To Your Health

With Halloween upon us and the holidays just around the corner, the incidence and consumption of sweet and gooey treats is much greater. Things like candy apples, bars and canes and pumpkin pies and fruit cakes are staples of the fall and winter season, when it has become customary to consume more than your fair share of sugar.
Despite the many public efforts to promote physical activity and good nutrition in recent years, and regardless of the constant warnings about the obesity crisis, Americans keep getting fatter and the increased risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease and tooth decay do little to stop consumers from ingesting sugar — in huge amounts. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average American consumes about 160 pounds of sugar every year or 46 teaspoons (almost one cup) of added sugar each day, which is about 550 to 650 calories worth. That’s more than four times the recommended limit!
Sugar and refined carbohydrates are undeniably linked to diabetes. Although consumption is not a predictor of risk, eating large quantities of sugar often goes hand in hand with obesity, a risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is caused by a combination of genetic and lifestyle factors. If you have a history of diabetes in your family, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) stresses the importance of eating a healthy meal plan and regular exercise to manage your weight.
So, the question is: What exactly is diabetes? It is our inability to effectively use the carbohydrates or sugar we eat, as fuel for our body. When we eat a meal, the digestive system breaks down carbohydrates into a simple form of sugar called glucose, which is released into the bloodstream. The hormone insulin, secreted by the pancreas, moves glucose from the blood into cells to be used as energy. Type 2 diabetics have impaired insulin secretion, insulin action, or both causing elevated blood glucose levels. To improve blood sugar control, diabetics should follow a consistent carbohydrate meal plan, get regular exercise to maintain a healthy weight, and work with their doctor if medication management is necessary.
Type 2 diabetes is also strongly associated with a lack of exercise and a poor diet — one that’s low in fiber and high in sugar, fat and animal products. This form of diabetes develops slowly, usually over several years, and rarely produces dramatic symptoms, which may indicate that many people with type 2 diabetes have no idea that they are sick. In fact, the ADA estimates that only half of Americans with type 2 diabetes have been diagnosed. And the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention discloses that the incidence of type 2 diabetes has risen by 33 percent in the past decade. Furthermore, complications related to diabetes are the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States.
To beat sugar cravings, start slow so that cutting back can be healthy and habit forming. Just as increased sugar consumption becomes addictive, it is the same to stop or curb its affects. Don’t skip meals because when your energy drops, your body begins to crave high-sugar foods for a quick energy boost. When a craving hits, eat natural sugars, such as a piece of fruit. The fiber it contains also helps to slow the absorption of sugar in your body and helps to keep your blood sugar from rising too quickly. If you have to have sugar, seek out sugar substitutes and use them in moderation. While sugar substitutes are generally safe to consume, some people with a rare condition called phenylketonuria should not use them.
And what about sugar and our teeth?
According to Medical News Today, Dental disease is the number one chronic disease of early childhood. It can be painful and can affect children’s nutritional intake and early development.
More than 51 million hours of school time are lost each year because of tooth decay and related problems. By observing a few simple strategies and using common sense this Halloween and throughout the holidays, parents can help protect their kids’ teeth and forge an attack on the large quantities of sugar found in trick-or-treat goodie bags.
So, this Halloween and throughout the holidays, develop a program for yourself and your family to promote healthy eating. On the day when ghouls and goblins go bump in the night, hand out stickers, pencils, toys and temporary tattoos or small granola bars, whole fruit or other healthy alternatives. Set limits about when candy can be eaten and how much candy is appropriate. Show your kids that it’s OK to eat candy in moderation as part of a healthy eating plan. And enjoy the abundance that the holiday season has to offer.


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