Is sugar addictive? Scientists and dieticians have debated this question, but most of us know the truth. Indeed it is. Powerfully so. The National Institutes of Health quietly agrees also, although they didn’t take out an ad on the front page of the New York Times to announce it.
Here’s what I know – If I eat one handful of M&M’s, I’m going to want another handful so badly that I’ll steal it out of my kid’s Halloween stash if I have to. But when I stop eating white sugar for longer than a few days, I no longer crave it. There have been three Cadbury crème eggs (my biggest weakness in terms of hideously-bad-for-you-but-OMG-deliciousness) sitting on the top of my dresser since Easter morning. Usually my hubby is much trickier in hiding my eggs, but he had just returned that morning at 1am from a week of digging foundations by hand in rural Honduras in 100 degree heat. Instead of finding my Cadbury eggs in my sock drawer or inside my pillowcase, they were unceremoniously dumped on top of my dresser, Happy Easter. I think he gets points for even managing to produce them in light of his previous week. At any rate, those eggs are still sitting there over two weeks later. I haven’t even touched them because I know that the moment I do, I’ll eat all three. I stare at them every day, but don’t remove them. It’s like the cigarette in Augustus’ mouth in The Fault in Our Stars – I look at the killing thing every day to gain power over it.
Breaking the sugar habit is tough for all of us. Nearly everything edible you buy has added sugar. Check out any bread, yogurt, condiment, cracker, spaghetti sauce, prepared food, even hot dogs – high fructuous corn syrup or sugar is an added ingredient. It’s very difficult to avoid sugar.
A serving of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese has 7grams of sugar. A tablespoon (and let’s face it most kids eat it by the ¼ cup) of ketchup has 3 grams of sugar. One large coke at McDonalds has 85 grams of sugar. The average hot dog roll has 5 grams of sugar and the average hot dog has 2 grams of sugar. So, let’s say you serve the kid friendly meal of a hot dog with ketchup, Kraft Macaroni and cheese and a coke. How much sugar has your child just ingested (and that’s assuming your cherub only consumes one hot dog, uses one tablespoon of ketchup, and eats one “serving” of mac & cheese)? 102 grams. So, let’s say you leave out the coke because you’re a mean parent – that’s still conservatively 17 grams of sugar.
The American Heart Association says that 24 grams of added sugar per day is the max for adults, preschool and elementary kids should only have 12.5. That’s equivalent to six teaspoons or 100 calories. That seems like a lot until you start adding up all the added sugar in the products you eat. A Cadbury crème egg has 20 grams of sugar (just for point of reference).
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not the sugar nazi. I love sugar as much as the next person. And sugar isn’t all bad; it gives us energy and tastes great. There are a few sugars that are better for you than white sugar or high fructose corn syrup, though, and they deliver plenty of sweetness.
Honey contains not just scrumptious sweetness, but also delivers some essential B vitamins, folate, iron, manganese, and fluoride. If you buy locally made honey you can even help build your immunities to the pollens in your area. Plus honey helps fight seasonal allergies and even had antimicrobial properties helping to fight infections. Go honey.
Maple Syrup, the real stuff not the imitation kind you buy in the bottle shaped like a laundry woman, offers minerals such as manganese, zinc, calcium, iron, and antioxidants. One serving of maple syrup has the same antioxidant capacity as a serving of strawberries!
But for health benefits, Black Strap Molasses has it all over the other sugars. Molasses is actually the leftovers when raw cane sugar is processed to extract the crystals to make refined sugar. Molasses contains vitamin B6, magnesium, manganese (all three are mood boosters, by the way), plus iron. Iron is the number one nutritional deficiency in the US and one tablespoon of molasses has as much iron as a chicken breast. Molasses also contains plenty of copper and selenium. I vote for molasses. I’ve substituted it in cookie and bread recipes. My favorite molasses sweetened treat is anadama bread (see recipe below).
If summer has caught you unawares, and you’re perusing the dieting options, consider making one simple change. Cut out white sugar. Like any addiction, it won’t be easy at first, but once you’ve made it at least three days, you’ll find you crave sugar less and less. Cutting out added sugar will cut out calories you don’t need and losing weight will be much easier. The same goes for your kids, by the way. Most kids these days are WAY overloaded with sugar and it’s doing them no favors. Explore other options in sweetness and take back your health.
Anadama Bread (originally adapted from a recipe in Family Fun Magazine)
2 Cups boiling water
2 T butter
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1 pkg yeast
1/2 cup warm water
3/4 cup molasses
1 1/2 t salt
1 cup whole wheat flour (or white if you haven't got whole wheat)
3 2/3 cup white flour (or substitute out some coconut flour for a real treat)
1. Pour boiling water in large bowl. Add butter and cornmeal, whisking to mix. Let stand until luke warm.
2. In small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water.
3. Stir yeast, molasses and salt into the cornmeal, then beat in flours.
4. Spoon batter into 2 buttered loaf pans, cover, and let rise one hour (until doubled).
5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake 45-50 minutes.