No, this is not an autobiographical post; those should be longer and tend to disprove sweetness. This is, however, a post about the most addicting substance on Earth, namely sugar. “Most”, not because of it’s strength, rather it’s ubiquity. Sugar is present in the majority of our grocery store processed food comestibles; would that world peace had the same clever marketing team. But what do we know of these mono and disaccharides, these cute cubes of sweetness on the cafe table, this organic free trade GMO-free juice from vegetal cane? Let us make a brief survey here.
The western world, in 2017, is notably well-apprised of the benefits and drawbacks of sugar consumption, even within common core educational facilities. On the pro side, sugar is…well…sweet. It makes what we like to eat more likable perhaps. There is also food preservation, a February 2006 article in Scientific American explains how sugar (and salt) may be used “to inhibit or prevent growth of food-borne pathogens such as Salmonella or Clostridium botulinum when properly applied.” Whereas salted pork legs, such as jamón serrano, are enjoyed without licking off all the salt used in the curing process, the same discretion seems less likely when sugar is used. I’ve seen occidentals consume a jar of sugar-preserved fruits, then drizzle the remaining liquid over bread or pancakes or ice cream. If a jar of pickled cucumbers was only mildly seasoned, I maybe could stomach drinking the liquid. Maybe. Sickly sweet preservation syrups go to my head, not to mention my teeth; this is the result of growing up in a culture that has only very recently given in to sugary sweets…promoted by the west no less. Mother had a special treats cabinet for which she alone kept a key, doling out one square each of a Hershey’s chocolate bar, per week, to my siblings and me. One. That’s how sugarless we were only thirty years ago in South Korea. Salt, conversely, is heavily used and shows up everywhere in my culture, from soy sauces and kimchi preparations to lunch table condiment racks. No surprises here.
“All things in moderation”. Whoever said that should be widely celebrated. Actually, as my husband now points out, it was Ralph Waldo Emerson who said, “moderation in all things”, but, being shuffle-averse, we rarely quote it so. We are not, as a species, averse nearly as much as we ought to be to liberally stimulating ourselves with heaps of sugars for all of our waking hours. The known health fallout ascribed to over-consumption of sugar are before us constantly. William Dufty, in his 1975 classic, Sugar Blues, shouts from the rooftops: “It has been proved that (1) sugar is a major factor in dental decay; (2) sugar in a person’s diet does cause overweight; (3) removal of sugar from diets has cured symptoms of crippling, world-wide diseases such as diabetes, cancer and heart illnesses.” Doctor Nancy Appleton’s 1996 offering, Lick the Sugar Habit, lists the following direct effects of sugar consumption: dental caries, hypertension, hyperactivity, long-term lethargy, headaches, poor mental function, depression, allergies (including food), poor digestion, constipation, asthma, psoriasis, candidiasis, PMS, reduced immune responsiveness, shall I continue? How about blindness, cataracts, anxiety, appendicitis, emphysema, pregnancy toxemia, eczema, cardiovascular disease, hemorrhoids, varicose veins, Crohn’s disease, kidney stones, cystic fibrosis, arthritis, osteoporosis, gall stones, multiple sclerosis, irritable bowel syndrome, accelerated aging and premature death? Oh, come on, just a few more: atherosclerosis, pancreas damage, hormonal imbalance, and all manner of ailments associated with fermentation in the digestive tract. This is a partial list, for brevity. The above publications are well-established, the truth is out there, the truth is old. With direct effects such as these, those little cafe packets should come with at least a warning: sprinkle responsibly.
It has been said that the single easiest thing the average person can do to improve his or her health is to add a single raw vegetable or fruit to their daily diet. An apple a day. Then add another, and another. We consider adding good habits easier than striving to break bad ones, crowding out the undesirables being the idea. I have found this to be true for me. If we are unwilling to do the very least to improve our health, we really should expect no sympathy when, sure as bears sleep in the woods (family friendly blog), we succumb to the natural consequences of our inaction. God will not be mocked, we cannot reap except what was sown.