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fireplace1Who can image Christmas and New Year holidays without any sweets  moment of indulgence for our bodies and souls?  Let’s face it… keep it all in a good healthy balance is not easy but there are a few smart ways. My naturopath  office sent me a few ideas before I might clean my plate of sweets complete FIRST….

For the first time in our human history, sugar is harder to avoid than it is to obtain. In our not so distant past, sugar was hard to come by – we actually had to work strenuously for it!  Today, sugar is a major ingredient for the most consumed beverages, ketchups, savoury sauces, dressings, and most other processed foods. At least 3 popular children’s breakfast cereals have a higher sugar content per serving than a Twinkie!

With the increasing rates of child obesity and incidence of young children getting what was once called “adult onset” diabetes (type II), it is clear that we have taken our sweet time to get savvy about sugar.

Getting straight about what is high on the glycemic index (GI*) is not a simple affair; misinformation abounds.  For example, have you heard the idea that brown sugar is somehow more virtuous than white, or that agave syrup is a health food? Neither is true, but sources may claim the opposite either due to a lack of good information, or, worse still, a desire to mislead consumers in order to boost sales.

Love lookiesHere’s the crux of the matter: In nature, sugars and carbohydrates (our energy sources) come with vitamins, minerals, enzymes, proteins, fat and fiber – the bodybuilding, and metabolism/digestion-regulating components of our diet. In their whole form, sugars fuel our body function, while refined sugars, on the other hand, are devoid of nutrients. Regular high consumption of refined sugars actually depleted the body’s essential reserves of what it needs to function.  In addition, when we consume refined sugars alone without proteins, good fats, or fiber, they enter the bloodstream in a rush. This causes a flooding of insulin and other hormones to try to bring blood sugar levels down to acceptable levels. High and consistent levels of sugar intake will, over time, impair insulin, adrenal, and thyroid efficiency and tax the immune system.

To be clear, I am not suggesting that one should completely avoid indulging in the sweetness of life especially during the holiday season! Our natural inclination to get pleasure from sweet tasting foods is just that: completely natural. Anthropologists suggest that we are hard-wired to seek out sweetness. The theory is this:  a sweet-tasting food in nature signified that a plant was 1) less likely to be poisonous (bitter and poison were usual pairings in the African savannah), and 2) nutrient dense. While both may have been true for our ancient ancestors, neither applies to the world of mass-produced, highly processed sweet “foods” that we now crave, so it’s best to be moderate with those cravings!

My recommendation for minimizing the adverse impacts of sweeteners is this:

Choose more wholesome sweeteners such as honey or maple syrup, eat them in moderation, and make sure to include protein, fiber or healthy fat in your meals or snacks so that the entry of glucose into the bloodstream is slower. This approach allows for a balanced life with sweetness and good health for the holiday season and beyond!

Source of wisdom: Dr. Heidi Lescanec, ND