To Eat or Not To Eat

Kids’ CornerBy Patrick Biron –

If you’ve ever spent more than four minutes around any child, you have probably noticed their fascination with sugar. And, if you’ve ever tried to check out past the candy bar display or drive by a donut store on a Sunday, you’ve found yourself asking the following questions:

1. Why do my kids crave sugar so much?

Let’s face it – kids don’t just have a sweet tooth. They have a sweet jaw. But, there actually is a reason for this. A child’s body is instinctively programmed to view sweet tasting foods as high energy. This is because the molecule glucose is necessary for producing energy in virtually every cell in their body, all of which can break it down, and sweet foods contain glucose. Fructose, another famous sugar-related molecule, is very similar to glucose; however, it can only be broken down by liver cells into a form of fat and a few byproducts. Sucrose, the scientific word for table sugar, is a combination of the two – one glucose and one fructose molecule  attached to one another. The sweet foods we crave are high in some combination of these three molecules.

So, the body realizes this super important molecule glucose is commonly found through sucrose, and since glucose is necessary for every cell in the body to function, kids – and adults – crave it. The issue comes from the amount of sugar we eat, and more specifically to the amount of fructose we eat.

2. Should we avoid high fructose corn syrup (HFCS)?

That’s a highly debated question, but the answer is both yes and no. Many research studies have been done comparing HFCS to refined sugar or any other type of sweetener. The general consensus is that the body really can’t tell the difference between these sweeteners, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t avoid them. What your body really needs is glucose.

Fructose on the other hand, whether it is ingested through high fructose corn syrup, table sugar or anything else, doesn’t have the same necessity nor benefits of glucose. In fact, the Harvard School of Public Health’s Department of Nutrition has released many resources showing how the diet patterns and national increase in fructose intake is directly correlated with increases in obesity, diabetes and liver disease. So, while HFCS and table sugar are basically the same thing, that doesn’t mean you should chow down on either one. The healthiest diets will hold both to moderation.

3.  But what do I do about the “sugar high?”

That’s a great question but actually is a bit of a misconception. In fact, numerous studies have shown that a rise in the level of sugar in the blood doesn’t cause hyperactivity. Rather, the body produces and releases insulin in response to this elevated sugar level. If a child eats too much sugar too quickly, the body can release more insulin than it might need, swinging the pendulum the opposite direction and making the blood sugar levels too low. Hypoglycemia, as this is medically called, causes the behavioral shifts we typically would associate as the “sugar crash.” To avoid it, pace kids’ sugar intake to avoid shocking their systems into releasing too much insulin. Foods high in fiber are especially good at helping slow the rise and fall of blood sugar levels.

4. How can I give my kids glucose?

The best place to ask that question is with your child’s doctor or nutritionist. But, it’s not hard to look at nature for the answer. Raw milk is one of the absolute best sources of nearly every vitamin, molecule and mineral we need, and it’s one reason why mothers are encouraged to breast feed. Unpasteurized milk is hard to find, but its pasteurized cousin still is great. Countless other “non-sweet” foods supply the body with glucose too, including pastas, potatoes and vegetables high in starch.