Avoid sugars for a healthy holiday season

By Mary Austin

The best defense against a holiday glut-and-stress cycle is indulging in the right foods.

A few weeks ago I decided to try an experiment. Though I am a big proponent of healthy eating, I realized that sugar had crept into my diet and I vowed to change some habits.

I examined the culprits and they all seemed so harmless—a glass of orange juice here, a banana there, a vitamin water with lunch, a gin and tonic with dinner, some peppermints, bubblegum from the machine, a candy bar.

OK— not all of it seems harmless, but those apparently insignificant items can take a toll, with the above totaling around 160 grams, or 13 tablespoons, of sugar.

What changes did I expect?

For one, I am constantly reminded of a promising molar cavity every time my tongue brushes against a back tooth. Of course, I’ll begrudgingly visit the dentist, but why not prevent the next rot?

I have also felt overly tired in class and am embarrassed to be caught yawning during what I assume to be important lectures.

More dramatically, over the summer I wound up being taken in an ambulance from the Euclid Kroger to Good Samaritan Hospital for what now seems laughable and insignificant. But my inklings, as well as my research,
told me that sugar was an indirect culprit.

Sugar’s effects can show up in sneaky ways.

A New York Times Magazine article from April of 2011 says that sugar is toxic and can be blamed for much of the obesity and obesity-related diseases plaguing the developed world.

A glance at WebMd.com will tell you that sugar is addictive and can cause withdrawal symptoms akin to those of illicit drugs.

Unlike these recreational substances, sugar’s damage is slower and more chronic, and levels of sensitivity vary from person to person. Some react to a sugar crash with a headache, some have more serious hormonal
issues or weight problems.

Sugar is especially sly in that it takes on different aliases. Corn syrup, cane juice, maltose, sucrose, dextrose (pretty much any of the oses) are really sugar.

It shows up in just about everything, from condiments like ketchup, to bread, yogurt and even meat products.

After my examination phase began the difficult part: elimination. I made simple cuts and kept track of my sugar intake.

I bid farewell to vitamin water, swapped orange juice with whole oranges and mixed soda water with my cocktails (an acquired taste, but nonetheless refreshing).

Also, just by upping my veggie intake in place of such useless and destructive calories, I felt I could handle the detox. Winter vegetables like spaghetti and acorn squash satisfied my carb craving without fueling my addiction.

I can’t lie and say this was a piece of cake— it obviously involved no cake whatsoever. The first couple of days were a slight shock.

But it got better and I have noticed more energy and fewer candy cravings.

So indulge in the gravies and savory grub, but watch out for those strictly-sugar foods, because they will only prolong your food coma and dampen holiday cheers.