Sugar Burn

Yesterday I stopped by the Italian deli on my way home for that special kind of cookie that only Italian bakeries know how to make properly. You may know them as tri-color or rainbow cookies; they're striped pink, yellow and green. I first discovered them in New York's Little Italy, and it took years in Los Angeles to find a source. It was a mixed blessing.

Do you have a little treat like that? Something you pick up to brighten your afternoon once in a while? Maybe it's a chocolate chip cookie or a soft drink, a frappuccino or ice cream on a hot afternoon. Oh, yes, I do indulge.

But yesterday my cookies (uh huh, I bought three) tasted different. It may have been because I've been eating almost no sugar lately—who really needs it with wonderful summer fruits in abundance—but instead of tasting sweet, the sugar had a bitter aftertaste and actually seemed to burn in my mouth. Then I started thinking about the food coloring that must be in these little morsels, and it was downhill from there. Do I even like these cookies, or do I eat them because I remember liking them at one time?

Americans love sugar, and I've never been an exception. Our sugar consumption has been steadily rising for the last three decades as high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) has made its evil way into everything from ketchup to teriyaki sauce and even cough medicine. American consumption of sweeteners in 2007 was estimated at 152 pounds per person, and our overall per capita consumption increases by about a pound a year. I'm guessing that most GaiamLife readers aren't keeping up with their estimated average of nearly a full cup of sugar a day. Since somebody else must be consuming two cups to make up for it, it's easy to see why diabetes and obesity have become such a problem.

Besides our own health, there's the health of our country, other countries and the planet to consider. High profit sugar cane and corn crops have made countries that used to be able to feed themselves financially dependent on the world market.

I'm not going to tell you to stop eating sugar (everybody else already has), but if you're interested in kicking the habit, you might want to experiment with a new approach, the same one I'm trying. I know this stuff is bad for my body, my energy and my mood, and I really don't need it.

The next time you feel the urge to indulge in a sugary treat, go ahead. In fact, buy two. And then eat them very slowly and mindfully. Chew every bite thoroughly and try to pick out the sugar taste in the mix. Feel the sugar on the roof of your mouth and on your tongue, and don't follow it with water; just let the sugar residue sit in your mouth. See how it feels and tastes.

I just started this yesterday so I can't say I'll never eat another cookie. (Sadly, just looking at the pictures online makes me think about another one even now!) But I'm going to give it a shot. Care to join me?

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