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Killer Sugar Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! I remember years ago when my daughter was about 11. They were studying nutrition in her 6th grade class - which is actually amazing when you think about it - and the teacher read them parts of a book called "Killer Salt". It made a huge impression on Kriste and for weeks after this lesson, we all got the disapproving looks and the disgusted sighs if anyone's hand dared to reach for the salt mill. Eventually, all of the salt in the house just . . . disappeared.

What's my point here? My point is let's be this rabid and compulsive with our avoidance of SUGAR, a far more destructive condiment than salt. More than 60 million people in this country now have diabetes - the kind that is directly caused by too much sugar - Type II (Adult Onset) diabetes. Even children are now being diagnosed with adult onset diabetes. Here's some of the bad stuff about sugar: It can suppress the immune system, it can leech the minerals out of your body, especially calcium and magnesium, sugar can cause kidney damage, it reduces the good cholesterol (HDL), sugar weakens eyesight, sugar causes irritable bowel and heartburn, it can cause arthritis, asthma and tooth decay.

It can make you fat and make you look old. It's also fabulously provocative and seductive. I don't know anyone who doesn't love the taste of sugar. Sugar is a metaphor for the "sweetness" missing in our lives; the reward for the bad day, the good day, the festive holiday; it can make us high and happy. It's fun to tuck into a huge piece of pecan pie with vanilla ice cream at Thanksgiving. It's alcohol without the buzz.

Unfortunately, there is no Betty Ford Clinic for M&M's, no Antabuse for Pecan Pie, nor AA for Krispy Kremes. You just have to make the smart decision - an agreement with yourself - to STOP SUGAR cold turkey then crank into the equation feeling cruddy for about 3 days while you detox. After that it's clear sailing - your craving will be gone.

My suggestion: Read labels and don't eat anything unless sugar or it's AKA's are at least 5 or 6 down on the ingredient list. Here are some of the many nom de guerres of sugar: honey (yes, that's bad, too), dextrose, fructose, corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, sorbitol, fruit juice concentrate, galactose, lactose, polydextrose, mannitol, sorbitol (will give you horrible gas), maltodextrin and turbinado sugar. But all is not lost.

Here are two safe possibilities to add some sweetness to your life: The first is Xylitol which is a natural sugar from birch, very low on the glycemic index (~10) and low calorie (~2.4/g) which means that it won't put you into a hypoglycemic funk an hour after you have it. It tastes great, is white and granular and looks and acts like sugar, and it has no chemical aftertaste like Nutrasweet or Sweet 'n Low. It's very expensive. I use it in my cup of tea in the morning. You can get it at Whole Foods or from me. It also helps prevent tooth decay and because of it's stickiness and its ability to glom onto pathogens, if you squirt it up your nose, it will help with sinusitis and ear infections.

The second one is Stevia which is also natural in that it is from a stevia leaf. It is really, really sweet so you need just a bit to sweeten anything. It's not so good in hot stuff because for some reason the heat makes it taste awful. I use it specifically with cold things -like to sweeten my plain yogurt or my healthy banana dessert (4 cut-up frozen bananas, 2 T. unsweetened cocoa powder, stevia to taste and enough liquid (you could use non-fat milk) so that you can process it in your cuisinart. Serve in parfait glasses with raspberries.) The only brand I like and that consistently tastes good is Stevia Plus. So how about it? Will you join me in a "Sugar-Free Oh-Three"?

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