Is Sugar the New Tobacco?

A little over a year ago, as part of my breast cancer treatment and recovery, I met with a dietitian to talk about my diet, more specifically, my love of sweets. She had a few suggestions for me, but the one that hung in the air was to cut my sugar intake. I was a chocoholic. An ice cream addict. A sugar junkie. But, to get myself in the best health possibly, I pledge my allegiance to the Better Safe than Sorry camp and vowed to not consume more than 25 grams of added sugar per day. This, my friends, is not impossible; it is actually quite doable.

Sugary-Candy@KellyGropp

The 25 gram recommendation is not a special medical diet. It is not a special diet of any type. I call it normal sugar consumption because it’s what the USDA recommends. For everyone. This is not a low sugar diet—it is what should be everybody’s norm. This information came to me from a registered dietitian affiliated with Duke University Health System, but take a look at some of the other resources who back it up as well:

The American Heart Association, www.heart.org, recommends limiting added sugars to no more than half of your daily discretionary calories allowance. For most American women, that’s no more than 100 calories per day, or about 6 teaspoons (25 grams) of sugar. For men, it’s 150 calories per day, or about 9 teaspoons (40 grams). The AHA recommendations focus on all added sugars, without singling out any particular types such as high-fructose corn syrup.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, www.cnpp.usda.gov/DietaryGuidelines, reiterates the 6 teaspoons for women/9 teaspoons for men guideline.

World Health Organization: CBSNEWS.com reports that the WHO recommends a sugar intake of 5 percent of your daily calorie intake. For an adult of a normal body mass index (BMI), that works out to about 6 teaspoons–or 25 grams–of sugar per day.

I could go on, citing the Mayo Clinic, the LIVESTRONG organization, and medical journals, but I think you get my point—this is not me and a bunch of made-up websites making a crazy statement about sugar. This is the real deal folks.

If you’re still not taking this seriously, chew on this: it was in 1964 when the U.S. Surgeon General released the first report stating that cigarette smoking was a cause of lung and laryngeal cancer in men, a probable cause of lung cancer in women, and the most important cause of chronic bronchitis. Yes, the tobacco companies continued to market hard, and it seemed people turned a deaf ear to the information that could have saved lives. A lot of lives.

Today we have access to information every second of our lives. The food industry markets sugar even more aggressively than tobacco marketed cigarettes, but this time we have the data at our fingertips. No excuses. This time, shame on us for ignoring article after article, report upon report, and shaking our heads at the rate of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and cancer in the U.S. as we pop open sodas, unwrap chocolate bars, and indulge in sweets on a daily basis. And that’s just our overt sugar intake. If you don’t take 15 seconds to read a food label, you’re likely ingesting even more sugar. For example, there are 10 grams of sugar in 1/2 cup of Prego Traditional Italian Sauce. That’s nearly half your allowance for the day ladies.

The bottom line is, I know too many people who have battled cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. Some have won and some have not. You might argue that it’s genetics, and certainly there is that, but when the U.S. Government advises that sugar consumption is linked to each of these diseases, don’t you think we ought to listen? 1964 is when the government warned us about smoking and cancer. Few listened. I have to ask, is sugar the new tobacco?

Cheers to your health,
Kelly

Five Foods that Taste Sweeter After I Nixed Sugar

It’s been over a year since I significantly reduced my sugar intake, and I am most surprised at how foods taste differently now. I used to consume a lot of sugar, and my guess is that I’m experiencing something akin to when a smoker kicks the habit and can finally taste something other than tar and nicotine. Now that my taste buds are free from their sugary shackles, these five foods taste sweeter to me than ever before.

  • Walnuts – I add these little gems to organic, unsweetened cereal and they make all the difference. I toss them on salads and into plain yogurt along with some raisins. Now I can taste their natural sweetness. Surprise! Even better, they contain omega-3 fat, vitamin E, and antioxidants.
  • Dark Chocolate (85% or higher) – what used to taste utterly bitter now tastes like sweet, cocoa decadence. When I sample milk chocolate, I can’t believe I ever ate that stuff; it tastes cheap, manufactured, and waxy. Dark chocolate not only tastes of indulgence, it’s high in vitamins and minerals, and studies have shown that it lowers your blood pressure and can harden tooth enamel.
  • Honey – I use it sparingly now because it tastes so sweet. While I used to squeeze, squeeze, squeeze the bottle, now I barely drizzle and am just as satisfied.
  • Carrots – who knew carrots were sweet? Okay, you all knew it and I’m late to the party! Carrots are so delightfully sweet already, only a sugar addict would glaze them. And they’re loaded with beta-carotene which the body converts to vitamin A.
  • Butter – a good smear of butter on any kind of bread (white, wheat, whole grain) will calm my sweet tooth. Has to be the real deal though–no margarine for me. Butter has suffered a bad rap for decades, but is making a comeback due to new studies that indicate it’s not the criminal we once thought. We are, however, still advised to use butter in moderation.
Walnuts contain omega-3 fat, vitamin E, and antioxidants
Dark Chocolate with 88% Cocoa
3 ounces contains a total of 10 grams of sugar (that’s less than 0.6 grams per square)
In comparison, a 1.85 ounce Snickers bar contains 27 grams of sugar
Good old sweet, creamy butter
      So there you have it. Healthy foods that taste great and take care of sweet cravings when they hit. That’s a win-win-win in my cookbook. Happy eating!
      Cheers!
      Kelly

The Down-Side of Clean Eating

I’ve been yapping about clean eating for about a year, and I can’t say enough about it.  My energy level is up, I sleep better, and I assume those are both a result of better health in general.  So what’s the problem?  I fell off the wagon this weekend.  Woe is me.

If you’ve spent any time with me, you know I eat, and I eat often.  Before the clean eating, I enjoyed a fairly disgusting diet.  Fast food, endless amounts of sugar, and greasy everything.  If it was breaded and deep-fried, it was on my plate; if it was sugary, it was in my belly.

I cut fast food entirely.  After not having it for so long, it isn’t even appetizing to me now.  I cut sugar drastically – I stick to the USDA recommendation of 20 to 25 grams of added sugar per day.  I limit fried foods to a few times a month.  And really, of the three food groups that used to comprise my diet, I only miss the sugar.

But last night at dinner (celebrating my one year cancer-free milestone!) I had dessert.  Actually, I had two desserts.  Key Lime pie and Tiramisu.  They were delish.

A celebration of this magnitude called for dessert!
Check out the woman in green on the right photo bombing us!

Then today for lunch I went to BurgerFi, which I don’t consider fast food (but maybe I’m wrong).  They use all natural, free-range beef.  That sounds a whole lot better than anything the usual fast food suspects serve.  So I ordered up a cheeseburger and onion rings.  This is what I got:

Do you see how big those rings are??
This thing is bigger than my hand!

The burger was good and I had no problem making it disappear.  The onion rings were a problem.  They were huge!  I used to love onion rings specifically for their grease factor.  These were pretty darn greasy.  I ate two of the five rings and was done.  The greasiness was a huge turn-off.  Can’t do it any more.

By 3pm I was feeling like Morgan Spurlock in Super Size Me.  Obviously, in just two meals I’m not talking about weight gain or health problems, I’m referring to the colossal tummy ache and overall feeling of yuckiness.  It’s nearly 8pm now and I’m still feeling yucky.  I’m talking really yucky.  I had toast and hot tea for dinner.  It’s likely the combination of dessert last night and the grease today, but right now I don’t ever want another onion ring again.  Sorry BurgerFi, you should have got me when I was a bad [food] girl.

So, as much as I love eating clean, I’ll confess to the down-side: you can’t go back (at least not without some pain).  Once you’ve gotten away from the bad food, it just might sound nasty to you or it might actually make you feel awful.  I’m pretty sure I’ve been cured of my cravings for greasy food.

But isn’t that a good thing?  If you’ve been trying to change your diet and feel like you’ll never succeed, you will.  Know that you will!

Cheers!
Kelly

Continuing the Fight – Now that the breast cancer treatment is over (mostly)

It’s been awhile. Remember the post about technological frustration? About a month after that my laptop crashed. Thank goodness all of my photos were able to be recovered! I’ve been lying in wait for the upcoming tax-free weekend to purchase its replacement, so I’ve been sans computer. Tonight I’m using Ken’s Compaq Presario PC tower, circa ___?

1 day before crash

Anywho, now my cancer treatment is finalized and my doctors have begun the process of releasing me back into the wild. You know, not being stuck with needles, not having heavy equipment dangling over me, not having people huddled behind lead-lined walls while radiation is shot at me from various angles. My last doc appointment was July 18, and aside from the BRCA testing, I don’t see anyone for another few months. It felt weird at first, like I left the house without my phone, but I’m adjusting nicely.

However, as I mentioned a couple of posts ago, when all the fanfare is over, one might wonder what to do next. It’s a bit of a letdown. There’s no more commotion being made of curing you. How can this be? What can I do? What can I do?

Well, like I said before, diet and exercise. Although I’ve been blessed with a freakishly high metabolism my entire life, and as wonderful as that has been, it has allowed me to survive on a diet of junk. It also has allowed me to skate by with little to no exercise. My metabolism was an enabler! Neither of these lifestyle factors are healthy, and both can increase your risk of cancer. So today we’ll talk diet; next time exercise. Don’t worry, I’m not lecturing, just sharing my journey 🙂

When I say diet, I don’t mean restricting my intake, I mean eating fabulous food that is not junk. And that’s no oxymoron. I drastically changed my diet from the get-go (diagnosis). It’s not a special cancer diet – it’s the diet we are all supposed to be eating anyway. I know, groan groan. Lots of fresh fruit and veggies, minimal red meat, more chicken and fish, and here’s the big one: no more than 25g of added sugar per day. Ugh. That one hit me like a wrecking ball. It was tough at first, but once I got used to it and learned what glorious foods I could eat, I’ve been doing just fine!

From what I understand, research is showing that some cancer is fueled, in a round-about way, by sugar (more specifically by the insulin your body produces as a result of consuming sugar and how your body processes that insulin). There is more science to it than that, and it is becoming clear that it is more complex than initially thought. Sugar does not necessarily equal cancer, but there is a connection, and after talking with a licensed dietitian, I’m sticking to the 25g/day regimen.

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on tv. I am a secretary. I work in an industry that continues to use the term secretary. I am in no way making any recommendations to you about your health or how to manage it. I did lots of research and then I took that information and resulting questions straight to my doctor and dietitian and got the plan for me. Tax, title, and license fee separate. Batteries not included. Etc.!

Now I limit my sweets to two squares of dark chocolate per day, which has become a truly decadent treat. I buy 85% or higher cocoa content (the higher the cocoa, the lower the sugar) and I have two moments every day – after lunch and after dinner – when I am absolutely lost in the enjoyment of chocolate. Before, I ate chocolate like it was sustenance. A full-size chocolate bar and/or a cupcake per day were pretty much standard. Inhaled. Phoebe, my sweet furry doggy daughter (but we call her Puppy Brother because of the AT&T commercial – ha!), sometimes swallows treats like pills and I’m baffled at how she can possibly enjoy them. Well, that’s how I was treating sugar. No mas! I used to be addicted to sugar; now I have a healthy appreciation for and savor sugar.

One of my favorite chocolates.  Don’t
worry, I still had a cupcake on my birthday!

At first I lost a few pounds, but my weight has leveled off back to pre-diagnosis. Once I figured out all of the yummy foods that were available to me, I quickly put the weight back on. I love food, and have always loved food. I don’t know that I could ever “diet” in the sense of restricting my intake. But when choosing healthy foods over unhealthy foods, I have learned that I can often have more of it and thus, enjoy the deliciousness even more!

And let’s talk quality for a minute. For someone who appreciates food, I would much rather have an entire fried egg, avocado, and cheese on a whole wheat English muffin than a 1.7 ounce bag of Reese’s Pieces. There is so much more to savor, so many more flavors, and – here’s the bonus – I feel full afterward. The Reese’s Pieces, Kit Kat, or whatever I previously had my mitts on, would last less than a minute and did nothing to make me feel full. I felt kind of used. Now I’m eating real food, enjoying it, and feeling full (usually; I can still be a bottomless pit at times). I feel like someone pulled the curtain back and gave me the secret to enjoy food even more!

I’ve been finding some awesome recipes for delicious, healthy foods and am excited to share them with you! I’ll throw one in every now and then and I hope you’ll give them a try. Some are full-fledged recipes for those who like to cook (my hand is raised!), and others are quick and simple little fixes if you’re not into all that “I want my own Food Network show” kind of stuff. Here are a few of the quick dishes if you’re in a rush or just don’t want to fuss:

Leftover asparagus, scrambled eggs, and Havarti
grilled in a whole wheat tortilla. Season as you wish!
Who doesn’t love a salad? Red leaf lettuce, avocado,
blueberries, sunflower seeds, and naked goat cheese.
And a good book to go with it!
Breakfast for dinner. Nuff said.

Next up is exercise. Who out there knows I hate it? Well, as Mr. Dylan astutely noted, “The Times They Are a-Changin,” and so am I!

Cheers!
Kelly