-old Irish tradition that has been hijacked in recent decades by major food companies who sell us the holiday in brightly colored bags of sugary sweets.

For those of us who want to live better, healthier lives, October is an ideal time to learn more about sugar.

Why We Like (and Need) Sugar

Let’s face it: Sugar tastes good. Without sugar some foods would not be as palatable.

Nature gave us a “sweet tooth” so we would be attracted to sweet and healthful foods found in nature, such as fruit. In designing our bodies, nature clearly didn’t anticipate the availability of huge quantities of refined sugars. The body is not capable of regulating the excessive amounts of glucose resulting from a high sugar diet.

Since the central nervous system needs glucose continuously to provide energy for use by nervous tissue, and the brain needs it constantly as its primary source of energy, the human body is designed to interfere with blood sugar within limits only.

The brain needs a constant supply of glucose as its main fuel to function properly, but that doesn’t mean added sugar is healthy. A well-balanced diet provides an adequate glucose supply.

Different Kinds of Sugar

The mainstream media tend to refer to sugar in general terms and overlook an important fact about sugar: That not all sugars are created equal.

There are many types of sweeteners (sucrose, glucose or dextrose, fructose, maltose, lactose and sugar alcohols sorbitol and xylitol) depending on the source and varying from naturally occurring such as the sugar in fruit to highly refined such as white table sugar.

Why Food Companies Are Addicted To Sugar

Everyone knows that soft drinks and other beverages are unnecessarily loaded with huge quantities of sugar, often in the form of high-fructose corn syrup. And, of course, pastries, candy bars, cookies, ice creams and other sweets are loaded with sugar. But many consumers do not know that white table sugar and high fructose corn syrup are common additives in breads, cereals, sauces, dressings, canned fruit, specialty coffee drinks, watered down “juices” and many other foods and beverages -- including those advertised as “healthy.”

Why are convenience and manufactured foods loaded with sugar? Because sugar acts as a stabilizer and preservative, tastes good and is cheap. Manufacturers also know that the more sugar customers eat, the more they crave it, and that's good for business.

What’s So Bad About Most Sugars?

It is estimated that the average American consumes an average of between 100 to 160 pounds of refined sugar per year. That estimate is even more shocking when you consider that the human body was designed to consume exactly zero pounds of refined sugar each year.

The World Health Organization recommends that sugar consumption should not exceed 10% of a person’s total daily calorie intake. That’s about 200 calories a day for a person consuming a 2000-calorie daily diet.

Studies show that high consumption of sugar plays a role in the increasing development of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, hyperactivity and tooth decay.

Ironically, eating too much sugar actually robs your body of sugar. The over consumption of refined sugar and flour (simple carbohydrates) often causes hypoglycemia, which causes blood sugar to fall below normoglycemic levels. The result is hunger, loss of balance or dizziness, rapid heart beat, weakness, anxiety and excessive sweating. Hypoglycemia can lead not only to overeating and fatigue but also obesity and diabetes.

High consumption of refined sugars can also cause learning disabilities in children and adolescents and even violent or aggressive behavior in adults, some experts believe.

Sugar also depletes the body of nutrients and can hinder performance if eaten 30 to 60 minutes before an athletic event. Eating sugar right before intense physical activity will increase the glucose in your bloodstream giving you energy -- but only for a short time. The insulin that your body releases in response will lower your glucose level, leaving you with less energy than you had to begin with.

Regular intake of refined sugars makes you more susceptible to bacterial and viral infections and other ailments because sugar (sucrose) weakens the immune system suppressing the protective functions of cells.

Aspartame and saccharin are just plain harmful, may even cause birth defects or cancer over time if consumed too much. Another problem is that these artificial sweeteners are not even effective for weight loss. Americans are increasingly consuming many artificially sweetened foods and diet soft drinks to cut calories, but people just keep getting heavier.

While eating too much sugar of any type is bad for you, white table sugar, brown sugar (white sugar mixed with molasses) and high fructose corn syrup have absolutely no redeeming qualities from a health point of view -- they are truly empty calories devoid of any nutrients.

Raw or turbinado sugar, which many believe are healthier alternatives, are basically just as bad due the purification process it undergoes.

Refined sugar has no nutritional value. Zero. The refining process of sugar cane or sugar beets eliminates all vitamins and minerals. Refined sugars are harmful for the digestive system and cause abnormal acid and enzyme levels.

What To Do?

Remember: You don’t need to eat sugar to get the glucose your cells need. Eliminating all refined sugars and artificial sweeteners from your diet would be ideal. A well-balanced diet will not only provide adequate amounts of glucose for the body to function properly but it will also help regulate the sugar levels in your bloodstream.

Clearly, it's important to dramatically reduce the amount of sugar we eat. And it's not as hard as it sounds. Just as we have become accustomed to lots of over sweetened foods and beverages, we will grow accustomed to smaller quantities of healthier foods that are less sweet. We can also learn to use our sweet tooth for its original purpose: enjoying fruit.

However, choosing to eliminate refined sugar from your diet is challenging. Sugar is everywhere in manufactured and restaurant foods. You’re are bound to find sugar in inconspicuous food items, especially if you eat out, buy fast, prepared, frozen and packaged foods and diet or sugar-free foods and drinks.

Here's what to do:

1. Avoid all packaged food that contains sugar as a major ingredient

2. Teach your body to live without hardcore sweets, and to enjoy fruit and low-sugar foods.

3. Dramatically reduce to the greatest extent possible the amount of sugar you use in cooking

4. Use healthier alternatives to refined sugars.

In the next issue, I’ll talk about sugar substitutes and healthier sugar alternatives, and give you a healthy and delicious recipe for something normally loaded with sugar.

I'd love to hear from you. Click here to send e-mail!

Reader Q&A 

Q: Amira, I'm a new subscriber and I'm very much looking forward to every issue. This one on oils interests me particularly. I have recently heard that canola oil is not healthy for us, especially if used for frying. What is your sense about this?

A: There is a lot of myth surrounding canola oil. Some believe canola oil is rapeseed oil in disguise, and reject it because rapeseed oil contains compounds that can cause serious health problems. Rapeseed oil is made from the seeds of rape plants. Canola oil comes from canola plants. Though canola plants are the result of crossbred mustard rape plants, the canola plants do not have harmful compounds found in rapeseed oil, such as ericic acid (a fatty acid). Ericic acid is used industrially for mechanical lubrication (not available in the U.S.).

Canola oil offers many health benefits. It is lower in saturated fat than all other vegetable oils. It contains omega-3 fatty acids beneficial for lowering risk of cardiovascular disease.

Canola oil has been tested extensively on both humans and animals by the scientific community and has been found to be safe for human consumption. Of course, any oil that is over consumed can be harmful over time. Any oil can be mishandled and transformed into something toxic if not cooked properly. The good news is that Canola oil has a smoking point of between 340 degrees and 520 degrees (depending on the brand and refinement and extraction processes), which is relatively high.

Contrary to popular belief, the original canola oil was not developed through genetic modification as canola oil predates GMO technology by 20 years. Canola oil was developed in the 70’s employing a hybridization process perfected many decades earlier. Hybridization is a natural process in which plants are selected for certain desired traits and bred to produce a new crop displaying desirable characteristics more prevalently.

Not all canola oil is safe for consumption because the quality of any oil depends on many factors, such as selection of seeds, method of extraction and manufacturing process. The best canola oil is one that is organically produced, has no added chemical preservatives and is expeller-pressed. Avoid canola oil chemically extracted with hexane. Hexane is a petroleum product, which is extremely harmful to the environment and believed to leave residues in food produced with it.

Unfortunately, many plants in the U.S. have been genetically engineered or altered and about 70% of all manufactured food (found at your local supermarket) have been tainted with genetically modified organisms.

The canola oil market has not been spared from the use of genetically engineered crops. Canola has become one of the most genetically modified crops in North America. At least 55% of all canola oil is being produced with GMOs.

Words of Wisdom

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Vegetarian Organic Recipe of the Week

Click on the picture for a closer look!

Asian Rice, Tofu and Veggies (vegan)
Serves 6

This dish is high in nutrients and can be prepared easily and quickly.

Preparation time: 10 minutes Cooking time: 20 minutes Equipment: Food processor or blender

Get ingredients ready (use organic ingredients if possible)
2 tablespoons sesame oil
6 fresh garlic cloves
˝ medium onion peeled and cut in 4 pieces
3 cups cubed baked teriyaki flavor tofu (˝ inch cubes) (or fresh firm tofu)
˝ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
2 cups cooked brown rice (Basmati or long grain brown rice)
1 cup shredded green cabbage
2 cups fresh broccoli florets (or frozen)
1 large carrot, grated (1cup)
1 cup fresh corn kernels (or frozen)
1 cup frozen peas
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon white miso paste
2 tablespoons fresh ginger root, peeled and finely grated (or 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger)

1. In a large pot heat oil over low heat. Meanwhile, process garlic and onions in a food processor or blender until very finely chopped. Add garlic and onion mixture to oil sautéing over medium heat for 5 minutes.

2. Add tofu and red pepper flakes mixing well and sautéing for 5 minutes. Add rice and mix well. Add cabbage, broccoli, carrots, corn and peas stirring well and sautéing for 5 minutes. In the meantime, in a cup or small bowl, mix miso paste and soy sauce together dissolving completely. Add miso and soy mixture and ginger to tofu and vegetables stirring well and cooking over medium heat for 3 minutes. Serve.

About the ingredients:
- Miso, rich in B vitamins and protein, is a staple ingredient in Japanese cuisine. It is a fermented soybean paste made by combining cooked soybeans with koji (a mold, which is cultivated in a soybean, barley or rice base) and salt. The basic categories of miso are barley, rice and soybean. Miso is sold in a variety of flavors and colors, which is determined by amount of soybeans, koji, salt used and length of time it is aged (6 months to 3 years). The lighter color miso varieties are sweet and mild and the darker colors have strong flavors. Though it may be used in soups, dressings, sauces, dips, condiment, main dishes and marinades, it should be used in moderation as it’s high in sodium. Miso can be found in the refrigerated sections of Asian and natural health food stores. Westbrae Natural is an excellent brand.



If you like Vegetarian Organic Life, why not share the newsletter with a friend? Just forward the newsletter and suggest that they subscribe. 

Comments? Please send e-mail to Amira at [email protected]

Like paper? Try the printer-friendly version.

This newsletter is not intended to provide and replace medical advice. The author and editor expressly disclaim all responsibility for any adverse effects resulting from any information, diet or exercise suggestions. It is imperative that the advice of a physician is sought before any diet or exercise programs are adopted.

Copyright© 2003 - 2009 Amira Elgan. All Rights Reserved.