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A Spoonful of Sugar...


This week has been a full one for me. I had a lovely hike with friends on Monday and met with my cousin and aunt Wednesday for lunch. Thursday I picked up my new orthotics and on Friday I watched a documentary on Netflix. In between those things, there has been the standard housework (laundry, cooking, etc.) and I have done a fair amount of Internet reading. Hey, you might ask, what have you been reading? Well, let me tell you!

Over the last couple of weeks I have noticed that my coffee has seemed a little sweet. I am pretty liberal with the sugar, I admit. From past research I know that the recommended amount of added sugar per day for women (barring any medical conditions I would add) is 6 teaspoons. There are 4 grams of sugar in a teaspoon so that adds up to 24 grams of added sugar per day. Added sugar consists of sugar (any kind, doesn't matter what) that you yourself add to the food you prepare, bake or cook and sugar that is added to prepackaged, prepared food like from a supermarket or restaurant. (This is separate from naturally occurring sugar contained in fruits, vegetables, some beans and legumes, and other whole foods.) Since I am The Curious Housewife, I was, well, curious! How much added sugar am I really consuming each day?

Since I love reading food labels, I got right to work in my pantry and fridge. First, I listed all of the prepackaged foods that I eat that contain some type of sugar. (Remember to read the label and ingredient list!) There aren't that many products but there are some: chiefly, a few types of granola bars, vegan yogurt, my favorite bread, and Vegenaise. (I didn't count things like ketchup since I rarely use these types of condiments and I didn't count anything that Rich eats exclusively.) The hemp and almond milk that I drink is unsweetened so good news there. I do eat chocolate chips so bad news there! That was kind of it. But it was enough. More than enough in fact!

I was dismayed when I added up the amount of added sugar that I eat in a typical day. And in fact, I was irritated with myself for allowing such a lax approach. Then, I got a grip on myself and turned things around. How could I do better? Does it matter? (It does matter, and yes, I can do better.) The first thing I did was take the monk fruit and stevia sweeteners out of the cupboard and dusted the boxes off. These were going in the coffee instead of the sugar. (I didn't go cold turkey here. I still allowed a teaspoon of actual sugar for my coffee and grains and this has been more than enough.) That move cut down on 2 tsps of sugar right there. The other thing I did was to get real about those granola bars. I have been treating them as part of my dietary pattern rather than what they really are, which is a treat like dessert. (Or something to be eaten while on the trail, ahem!) The yogurt is really the same issue as the granola bars since it has about 17 grams of sugar per serving. That is about 4+ teaspoons of sugar! You wouldn't eat that straight up right so why is it OK in the yogurt? 

I was glad that I did this roundup. It may seem a little neurotic and perhaps a little too exacting but honestly, I have not read anything that says too much added sugar is good for you. (Let me know if you have, OK?) Nowhere is it written that added sugar in foods has any health benefits. It doesn't take a scientist (or any links) to suggest that sugar is just damn good and makes food quite palatable and pleasurable. Any child can tell you this as well as every adult. Sugar makes many things better. 

So what do you do if you would like to cut back? Or maybe just learn a little more about what sugar does in your body? Or maybe even why you might want to up your fruit and veggie intake to enjoy some naturally occurring sugar? Remember earlier that I mentioned doing some reading this week? Have I got some links for you!

Want to know some basics about added sugars? Here is a good link from the American Heart Association and also one from Harvard Health Publishing. This link from the New York Times talks about why we like sugar so much and how to wean ourselves off of it. I also enjoyed this link from Familydoctor.org. It's a little more in depth than the above two articles. And lastly, from the same site, is this link on sugar substitutes. 

I got excited about a few other things that I read this week. Maybe not excited in a good way, (like yippee!), but more in an agitated kind of way. I read this post from VeganRD about body shaming in the vegan community. I don't spend much time in this arena, with other vegans online, and so this post came as a surprise to me. I thought the author's "points to remember" were really good for all of us. Kindness and sensitivity never hurts. Ever. 

In line with the above topic, the author of Vegan RD (Ginny Messina) provided a link to a podcast that I listened to. It's on food and body shaming. It's 45 minutes long and worth the listen. I say this because I am certainly guilty of doing both things. I want to improve in this area so that I can understand and accept people better. If you are like me in that regard, this podcast is a good place to start.

I really did have a lot of things that I wanted to write about this week but finally settled on the above items which are somewhat related. I mentioned a documentary in the beginning. I recommend that highly if you have Netflix and want to be horrified about sugar consumption in the US and Australia. It's a white knuckler-jaw-dropping kind of experience. And I wanted to say this in closing. Many of the posts that I read this week had comments attached. They were amazing. People seem to want to argue; seem to need to drive their viewpoints home and steamroll other people in the process. It's careless in my opinion. I write about veganism because that is what I am interested in but I know it isn't the only viewpoint. I know that others do things differently and I hope to be respectful of that even if I disagree. I would only add that no matter what your diet is, no matter your size or health situation, kindness and understanding will always win. Be compassionate to those around you (yes, even the animals!) You won't go wrong! Now go forth and have a good weekend!
Libby

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