I’ve heard a lot of talk about food and health recently. It seems that people are rediscovering the connection between the foods we eat and our health. Specifically, how adulterated foods impact our wellness. It is refreshing to see more people understanding that connection and educating themselves about the way that foods affect their health.
What was more interesting was the talk about sugars. I am going to share a quote with you that to me says it all. Some years ago I was at the whole foods store (this was before Whole Foods came to town). I made a commitment to invest in my groceries for health and with that thought, I spent a few more dollars in the search of organics and healthier alternatives. I grabbed a box of soy milk and checked the ingredients. It was either a new product or it had new packaging so I wanted to identify the contents. I remember reading, “…developed for the American palate.”
Having started my working life in the marketing field, I was privy to the knowledge that American products in Mexico have less sugar. This led me to recognize that American foods not only have a greater sugar content but also added thickeners (typically starches) to give them consistency to satisfy consumer taste for richness. Of course that means more ‘flavors’ need to be added to enhance the assumed ‘main’ ingredient. Perhaps I’ll talk about those ‘flavors’ another time.
My point is, particularly in sight of the growing diabetes epidemic, specifically among the Hispanic community in the U.S. which is the immigrant community I am most familiar with, as immigrants come and adopt the foods of their new homeland, they also begin to encounter health deficiencies that can be related to increased sugar consumption. Because most typical Mexican food in the U.S. is carbohydrate-based (and many of these grains are bio-engineered to raise production and bring costs down) meaning that the greater percentage of food on a plate is sugars, then the only resort is to burn this high volume of ‘energy’ food as quickly as possible converting them into energy through physical activity or they will be stored by the body ‘for a rainy day’.
Real Mexican food is not so loaded with carbohydrates or fats (future blog). Cheese and cream are a low or infrequent ingredient, and for the most part, the cheese is of the lower fat content. Of course, many of the grains supplied to Mexico are bio-engineered, specifically corn, and we don’t know what that does to our digestive process. The adoption of Americanized food tastes and ingredients is causing detrimental health effects and in many cases, a growing occurrence of diabetes.
So sugar and the derived and processed sweeteners mainly provide calories that will rarely be utilized by the consumer. We don’t break them down due to lack of sufficient physical activity or because our body does not recognize them and ‘holds’ them until it figures out what it will do with them.
I can also understand that sugar can be addictive. As we force our taste buds to become more and more accustomed to highly sweetened flavors we forget what real food tastes like. We are searching for the sugar’s happy feeling leaving us crashing and ‘hungering’ for the next high. Consequently, we begin to see the fat (stored carbos) ratio growing and the anemic ratio following closely behind. If we don’t get the nourishment we need, if we don’t like the flavor of natural foods, we will crave the sugar (and it’s effect) like a drinker craves alcohol. The effects speak for themselves.
So what are some alternatives to sugar? The first step is to cut down on sweetened foods and avoid adding sugar to them. If we cut all the sugar from our diet we would still be getting sugar in the fresh foods we eat but in the form of naturally occurring sweeteners. The beauty of these ingredients is that they come proportioned right and will break down easily by the human machine system. For example, we won’t overeat apples or the natural sweetener in them. Next you can opt to add foods that are naturally sweet to add sweetness. These can be apples, bananas, carrots or beets for example. You can also use local honey. It is obtained from local blossoms helping boost your immunity to local allergens.
One thing to remember is that when fruits ripen on the stem, vine or tree they process the ‘sugars’ through chemical reactions to make them more easily digestible by our amazing human machine. Foods that are picked before they ripen don’t have the opportunity to process sugars in the same way. This can help cause digestive problems that can build up in the long-run. For this reason, eating local foods from area farmers are better. They are fresher and don’t have to be picked before they ripen to allow for travel time. And local growers are many times organic growers.
Do your research and learn more. Check with a nutritionist and plan ways you can cut sugars you don’t really need. Enjoy the natural sweetness of fresh foods.