People of faith observe Lent to prepare themselves for the grandest religious event of their entire belief, Easter. Weeks before this holy day, tradition states that depriving oneself of a simple pleasure prepares them to celebrate their victorious Savior, as well as, chocolate bunnies.
Deliberate avoidance of habits, healthy and unhealthy, occur during Lent. Whatever your personal rationale may be, consider abstaining from foods that add calories but very little nutrition.
Sugar, specifically added sugar, supplies energy to the body. The body stores and produces it when needed. All carbohydrate foods eventually break down into sugar in the blood where it is used to fuel the body. Another name for sugar is glucose.
Energy provided by sugars from fruits, vegetables, milk products and starches are combined with other nutrients. Pure sugar supplies energy but very little additional nutrition. Consider avoiding foods and drinks that have more sugar than nutrients.
The 2015-2020 U.S. Dietary Guidelines suggest that excessive sugar intake has been recognized as a detriment to good health. There are many different names, types and forms of sugar.
Sugar is listed on a Nutrition Food Label but it is often in disguise. Look for other names for sugar: honey, agave, organic cane sugar, tubinado, coconut sugar, evaporated cane, molasses, high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, sorghum and maltodextrin. The list is very long and confusing, don’t get lulled into a sugar coma by sweet talk translated into a chemical language.
Humans crave sugar, especially when mixed with fat. Together they trigger the release of feel-good hormones in the body. This stimulates the same area of the brain that is activated by other addictive substances. Avoiding sugar during Lent doesn’t predict a period of despair and doom. These feel-good hormones just need to be stimulated another way, like exercise.
Currently the average American consumes more than 100 grams of added sugar daily; some surveys say at least 3 pounds per week. The new dietary guidelines recommend no more than 50 grams or less than 1 pound weekly. The challenge is to limit added sugar consumption to no more than 25 grams a day of added sugar.
After enjoying the sweetness of the beautiful cakes commemorating my recent retirement I chose to avoid all added sugars. I fought the urge to dive into hidden chocolates for four days. Then the addictive temptation of sugar consumed me until I consumed two delicious foil wrapped chocolate caramel tidbits.
The taste was magnified as I allowed them to melt in my mouth. Guilt immediately seeped in until I realized that my quick sweetness fix was controlled to satisfy my craving for sugar.
The taste of sugar is a learned behavior. Substituting with artificial sweeteners may help to conquer a craving but avoid switching from real sugar to fake sugar. The body may revolt with gastrointestinal rage, bloating, diarrhea or constipation.
With the Lenten season upon us consider the sacrifice of controlling sugar consumption. It is an exercise in mindful eating habits.
Bobbie Randall is a registered, licensed dietitian, certified diabetes educator in Wooster, Ohio. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.