The holidays are right around the corner, and while they are a time for merriment and spending time with family and friends, they are also often a time when our good eating habits fly right out the window. In particular, Halloween through New Year’s Eve is a time when people eat the most sugar, and often don’t know the damage this extra sugar can have on their health. While sugar tastes sweet, the effect it has on your body is not.
Recently sugar has been labeled as an addictive substance. There are two main reasons for this. 1. Eating even a small amount of sugar will cause your body to crave more. 2. Suddenly quitting sugar may cause withdrawal symptoms – from cravings to headaches, and mood swings to fatigue. In 1840 the average American consumed 2 tsp of sugar per day. It is estimated that the average American eats 63 tsp of sugar per day in 2011 – that is a staggering difference!
White sugar is found in most holiday treats and candies, and people are usually aware they are eating sugar. The first bite of a sugary food can make you happy, give you energy, and calm you down. Most people have heard of a “sugar crash” which happens soon after eating sugar – when your body comes down from your sugar high – is more tired than before you ate it – and you often feel irritable to boot.
Another downside to eating refined sugar is the speed at which it raises your body’s blood sugar levels. This rapid rise in blood sugar causes your body to overreact and release a large amount of insulin. This release of insulin forces a rapid drop in blood sugar levels. This swing from an extremely high to very low blood sugar level in your body causes many probelms from migraine headaches, to an increase in blood pressure and flow, and ultimately weight gain. Over time, too much sugar consumption can lead to serious illnesses like hypoglycemia, diabetes, bipolar disorder and even cancer. The increase in sugar or glucose in our diet may explain the rapid increase in cancer in our society. Cancer loves glucose! Cancer patients are often tested by having them drink a glucose mix to see where the cancer attacks it in their body. It makes sense that if you eliminate the sugar or glucose in your diet the cancer would stop spreading.
Sugars are a simple carbohydrate, and most people believe complex carbohydrates (better known as starches) are better for you. Recently, many scientists and nutritionists are finding that complex carbohydrates, fructose, honey and maple syrup have the same effect as sugar in your body. Besides the health risks already mentioned with excess sugar, comes the risk of becoming overweight or obese ( an epidemic in the United States).
There are some alternative sweeteners that do not raise blood sugar levels, and are a more healthy option for your body. They all have different benefits, concerns and uses, so it is best to research them and decide which may be best for your family. A few to consider are: Stevia, Erythritol, Just Like Sugar and Xylitol.
Some people go even further and adopt a gluten free diet, to avoid the complex carbohydrates as well. It is best to use a combination of flours for baking when trying to avoid gluten. Some good choices include: almond flour, coconut flour, chickpea flour, amaranth, buckwheat, hazelnut flour and flax seed. It is best to add some xanthan gum when baking with alternative flours to add the volume or thickness that usually comes from gluten.
Holiday baking can still be a family tradition, but will be much healthier with some of the above options. Switching Halloween candy to pencils, stickers or even pennies can be a fun and healthy option. Baking your Thanksgiving pumpkin pie with the alternative flours and sweetners mentioned above will add nutrients to your pie, without taking away the sweet taste, and will avoid the negative effects of sugar. The same goes for Christmas cookies and candies. The homemade varieties tend to be much healthier than the prepackaged ones, besides that family baking time is a large part of the fun and tradition of the holidays.
It may take some time to adjust to this new way of baking and eating, but creating healthy and delicious holiday traditions for you and your family make it worthwhile. You will also discover that your sugar cravings will go away, as you decrease the sugar in your diet. Your local chiropractor is an excellent source for advising you on diet, exercise and healthy lifestyle habits.
Author: Michelle Caron