What “Just a Spoonful of Sugar” Really Means

I’ve always had a sweet tooth.  It’s one of those things in life, when you know it can’t be good for you, and yet you struggle with letting it go.  Some women say this of the men they let into their lives, perhaps bad habits such as procrastination, or addictions like smoking.   In my case, it’s sugar!   I’ve  known for the longest that this was bad,  but I didn’t quite understand how to articulate it, besides the obvious– cavities.  When I didn’t get my first cavity until I was 22,  I became curious about what other affects consuming excess amounts of that sweet stuff really did to my body.  Just where did all that sugar go over the years?

For the longest time, I struggled with maintaining a healthy pH balance in my body.  I was plagued with yeast infection after yeast infection, and I couldn’t understand why!  At first I thought I was dirty (even though everyone around me knows I’m germophobic and don’t do dirt lol).  Then I thought I was sick.  Later I learned it had everything to do with my diet and the sugary snacks I loved to eat (and even later that it was also related to what I was putting on my body such as soaps and creams).  I tried everything, cutting the candy all the way out of my diet, limiting sweet pastries and juices, and even started eating the unthinkable–creamy yogurt–which you would have had to feed to my dead body.   After speaking to my doctor (I had other areas of growth around the texture and consistency of certain foods), she convinced me that yogurt would aid in not only digestion (which I also struggled with before cutting beef out), but that it would regulate the amount of good bacteria in my vagina due to the key ingredients of lactobacillus and other live cultures.  This was the best news I had received in reference to my feminine issues; and I was willing to get over the creaminess…

Fast forward three years, and I’m now craving the sweet stuff all over again.  This time, however, I’m also getting headaches frequently, and my face is breaking out like it did when I was going through puberty.  For me, this is not okay because I know that it has everything to do with what’s happening on the inside.  I started drinking more water, which seemed to be helping in other areas (not necessarily my face though), and I’m even struggling with yogurt as I now realize there is still crazy amounts of sugar added in certain brands, which seems counterintuitive to the yeast issue.  But the headaches?  There was a time when I would get them as a child, but I usually just associated them with being hungry. 

This past Thursday evening, everything came full circle.  I stumbled upon two articles from The Conscious Life, which served as a major AHAH!!! moment for me.  They pretty much confirmed all of my previous assumptions about sugar, but furthermore gave me concrete evidence as to why the unnatural sweet stuff isn’t so good.  All of those corn syrup ads are misleading (as I thought but couldn’t quite prove), because our bodies CAN in fact tell the difference between types of sugar, even the ones that come from fruits and carbohydrates (see here or below in the 2nd article for full information)!  Laden throughout these article are amazing links that allow you to further explore the effects of sugar.  What I want to stress, however, is that this does not mean you can’t or shouldn’t consume sugars in order to be healthy, but understanding the types and in what amounts of sugar are satisfactory (unrefined, processed, artificial, etc.) are extremely crucial to achieving balance and health.  Many of our so-called medical issues are directly linked to our diet and consumption, and it doesn’t make much sense to me to continue suffering if there is something I can do about it!  Furthermore, low blood sugar and diabetes are some of our top killers, both clearly related to diet and the types of sugars we consume.  

We have the power, as women, to control our health as far as diet goes (environmental health is another issue altogether).  When we lead vivacious lives, we encourage our children, spouses, family, and community to do the same, simply by virtue of example.  It’s not about what you can’t eat, but rather, finding what’s good and wholesome.  You have a choice, plain and simple.  And one good habit always leads to multitudes more!  

In Love, Truth, and Good Health,

A.K.S.

Article 1

10 Grams Less Sugar, 10 Times More Sweetness in Life10 Grams Less Sugar, 10 Times More Sweetness in Life

Can 10g less of sugar each day improve health? Apparently, yes, at least for me! Read on for the full story

I always considered myself a low sugar consumer since I don’t drink soda or any sugary drinks, and I limit my dessert treats to once or twice every two weeks.

Besides, I usually burn more calories than I consume, so even if I do let myself binge on sugar-laden foods occasionally, it’s no big deal, so I thought.

But I was in for a surprise when I started reducing my sugar intake four months ago.

Added Sugar I’m Blinded to

It all started after reading a report on the link between sugar and increased cancer risk which prompted me to pay more attention to the added sugar in my foods.

On weekdays, I usually have four slices of wholemeal breads with jams and peanut butter, and a cup of unsweetened instant oats for breakfast. I like to mix different jams and nut butter each time, and at last count, there are five different jars of them in the fridge. :) This has been my morning diet for the past few years and I’ve not given it a second thought ever since.

Somehow, it never occur to me that the spread I unconsciously used to coat my breads each day could be a major source of added sugar in my diet. It just seems so natural to pair a slice of bread with a layer of sweet fruity sauce or nut butter. Besides, fruits and nuts are always healthy right?

The Not-So-Sweet Reality

… those seemingly nutritious spreads contain at least eleven grams of sugar …Wrong, at least not the processed kind. After reading the label on the jars, I found that those seemingly nutritious spreads contain at least eleven grams of sugar, and that’s not counting those hiding in the breads. But that’s only an estimate because some jars don’t even list sugar in their nutrition facts label. Gee, is there something I shouldn’t know?

With this realization, I decided to cut my sugar intake by limiting the amount of jams I use each day. I began using extra virgin olive oil as a dip and bought a peanut butter that has lower sugar: 1 gram per 32 grams of serving. Dipping breads in olive oil tastes refreshing light and it brings out the subtle sweetness in the breads, which conveniently omitted sugar in their long nutrition label.

The switch is a no-brainer. I added an extra dose of monounsaturated fats (1 tablespoon each time) to my breakfast and I still get to satisfy my sweet tooth with a hint of sugar from the peanut butter. These moves cut my morning sugar intake from eleven grams to a measly one gram or less, since on some days I skip the nut butter altogether.

Surprising Effects of Less Sugar

Frankly, I didn’t expect to feel any discernible difference when I started to cut my sugar consumption. What can ten grams less of sugar each day do to my body? But amazingly, I did get some unexpected results:

  1. First and foremost, my mood has less pronounced highs and lows usually associated with sugar crashes. In the morning, I can get quite cranky and irritable, but now my mood remained stable and I feel more centered for most days. That means better concentration, alertness and improved productivity.
  2. After every workout session, besides feeling physically tired, sometimes there’s an accompanying mental dullness that feels as if I just woke up from a bad dream. I always thought that is normal. But now it doesn’t happen so frequently anymore.
  3. Most significantly, I used to get headaches every one to two weeks for no reasons. They range from mild throbbing pain at the side of the head to brain-splitting, agonizing pain that lasts for a few days. But ever since I kept the lid on sugar, the headaches have lessen considerably. As a matter of fact, I can’t even recall when was the last time I had a throbbing pain in the head. Now I know that excessive sugar is likely to be one of the culprits for those years of headaches I’ve been suffering!

Hidden Sweet Dangers

In theory, our body is capable of converting the foods we eat into glucose, or blood sugar, for use as energy. So, there’s no need to consume additional sugar on top of the whole foods we are eating.

But in reality, we are accustomed to using sugar to improve taste as well as to perk us up. We add sugar to coffee and tea, and we consume even more sugar from fizzy drinks, breads, cakes, desserts and other convenience foods. Sugar is a comfort food that seems difficult to avoid or give up.

However, our cravings for sugar have spun so out of control that a host of chronic health conditions have now been linked to this what used to be a luxury condiment.

  • Excessive sugar intake is now widely recognized as one of the leading causes ofoverweight, obesity, tooth decay, syndrome X and type II diabetes.
  • High consumption of refined sugar, which spikes blood glucose levels quickly, has also been linked to an increased risk of a number of cancers.
  • Research done by the Canadian Child & Family Research Institute found that excessive sugar affects the sex hormones levels in the body, increasing the risk of acne, infertility, cardiovascular disease, polycystic ovaries, and uterine cancer in overweight women.

How Much is Too Much?

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends no more than six teaspoons (about 25 grams) of added sugars a day for women and nine (about 38 grams) for men.

AHA defined added sugar as “sugars and syrups added to foods during processing or preparation as well as sugars and syrups that are added at the table”. Most of us consume way beyond the recommended amount of sugar, usually without even realizing.

If you’re a health-conscious person who naturally lean towards a healthy lifestyle, but are still plagued by annoying unexplained ailments such as migraines, irritability, wild mood swings and acne, then you may want to examine your sugar consumption closely like the way I did and cut those hidden added sugar.

In my case, my sugar consumption is already low before the cut, but I still get some surprising positive results by reducing added sugar in my diet.

If you’re suffering from an existing medical conditions not associated with low blood sugar, it may worth cutting your intake of added sugar lower than the recommended amount. Of course, do consult your physician first before embarking on any diet change to ensure that it’s safe for you.

Simple Tips to Cut Added Sugar

It may seem daunting to cut sugar, but it doesn’t have to be. By buying and eating consciously, there’s no need for you to give up sugar entirely. Here are a few tips:

  1. Identify the major sources of sugar in your diet. Then cut them one at a time or replace them with healthier alternatives, such as substituting soft drinks with zero water contaminant fluid, and choosing low sugar products over those with higher sugar levels.
  2. Don’t worry about fruits and vegetables. I don’t limit the amount of fruits and vegetables that I eat since their high fiber content fill me up quickly. It’s tough to go overboard with them unless you juice them. Juices can also be high in sugar depending on what you use, and with the fibers removed, it’s easy to drink a cup too many.
  3. Avoid processed foods. Other than added sugar, processed foods are also more likely to contain artificial additives and preservatives that can wreck havoc on your mood and health. If you must buy processed products, at least choose those that have low sugar content, and avoid those without sugar level indicated.
  4. Beware of cleverly marketed products. The “reduced sugar” label on the package doesn’t necessarily mean low sugar content. It only means less sugar is used than other similar products. But they may still be high in sugar. Always scrutinize and compare nutrition facts labels.
  5. Don’t add sugar to your foods. If you want to add a tad of sweetness to your food, use a few crushed dates and figs. Better still, learn to appreciate the original taste of wholesome foods without added sugar.

I hope that my experience will prompt you to take a good hard look at the amount of added sugar in your diet. Since we don’t usually see them in the food we eat, it’s easy for them to slip under the radar. But hopefully, not anymore.

Article 2

Low Blood Sugar Levels and HeadachesAre Low Blood Sugar Levels Giving You Headaches?

Are headaches and migraine attacks giving you hell? Find out if low blood sugar level is the mastermind behind them all.

A reader sent in a comment for my article on 10 Grams Less Sugar, 10 Times More Sweetness in Life suggesting that my recurrent headache could be the result of low blood sugar. This note got me interested in the link between the two and to find out the possible trigger since I don’t have diabetes (thank goodness!) and hence don’t take any insulin-elevating drugs that may cause low blood glucose level.

In this article, I will share with you some of my personal findings, which I must highlight are not an exhaustive discussion on headache and the condition of having low blood sugar — both of which can have an unimaginable number of causes. And like the other articles on this website, this post is a work-in-progress and will be updated as and when I’ve gathered more information.

How Does the Body Maintain Blood Sugar

Glucose is our body’s main source of energy and it is obtained by breaking down the foods we eat — mainly from carbohydrates such as whole grains, vegetables, fruits and beans.

When glucose is absorbed by the blood, a type of hormone called insulin is produced by the pancreas to tell cells in other parts of the body to use the blood sugar for energy. Excess glucose that are not used immediately will be converted into glycogen and stored in the liver and muscles as backup energy reserve. In normal circumstances, when blood sugar is being used up or stored, insulin production will reduce and/or stop.

In between meals when we are not eating, our blood sugar level will drop gradually over time. When it falls beyond a certain level, the pancreas will get to work again. This time, it will produce another type of hormone called glucagon in an attempt to return the blood sugar level to normal. It accomplishes this task by telling the liver to release its backup energy reserve and convert glycogen into glucose for fuel. Glucagon also activates the release of insulin, so that the fresh dose of glucose will be put to good use.

… insulin and glucagon work hand in hand to ensure that the level of glucose in our body is steady and balanced.As you can see, insulin and glucagon work hand in hand to ensure that the level of glucose in our body is steady and balanced. When they are working properly, we will feel physically strong and mentally stable.

But as Murphy’s Law would have it, “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong”. There are a few ways in which blood glucose control can go awry and trigger headache.

How Low Blood Sugar Level Can Cause Headache

Whenever we feast on cookies, soda, candies and other high-sugar content foods, our blood glucose level will increase sharply within a short time. This sends the pancreas into a frantic mode as it tries to lower our blood sugar to decent level by releasing large amounts of insulin. The flash flood of insulin will in turn drive the blood sugar level down as quickly as it has climbed. The dramatic increase and fall in sugar level can have a number of possible side effects, one of which is headache or migraine attack.

As the level of adrenaline affects the contraction of blood vessels, a sudden drop in blood sugars may cause the arteries in the head to spasm in people who are susceptible.When our blood sugar level swings wildly, it can adversely affect the regulation of other hormones such as adrenaline. As the level of adrenaline affects the contraction of blood vessels, a sudden drop in blood sugars may cause the arteries in the head to spasm in people who are susceptible. This is then felt as pain which we known as headache.

Eating highly-processed and sugary foods is not the only trigger. Going long hours without foods, starvation and taking insulin injection or pills can also cause blood sugar level to drop too low. In fact, there is a medical term to describe the state of having a lower than normal blood sugar level (less than 70mg/dL). It’s calledhypoglycemia. However, not everyone who has hypoglycemia will experience headache, or suffer the same symptoms. Hypoglycemia may be an indication of a serious medical condition. If you suspect that your blood sugar levels often cross into the hypoglycemia zone, do consult a doctor for a thorough medical examination.

Low Blood Sugar Affects Mental Functions

You probably have the experience where you’re so hungry that you can’t think straight. This is not a mere coincidence. Glucose also happens to be the primary source of energy for the brain. The more you’re required to think, analyze or solve problems, the more glucose your brain will need in order to work optimally.

It’s then not surprising that the level of glucose available to the brain affects our mental functions. If we don’t have enough glucose to fuel the brain, work that require mental effort such as decision making will be greatly affected.

Do you know that hypoglycemia doesn’t just trigger bad headaches? It can also cause irritability, anxiety, shakiness, confusion and heart palpitations, symptoms that resemble that of anxiety attack. If you’ve had episodes of panic attacks, it may be worthwhile to ensure that hypoglycemia is not responsible for them.

Although glucose is an important source of fuel for the body and the brain, as we’ve seen, it’s not a good idea to consume high sugar foods in one go. How then should we eat to ensure that our blood sugar level remains steady and balanced? That’s what we’ll discuss next.

Manage Blood Glucose Level to Prevent Headaches & Migraine Attacks

If you suspect that your chronic headaches or migraine are the result of low blood sugar, here are a few suggestions to prevent future attacks:

How to Keep Low-Blood-Sugar-Triggered Headaches & Migraines Away

  1. Test your blood glucose level. There are many possible causes of headaches. To make sure yours is due to low blood sugar, the best way is to get a test. You can get a reading of your blood glucose level either through your family physician or with a blood glucose meter.
  2. Avoid foods with high glycemic load. These foods are converted into glucose quickly and will spike your blood sugar quickly. Glycemic load is a better gauge than glycemic index of the impact of a particular food on blood glucose level as it takes into consideration the amount of carbohydrate. If you’re trying to maintain a stable blood sugar level, avoid foods with glycemic load values above 19. You can find a pretty comprehensive list of foods with their glycemic load values here.
  3. Choose complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates such as vegetables, nuts, seeds, fruits and whole grains have lower glycemic load compared to highly processed white flour based products and sugars. That means, they will break down more slowly and release glucose more gradually and steadily into the bloodstream.
  4. Include some fat, fiber and protein in each meal. Healthy fat, plant fiber and lean protein will help to slow down the absorption of sugar and ensure a steady supply of sugar in the blood. Some healthy fats you could use moderately are extra virgin olive oil and macadamia nut oil, both of which contain potent anti-inflammatory compounds. Lean protein to consider include tofu, lentils, low-fat cheese, wild salmon, and skinless turkey and chicken breast (preferably from free-range poultry).
  5. Eat every three to four hours. To avoid your blood sugar level dipping to a point that will trigger headache and migraine, eat every three to four hours. In any case, if you’re eating foods with medium to low glycemic load and they include some healthy fat, fiber and/or protein, your meal should last you for that long before you feel hungry again.Of course, how fast your foods are burnt up also depends very much on your activity level. If you’re starting to feel hungry before your next meal, grab a handful of nuts and seeds to give yourself some sustainable energy which should last you for quite a while.
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