Don’t let Sugar be your Daddy in 2020

Happy New Year to Everyone!!

Gabriel I don’t want to read your blog on cutting sugar out of my diet!!!

I get it. Sugar is our legal version of cocaine.

Everyday in NYC we are tempted by sugar in a million different forms. We have the best doughnuts (so good – Dough, Doughnut Plant), cookies (Levain, Milk Bar and City Bakery – thank god it closed), and candy (Dylan’s Candy Bar, Economy Candy – the best). It’s everywhere. I have two kids who eat a good amount of sugar (one who could live on an IV of chocolate), so there is always cake and cookies in the house. You can’t always look like me. What up hunk?

That said it’s a new year and some of us want to make healthy lifestyle and nutritional changes. As I always say, balance balance, balance. We have to make good choices!! The crazy thing about sugar is that the more sugar you eat the more you crave. Sugar stimulates pleasure centers in the brain, just like cocaine. To your brain, that doughnut is just like cocaine, and like cocaine (I have only taken it less than 10 times) your brain gets desensitized to it with chronic overconsumption, and you develop a tolerance.

I owe my childhood baseball career to 2 packs of Big League Chew during each game and a Slurpee afterwards. I remember clearly standing in the outfield chewing a huge wad of grape Big League Chew (the best flavor - only around from 1982-83) and debating whether to put cherry or blue raspberry (next level) in my large Coke Slurpee.

I don’t think my parents/sugar dealers knew the consequences of eating so much sugar but that Sunday ritual should’ve set off some alarm bells.

The Science of Sugar

Here is your science lesson! Gabriel this is boring. I know but just read it 3 to 4 times until it fully sinks in:

  • There are two types of sugar molecules that we eat regularly - glucose and fructose.
  • Oranges and apples contain glucose and fructose. Gummy bears also contain glucose and fructose.
  • The ratios of fructose and glucose are pretty much the same in both fruit and table sugar.
  • Your body processes glucose and fructose differently.
  • Glucose is your body’s preferred energy source, the good one (easy to remember as it starts with the first letter of my name) and can be metabolized by any cell in your body.
  • Fructose - the bad one can - only be broken down by the liver and therefore it’s not the body’s preferred energy source for the muscles or brain.

For example, an apple has 19 grams sugar and about 4 grams of fiber, which is about 20% of your daily dietary fiber needs. So - unlike gummy bears, fruit contains fiber, vitamins, minerals and numerous other bioactive components which slow the rate at which sugar is digested and absorbed. Have you ever seen someone eat 3 apples? Or a ¼ of a doughnut (impossible I tried it once totally unsuccessful) in one sitting? That said I have definitely seen someone drink a whole Slurpee in less than a minute. Moi.

Most processed foods contain high fructose corn syrup which is even worse than good old horrible sugar. Of course they (and by they I mean “The Man”) found an even cheaper and unhealthier alternative to sugar. High fructose corn syrup is 30% to 70% glucose to fructose. I’m all about alternatives. Alternative medical practitioners are awesome!!! What up Gabriel? Unfortunately, agave nectar, beet sugar and evaporated cane juice are not really better alternatives to regular sugar.

Chinese Medicine and Sugar

If I still have you and you aren't cursing me yet, the Chinese medicine perspective on sugar is that sweet foods affect the stomach and spleen and cause excess dampness in the body. Dampness causes unpleasant ailments like athlete’s foot, jock itch and yeast infections.

It’s ok to have a small piece of chocolate after a meal as it helps to aid digestion, but a shake!! Nope. The sweeter the food the more dampness is created in the body. Dampness in the body causes sluggishness, lack of clarity, emotional instability and weight gain. Damp heat happens when the body struggles breaking down large amounts of sugar, which can lead to conditions such as gout, arthritis and irritable bowel syndrome.

How Much Sugar Should I Be Eating?

Unfortunately, when you go too long without eating or you consistently make bad food choices the more sugar your body craves. Do I stay away from these foods all the time? No. But once I eat them, I notice how sluggish and imbalanced I feel, and I am reminded why I need to stay away. My advice is to limit your sugar intake as much as you can, and if you feel a sugar craving reach for a piece of fruit and not candy or processed foods. But don’t worry, if I see you on the street with a doughnut in your hand I won’t judge you, much.

If you want to learn more about how a diet based on the principles of traditional Chinese medicine can benefit you, email me at gabrielsher@yahoo.com.