I find it extremely annoying that the west has gone sweet '“ that is, sickly sweet.
This occurs not just in mainstream food products, but in health food as well. Until recently, it was easy to find sugarless products in health foods stores, but several years ago when one major brand that contained sugar in every product entered the health food market, all the other brands began to mimic that by adding sugar to their foods, too. Now it's nearly impossible to find salad dressings, crackers, spaghetti sauce and cereals for example, without any sugar in them whatsoever.
Today people consume 40 more pounds per year '“ that's 40 MORE POUNDS '“ of sugar today than a generation ago*! This is almost double the amount in only 20 years' time. I find this shocking. Normally this fact would conjure images of people in fast food lines ordering 'super size' meals or over-indulging in desserts, but today the situation is much more prevalent than that. Sugar is hidden everywhere and runs rampant in most every food in the grocery store, health foods included. It's insidious!
Consider this: there are 10 teaspoons of sugar in every can of soda; one can a day can increase your risk of diabetes by 83%. And there are three teaspoons of sugar in every serving of salad dressing (multiplied by the number of servings you actually put on your salad). Ketchup has one teaspoon of sugar in every tablespoon of ketchup '“ that's one-third of its content! The list goes on and on.*
What I find even worse is that this situation now affects my choices, too. When health food store foods only included sugar in select products to enhance and provide a certain taste, shopping was easy. Now sugar is in everything. When I can't even buy salad dressing, spaghetti sauce or crackers because there aren't any choices without sugar (or to be factual here '“ just one choice of dozens), that's poor choice indeed. And bad taste, too!
In fact, I had a good laugh in the health food store today when I saw a spaghetti sauce brand with bold letters on its label: NO ADDED SUGAR. Obviously, someone else has noticed this dilemma, too (so bravo to you!).
While natural foods tend to use alternatives to white, refined sugar, the natural varieties increase one's sugar load and insulin output, too. Even agave is high on the glycemic index, meaning that it quickly raises blood sugar in the body. On top of that, processed simple carbohydrates actually act like sugar without fiber in our bodies since they convert to sugar very quickly. This includes all those crackers, cookies, chips, pretzels, power bars, juices, breads, muffins, on and on and on. In a natural food store, these products often occupy entire aisles!
Yes, sugar may represent love and comfort, but this really means that the craving for sweet reflects the need to fill a hole inside of us that was created by something else. Sweet foods will never fully satisfy or fill those holes. Instead, we are really looking for another type of sweetness to fill our lives.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the sweet taste nourishes the Earth element and its organs, the Spleen and Stomach. The Earth element is at the center of all the other elements, providing grounding, centering, identity, nourishment and focus. It's also our relationship with ourselves and ability to manifest our visions and inspirations. It enables us to digest ideas, cultivate our paths, fully commit to ourselves, develop our true identities, love ourselves and have staying power over our lifetimes. A little sweet strengthens these aspects, but in excess, it makes us 'sticky' '“ stuck and needy. In time this not only injuries our digestive processes, but impairs our abilities to develop strong identities as well.
Today, excess sugar is causing one of the fastest growing diseases: type II diabetes. Thankfully, 90% of it can be reversed simply through exercise and diet change. Warning signs of diabetes include: constant thirst, frequent urination, infections that don't heal, tingling in the toes and blurred vision. If you experience a few of these symptoms, it's time to make a change, especially if you smoke, have high belly fat, a sedentary lifestyle, and/or family history of diabetes, as all of these lead to type II diabetes.*
So I issue this challenge to the health food industry: make food products without added sugar again! It simply is not necessary. Let's bring true flavor back and nourish ourselves through our lives instead!
*According to Dr. Oz.