The single most dramatic change I have made in my life in recent years has been the reduction of sugar in my diet. I usually shy away from making gloating statements like that but the benefits I’ve enjoyed from this simple change afford such promotion. I acknowledge that my genes may dictate a sugar sensitivity but I’d be challenged to find many individuals that have no concept of a sugar-low. For much of my life I did nothing to moderate my sugar intake. My energy levels and general mood fluctuated wildly. I had taken it as a fact of life that I experience several drops in my state of mind and energy level throughout the day, some greater than others. And the people around me seemed to also be all over the place so I had no reason to believe that there was something peculiar about my energy rollercoaster. These occilations would limit my ability to focus, they’d make me irritable toward others and compromise my level of engagement in any activity that didn’t serve my own need for relief, relief from (among other factors) the perpetual insulin shock I would subject myself to on a
When we don’t feel well we become somewhat introverted so that, ideally, we can concentrate our attention on “fixing” ourselves internally. This introversion may lead to various antisocial behaviors such as avoiding company, anxiety in groups, being indisposed to help others, laziness, irritability, intolerance, and anger. If high sugar intake (among other dietary excesses and
insufficiencies) is greatly responsible for creating this state of introversion, the average American diet is terribly antisocializing. I was able to make this connection between sugar and irritability when my father was diagnosed with diabetes. My father has spent his entire life eating rich high-glycemic Cuban cuisine and pastries loaded with sugar and drinking Cuban coffee which more closely resembles syrup (think double shot espresso with a heaping tablespoon or two of refined sugar). I felt compelled to consider my interaction with sugar.
Indeed I was not far from my dad’s intake, so I decided to conduct an experiment. I banned refined sugar completely, stopped sweetening my tea, cut out the sweet beverages including iced teas, vitamin water type bevs., even juices. I started limiting the amount of times a week I ate out because restaurants loooooove sugar, even in things you wouldn’t expect to have sugar as an ingredient. After a short while I started noticing a steadiness in my mood that I’d no idea I could achieve. I felt good. I didn’t feel euphoric like one does while eating a double fudge brownie but I felt good and, best of all, steady. I found that I had more mental space to pay attention to others and their needs. I had more energy that lasted longer and had less trouble taking on tasks that I knew would require that extended energy.
Why so much sugar? I am not prepared to make definitive statements as to why there is so much sugar in the North American, Cuban (let’s just call it the New World) diet, but I can offer some observations and reflections:
• Sugar is a nutritive preservative. In diluted form it is a perfect nutrient for bacteria and other pathogens but at high enough concent rations it’s too much for these microbes. Concentrated sugar preserves food – think of the amazing shelf life of raw honey.
• Subsides – HF Corn Syrup is a panacea for the corn industry. Not only does it render a semiaddictive substance from a subsidized simple grain [corn], but the type of sugar rendered diminishes our ability to feel full. In other
^ords, you can consume a whole lot of it and other food before you feel like you’ve had enough.