It’s amazing how losing a loved one can change the direction of your thoughts in a heartbeat.
When I was younger, my dad would take us to my uncle’s house to play with my cousin Jarrod. He loved playing with anything that had to do with the military. I also have an older brother, so I definitely had no problem playing with boys. We always had a great time together. As we got older, the business of life got in the way and our main source of contact was Facebook, which I’m very thankful for.
A few years ago, I found out that Jarrod, then in his early thirties, had passed away from diabetes. I was heartbroken. I had spoken to him through Facebook just recently. Flashbacks of memories with him started to flood my heart and mind. Then began the questions: Why? What? How? None of that really mattered. However, I wanted to do something about it. After the passing of my cousin my mission became to educate others in staying healthy and fit, to prevent health issues such as diabetes.
I realized that people can do more than just hope that they don’t develop diabetes, they can try to prevent it. So let’s talk about sugar. A few months ago I did a local workshop called All About Sugar. I learned a lot in my research and found that there are many names (60 in fact) for sugar in our food items such as sucrose, maltose, and fructose. Really, any of those -ose words, and a few more, all mean sugar. So what is a simple way to tell the good sugars from the bad sugars? How much is too much? Why do we even crave sugar?
There are two types of sugars: added sugars and free sugars. Added sugars are in things like cookies, cakes, and candy. Then we have the more natural free sugars found in fruit and milk. Between these two types of sugar, the average American consumes up to 22 teaspoons of sugar a day. For visualization, that’s 22 sugar cubes! According to Kris Gunnars, an expert in evidence-based nutrition, the average male should typically consume about 37.9 grams (9 tsp.) and the average female 25 grams (6 tsp.) of sugar a day. Minimizing our sugar intake can be our goal each day, along with consuming the good sugars while steering away from the bad sugars. Remember, it’s a goal! You can do it!
Sometimes our body wants sugar because we have trained our taste buds to identify that as good food, when in reality, we may actually be experiencing a vitamin deficiency. Try switching to leafy greens, avocados, nuts, grapes, chicken, beef, fish, eggs, cranberries and other vitamin rich foods to train your taste buds to desire the more natural foods from the earth. I like to go by the 90/10 rule. Eat 90% healthy the majority of the time, then you aren’t doing so much harm by occasionally having something sweet for the other 10%.
There are a lot of foods that can satisfy your sweet tooth. These include sweet veggies, yams, carrots, and various fruits. You can even include sweeter spices, such as cloves, cinnamon, or coriander to some of your recipes. Sometimes our taste buds naturally crave sweet things, and it is definitely okay to satisfy them within moderation! It’s all about balance. Try having 1/2 cup of sweet potato with full-fat plain yogurt or sour cream, or 1/2 cup of squash with one tablespoon of butter and one tablespoon of ground flax seed sprinkled on top.
According to the Center for Disease Control, more than 29 million Americans live with diabetes and 86 million have developed prediabetes. In 2013, diabetes was the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S., and is the leading cause of kidney failure, lower-limb amputation, and adult-onset blindness.
Simply controlling our daily sugar consumption can prevent us from becoming part of these statistics. Let’s do something now and together inform the next generation to consider the pleasures of natural sugars when consumed in balance and moderation.
Enjoy this low-sugar take on a Pumpkin Spice Latte:
- 1 small can coconut milk
- 1 cup cooled, strong brewed coffee
- 1/3 cup organic pumpkin puree
- 1 Tbsp. honey (or maple syrup)
- 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
- Optional: Top with some coconut cream :)
1. Scoop off the top (thicker part) from the coconut milk, and blend it with 1 tsp of honey to use for topping later.
2. Measure out 1 c. of the remaining coconut milk and combine it with the coffee, pumpkin, honey, cinnamon, and pumpkin pie spice. Blend well.
3. Fill two glasses about 2/3 full with ice cubes. Pour mixture into each glass and enjoy!