Sunday, January 19, 2014

My Husband's Personal Chef: Sugar Basics

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I am my husband's personal chef.  Given his unique relationship with food, this is no small task. Without descending into the depths and details of his unique relationship, it suffices to say that we try to stick to a Paleo diet at home - no gluten, no sugar, and very little dairy.  Especially no gluten.
Figuring out what we needed to do to help Lance feel better has been a five year journey (extending the length of our marriage and prior).  As part of the Toler children's Christmas present to them, I recently shared with my sweet in-laws some of the things we have learned throughout our journey.  I thought it might make sense to share some of that here, too (Mom and Dad Toler, hope you don't mind!).

Sugar Basics
We have become something of experts on the sugar front.  This we started simply by reading labels.  The US Food and Drug Administration and whatever the British equivalent is helpfully labels the amount of sugars derived from each product’s carbohydrates.  From this we soon learned that sugar is in many, many things.  Some of the things in which sugar is found is surprising. 
The most obvious suspects are products for which sugar is listed as an ingredient.  Then there are the “healthier” sugar substitutes, including high fructose corn syrup, cane syrup or juice, honey, molasses, figs, and fruit juice—especially fruit juice from concentrate.  All of these “count” as sugar, as it all breaks down to the same chemical complex—glucose.  Then there is the class of sugars which aren’t suppose to be sugars, but which are—agave, stevia, aspartame, sucralose, neotame, acesulfame potassium, and saccharin.  We learned not to be fooled by fancy names, “no added sugar” labels, or high prices.  Basically, we learned, if something taste sweet, it has sugar in it. 

In addition to the sweet stuff, “sugar,” or the chemical form into which it is metabolized—glucose—is also in foods high in carbohydrates.  For these foods, we learned to reference a Glycemic Index, or GI.  I have pasted one here that is moderately helpful.  From it, we noted that many foods, including vegetables, are high in GI—carrots, corn, potatoes.  Interestingly, if something is high in protein and fat, it will have a lower GI score, because the digestion process is slowed down by the fat.  The same amount of insulin is required to digest it were the fat not present, but less in short intervals, allowing the body to "catch up" in its insulin response.  Pizza, for instance, is a lot better for you than a stack of French fries, but of course both are worse than berries, apples, broccoli, and (sugarless) peanut butter.

From the charts like the one above, we learned that most of what we were eating – the fast stuff—was high GI.  Gradually, we essentially eliminated these foods.  

To be continued...

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