I love Coke!

If you know me personally hopefully you’re shocked at this title. Yes, true confession, I love Coca-Cola™…but only for laundry. We learned a trick in massage school. Washing your massage sheets in Coca-Cola™ every once in a while can help strip out the oil residue that can build up in the sheets. It’s the phosphorus that does the trick. We don’t buy pop to drink in our household, but sometimes we bring home a can or two from a potluck or party. If my husband doesn’t drink it right away, I sneak it over to the laundry room and treat my massage sheets to a drink of the fizzy stuff. So, if it’s good for stripping sheets of oil build-up, do you really want to drink it?

I’m lucky in that from a young age I never really cared for the taste of pop. My family drank plenty of pop and we always had it in the house. My son used to despise pop, thinking 7-Up™ was like medicine, only to be drunk when you’re sick and Coke was a yucky drink that only stupid grown-up’s drink like coffee and beer. Then, after a trip to Argentina he changed his mind – delicious was this exlicir he was surrounded with and offered at almost every meal. Yikes! Now we’ve slipped a bit in the pop department.

Originally pop was sweetened with sugar. High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is now the main sweetener in soda. I browsed through a fascinating book recently called Sweet Deception by Dr. Joseph Mercola & Dr. Kendra Pearsall (Nelson Books 2006). In it, the authors unpack the story of artificial sweeteners and their rise in our diets. I personally try to avoid artificial sweeteners, but I read with interest the first chapter about straight-up sugar. Turns out it’s harder to avoid artificial sweeteners than it used to be.

They argue that foods and drinks that contain HFCS don’t “stimulate the mechanisms that normally induce satiety, which would signal you to stop eating. Without these appetite-control mechanisms, your appetite has no shut-off signal. You can drink a sixty-four-ounce Big Gulp full of HFCS and your body will not let you know that it is full, or that you’ve eaten much at all. If you were to eat a similar amount of calories of real food, you would feel stuffed. For this reason, many researchers think that the ever-increasing use of HFCS is one of the primary causes of the obesity epidemic.” (p.16)

As summer approaches sugar has been on my mind. Sugar and healthy eating. I know I’ll be hanging out at home more and that scenario can easily translate into poor eating habits for me. I contacted my friend, Jill Brook, a nutritionist who works in La Cañada for some advice. I put to her this question: what advice would you give someone who might possibly be thinking about considering decreasing her intake of sugar? It takes a lot for me to warm up to the idea (like years, really). Here’s her response.

For many people, sugar is like crack cocaine, so moderation is harder than abstinence.  In my experience, the people who fail to conquer sugar are the ones who fail to treat it like an addictive substance.  The science is in.  For many, it’s addictive.  Food companies have trained us to think that sugar is an important, wholesome, harmless part of holidays, celebrations and everyday enjoyment.  That makes it hard for people who struggle with it to treat sugar as a serious health problem.

Here’s a link to her food tips blog, with a search criteria of sugar-related articles. Inspiring reading, let me tell you!

Have you noticed, like I have, that recently some products have been touting “made with Real Sugar”? What about real sugar? Did you know that it’s estimated that we consume, on average, 158 pounds of sugar per year. That’s per person!

Making a link between sugar and insulin, Mercola & Pearsall state:

Without a doubt the best way to prevent aging and degenerative disease is to keep your insulin levels in a low but healthy range. Every year, billions of dollars are spent in the antiaging industry when the most effective (and inexpensive) thing you can do to slow the aging process is keep your insulin levels normal by restricting your intake of grains and sugars and engaging in sufficient cardiovascular exercise. (pages 10-11)

There are some good reasons we crave sugar. Sweet Deception outlines 3 I’d like to highlight here:

  • sugar and other carbohydrates equal quick energy which we need to survive
  • sweet foods are safe foods (as opposed to poisonous foods)
  • and this gem: “Research studies indicate that sugar may be similar to morphine and heroin in its ability to increase opioids in your brain that produce pleasure. This increase in opioids is a major part of the physiology that fuels your addiction and the craving for sugar, which is why the sugar consumption rates are climbing each year.” Sounds like what Jill Brook was saying.

So back to my summer sugar-careful plans, here are some of my ideas:

  • load my kitchen counter with fruits
  • prepare quick vegetable and protein snacks & require myself to eat these first
  • make a batch of fruit-flavored but unsweetened tea each week to satisfy my sweet tooth
  • keep refreshing cold water handy to fill my tummy instead of boredom-eating
  • plan to eat a sweet every so often so that I’m not eating sweets all along the day

Any ideas you can throw my way? Please share your favorite sugar-curbing advice in the comments below. Happy summer!

P.S. Can’t resist sharing this from Sweet Deception. Describing saccharin (the first artificial sweetener introduced into the marketplace), the authors throw in this gem that made me laugh. Ever heard of these companies?

In 1901, a company called Monsanto was formed for the sole purpose of producing saccharin. By 1903, Monsanto began producing saccharin for an obscure new company called Coca-Cola. (page 21)