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Cut sugar for Lent

LENT IS a time for re-examination and penitence.

From Ash Wednesday to Holy Thursday, many Christians fast and pray and abstain from many loved foods.

There is one substance, sugar, which has made an addict out of many of us. It gives us a high and comforts us as it stimulates the release of dopamine - the feel good hormone. This source of excess calories in many diets is a large contributor to the obesity epidemic.

Excess sugar intake can contribute to other disease conditions such as elevated LDL cholesterol, resistance to insulin and even a condition called fatty liver. Sugar, a carbohydrate, is important in nutrition and is found naturally in many foods such as fruits and vegetables. It contributes to our vital energy source for survival. Sugars of many forms are broken down to glucose on which the body relies for 'fuel'.

Most of our processed foods contain added sugars - breads, sauces, drinks and even medication - we are surrounded. Because of the pervasiveness of sugar, our consumption and dependence have ballooned, and there are many who want to get off the fast moving train to disaster but find it difficult.

KICKING THE SUGAR HABIT

Week one:
Reduce the added sugars such as in drinks, porridge and teas, condensed milk etc. to a minimum of about two teaspoons per day

Week two:
It will take will power to get past the craving but prevent periods of hunger by consuming whole food sources of carbohydrates, have proteins with your meals, keep hydrated by drinking water, and exercise.

Week three:
Sweeten without added sugars. Add small amounts of dried fruits such as raisins, for example, to cold cereals. Eat a fresh, ripe banana or slices of orange to flavour your water. And if you must, there are sweeteners such as stevia, agave which can be used in very small amounts because they are much sweeter than sucrose, and even sucralose.

Week four:
Eliminate those other added sugars you often buy - read labels. Sugar is in sauces and snack items. They end in 'ose', and 'ol', fructose, maltose etc.

Week five:
Use spices and herbs for flavouring - cinnamon, ginger, mint, limes etc.

Week six:
Fruits contribute other nutrients including sugars, but if you replace added sugars with an over consumption of fruits and juices you will be back to square one.

If you succeed these 40 days, then you should continue to keep added sugars at bay, the benefits are priceless.

Rosalee M. Brown is a registered dietitian/nutritionist who operates Integrated Nutrition and Health Services; email: yourhealth@gleanerjm.com.

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