Sugar and our health – a little balance might be in order to keep your love alive for Valentine’s Day

Naturally occurring sugars found in fruits are not included in the sugar excess contributing to heart disease photo of local strawberries from The Jungle Farm - Karen Anderson
Naturally occurring sugars found in fruits are not included in the sugar excess contributing to heart disease
photo of local strawberries from The Jungle Farm – Karen Anderson

Yesterday I wrote a few blog posts about chocolate and some really sweet treats for Valentine’s Day. Chocolate and the sugar within it are great ingredients…in moderation.

Today, the first thing I read on the CBC news is that sugar has become an independent risk factor for Cardiovascular Death. It’s long been established that increased sugar consumption contributes empty calories to our diet and is a direct cause in the obesity and diabetes epidemic sweeping North America. Now sugar has been shown to contribute independent of obesity and diabetes to deaths from coronary artery disease.

National Geographic featured this phenomenon in the summer of 2013.

Fat vs. Sugar: Which Do We Crave More?.

Sugar–Photo Gallery.

It’s not just because excess sugar consumption causes obesity and diabetes, there’s something about the effect of excess sugar alone causing the increase in these deaths.

Seems like perfect timing for a short but sweet (couldn’t hep the pun, I mean, this is serious but I refuse to lose my sense of humour) note on balancing what we eat. After all we want to live long and savour it all – as goes the credo of my blog.

Along with salt and fat, sugar makes up the big three ingredients used to create the synthetic and addictive foods designed by food processing giants. Michael Moss has written a Pulitzer Prize winning book on this topic. Sugar, Fat and Salt – How the Food Giants Hooked Us is a brilliant piece of explanatory reporting that illuminates the differences in real food created by mother nature and cooks using only what mother nature has provided and the food-like substances or synthetic food so precisely designed by the mega-food industry.

Sadly, in my family we have our own name for this food. My sisters and I dubbed it “polyester food”. My Dad – who has Diabetes, High Cholesterol, High Blood Pressure, a 60 year history of cigarette smoking and recent open heart surgery for his documented Cardiovascular Disease and Congestive Heart Failure – developed quite a polyester food habit in the years since he retired. He kept a cupboard full of the stuff and even now post having his chest cut open, he continues to sneak his “treats”.

As a kid I would have loved to have had access to all those seemingly benign but effectually lethal “treats” he keeps stashing like a suicidal squirrel. I thank God and the universe daily that all my parents could afford when we were growing up was three healthy well-balanced meals a day. There was never any junk food in our home. I’m also grateful that my Mom didn’t have time to bake for us and we were forced to eat tons of fruits and vegetables.

If we’d had access early on, we might have all ended up quite obese. Polyester foods are designed to make us crave them as described in this article by the CBC’s Kelly Crowe.

Abraham Lincoln said we are our habits. Thankfully, the habits of my youth have carried over and I still eat three well-balanced meals a day and I mostly snack on fruits, nuts, yogurt and vegetables. I have always enjoyed physical activity and I strive to move more days of the week than not (at least 4/7 days).

I write about food but I’m not a food pusher. I have a Master’s Degree in Adult Health Nursing and so I pay attention and use moderation as the guiding principle in my lifestyle. I savour the rich desserts I wrote about yesterday on special occasions. I set limits on their intake otherwise. Limits keep us safe. That’s their purpose.

It turns out that setting limits on sugar, salt and fat could be the key to keeping us alive to savour it all. It’s tempting to think of limit-setting as a punitive thing. When you look at it as the rate limiting step that keeps you safely alive longer; limits take on a very positive light. It just might be limits that set us free to enjoy life longer.

A balanced perspective when it comes to life and food is a key way to savour it all.

Maybe this Valentine’s we’ll focus more on love and we won’t need so much sugar on top of everything.

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