by Carol Belanger, BA, RM, BHS
Many have seen the internet photos of the numbers of stacked sugar cubes representing the amount of sugar in various products we consume. I remember feeling horrified the first time I viewed this series of photos, even though I knew these products had a fair amount of sugar in them. For example:
Product Sugar Equivalent shows in cubes:
Small bottle coke (250ml) 16 ½
Ben and Jerry’s ice cream small tub 19 ½
Vitamin Water 7
1 cinnabun 14
Tall can Arizona ice tea 18
Small box raisins 7 ½
3 chocolate chip cookies 2 ¾
I asked my kids recently if they could eat a sugar cube. They answered yes. My husband explained that it had been a real treat to be given if not a whole then a partial cube of sugar to suck on. So in my efforts to impress upon my kids that they didn’t know how many sugar cubes they would have to eat to equal their treats, I explained that the bottle of coke that is a treat for them has 16 ½ cubes worth of sugar in it. Loosely in the bottle, the pile comes up almost to the bottle of the label! Their reply was, ‘So.’ Reflecting their complete lack of understanding of the problem.
They understood better when I told them that their liver helps with digestion. That it would convert sugar to glycogen and return it to the bloodstream a little at a time over the course of the day to keep their energy going through the day, signaled by the pancreas. But if they ate too much sugar or carbs at one time, the liver would convert it to fat instead and store it in the body. And that later it would take more of their energy to convert their fat stores to energy and they would likely feel more tired and want to just eat again. With so much emphasis on child obesity rates, plus peer pressure, there is quite a lot of awareness at the school level about being a healthy body size and structure. But energy levels are not understood by them.
So I then explained, that if they did some exercise – specifically yoga or qigong, they could Cultivate energy for themselves without food, or food conversion. This required more explanation.
Both yoga and qigong move the energy flow through your body more efficiently. They engage the participant to breathe in more oxygen and also to direct energy flow into and throughout the body. This feels good, releases blocks to energy flow like areas of tension and inflammation, and supports all of the systems of the body to work at a better level of health. It nourishes the body to do these activities. It Takes more energy to support systems of the body when they are unhealthy and not functioning well.
So we keep coming back to energy level, energy balance, and the inputs and outputs of energy.
Sugar is a source of energy, no doubt about it. It gets absorbed quickly and easily and provides pretty quick conversion to energy. It’s the reason we crave a chocolate bar, cookies, coke, or coffee (sugar’s evil twin is caffeine – but that’s another topic). The trouble is the way it messes with not only the liver and the pancreas functioning properly, but with whole systems of the body as well which prefer a state of balance of homeostasis and not a boat load of sugar every time we’re feeling tired.
And we can’t forget to mention, that research-proven carcinogenic sugar substitutes cause other problems, namely, chemicals found in the body that don’t belong there, (again, different topic).
There is in fact 4 ½ cubes of sugar in a good sized slice of watermelon. It provides a form of sugar that is more healthily digested, still converted pretty quickly and can be a part of a regular day of eating. The key is to have a look, maybe keep a food journal for a few days to see how many of the things you eat and drink over the course of the day have sugar in them, and whether they are spread out as well. One hint: Processed food and drinks are nearly always adding more to a lot more sugar to your day than you would get by preparing your own food and choosing the ingredients. You can review your food journal with a Naturopath to get nutritional help.
We need healthy food and drink, nourishing exercise (aerobic + anaerobic), to enable us to sleep well, to do the activities (hopefully work And creative stuff) we do each day.
It’s still the same simple time-honoured formula: consume well+rest sufficiently+variety of activity=healthy me…… ‘You have heard of that old adage right kids?’…. ‘kids?’ oh right, their attention span is about the length of time as sugar conversion… (sigh).