Food as Medicine 6.12.11

Posted in Susan Fekety on June 12th, 2011 by susanfekety
Unless otherwise noted, © Copyright 2011 by Susan Fekety. All Rights Reserved.

Friends, this post finds me with a mind on fire and a body challenged by too many hours in a chair.  In a meeting room.  In a hotel basement.  And this is despite having set and accomplished an intention to always take the stairs, to circumnavigate the block on foot during breaks, and at lunch, do resistance band and core exercises in my room, and take a long walk after dinner.  Something in me does not like the sedentary thing.  I suppose it is good that I notice my relative indolence so mightily. But how many people do you know for whom sitting sitting sitting is a way of life? Ouch.

Last night I found a wonderful ballroom dance studio within walking distance of the hotel, so had the delightful interlude of several hours of cha-cha-cha, swing, waltzing, salsa, and my personal current favorite, west coast swing. Needless to say, this opportunity was more urgent-feeling than was even sharing the Starbucks Episode with you — please forgive me for not following through.

So, here’s that story.  Setting off on a jaunt to a conference about nutrition inspired me to re-read the nutrition information card at the airport Starbucks as I stood in line for my half-caf latte.  There was a new product on the impulse-purchase shelf, an instant iced coffee powder designed to be mixed with cold (cold?!) water and “lightly sweetened.” After puzzling about the technical mystery of how one might produce instant coffee that doesn’t need hot water, hmm, I said to myself, just what do they mean by that lightly sweetened thing, anyway?

To Starbuckians, 12 grams of sugar, the equivalent of 3 teaspoons of sugar, in a 16-oz beverage (presuming you follow their instructions) is lightly sweetened.  To me, that seemed like rather a lot, actually, more than I’d probably put unless I was feeling peculiar and imprudent.  So then I began to wonder….what’s their frame of reference? I know that when I developed my Sugar Show and Tell display (plastic baggies of various amounts of granulated sugar, to illustrate what’s really in many familiar foods — one of my favorite methods for inspiring people to start looking at labels) it was one of those Starbucks ultra mocha wacky drinks that had the most sugar of anything I came across, but that was a couple years ago.  Nutrition card, what’s up now?

So here’s the shocking thing (and it comes with a touch of irony) — 91 grams of sugar, now playing in the large soy green tea Frappuccino.  You do the math, please: there are 4 grams of carbohydrate in a teaspoon of sugar.  91 grams, divided by 4 is…how many teaspoons is that?  23 teaspoons?  Please, somebody, run to your kitchen (since I am trapped in a hotel without access to kitchen equipment) and tell me how much that turns out to be.  Like, I think it is close to a half a cup of sugar.  And I wonder how many people might choose it because somewhere in the back of their mind they heard that green tea and soymilk are good for you, might even help you lose weight?  Sigh. Long way to go.

Yesterday, Neal Barnard of the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine proposed to us that it is the saturated fat in animal foods that is causing the diabesity epidemic, not sugar or lack of exercise.  Today we’ll hear Mark Hyman MD of the Institute for Functional Medicine and the Ultrawellness Center in Lenox weigh in on the same issue — I suspect his take will be a bit different. And then I’ll tell you what sounds right to me! (Plus, I’ll tell you about the brilliant speakers who made me cry, and why.)

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