Sugar and spice and side-Effects that were not so nice…

This weekend has been something of an indulgent one. There were two family Birthdays to be celebrated, which meant that cake was all around. One such cake was so beautifully crafted that I chose to eat a slice. Only problem was, I misjudged the amount of cake I could handle, and dished myself up a massive piece, as well as a biscuity-thing. About three mouthfuls into this delicious cake I realised that I was extremely full. However, I did not want to see a half-eaten piece of this art go to waste, so I finished every last crumb. In retrospect, I should’ve wrapped it up and taken it home, then shared it with my husband later on. But hindsight is always 20:20.

Having not eaten any carbohydrates (let alone sugar) for 2 weeks, I was very interested to note the effects that this excessive indulgence had on my body. I would like to share my “findings” with you, and suggest that we all try and cut back on that sweet, white poison.

Symptoms experienced after the consumption of one MASSIVE slice of cake (and a little bit of extra sugar)

Within a couple of hours:

  • Anger and aggression
    • I started thinking about things that make me angry, getting worked up and frustrated and ready for conflict. I even said to my husband, “I feel like I wanna fight someone.”
  • Lack of impulse control
    • This was a strange one. I started rambling a load of self-pitying nonsense that I knew wasn’t true and would usually have the sense not to speak out over my life. It felt very similar to how I used to feel after a few drinks – lacking inhibition (not in a good way), listening to words fall from my mouth and feeling almost powerless to stop them, as though I were standing outside myself and quietly observing.
  • Fatigue
    • I was so tired that when I stood in the kitchen and saw all the washing up waiting for me, I felt overwhelmed to the extent that I lay on the bed and pulled my dressing gown up over my head. The prospect of a few simple dishes made me want to hide away from the world, such was my exhaustion.

The next day:

  • Tender, bruised feeling all over
    • When I got up in the morning my whole body felt tender and sore to the touch, as though I had been play-fighting with Mike Tyson. Yet I had no injuries and no visible reason to be in pain.
  • Mouth sores/ulcers
    • A few of them.
  • Sore abdominal area
    • Everything between my chest and hips was sore and swollen. My abdominal muscles hurt as though I’d done a workout (which I had not) and my intestines felt like they had been burnt with acid from the inside (I’m not being melodramatic – that’s just the best way I can think to describe the strange, burning pain and stayed with me all day).
  • Heartburn
    • After eating.
  • Excessive hunger
    • Possibly due to the volume of food consumed the previous day having stretched my stomach, making it harder to satiate my appetite than usual.
  • Sugar cravings
    • A sane person would not have eaten any more sugar, but I was in the “sugar-zone” and couldn’t get enough sweetness. This is testimony to the addictive nature of refined sugar.

And the day after that:

  • Geographical Tongue
    • Google it. Strange circular patterns formed on my tongue, which are not as painful as they look, but a little bit sore an uncomfortable all the same.
  • Diarrhoea
    • Don’t laugh at me for sharing the nature of my bowel movements with you. This is a health blog after all, and there’s no room for embarrassment when it comes to health.

Obviously this is an extreme example, given that I went from zero sugar to a whole lot. But I found it interesting that a lot of my immediate symptoms were similar to those found in children with ADHD. If sugar can have such an extreme effect on a grown-woman, just think what it could be doing to small, developing bodies when administered in a steady stream throughout the day. The same people who want to give a child a biscuit are often the ones who try to avoid such foods themselves, knowing that it can contribute to weight-gain or poor health. So why do we offer such “foods” (for lack of a better word) to a child too young to even ask for it? A child who would be just as happy if you gave him an apple, whose taste-buds are as yet undamaged and able to appreciate the natural sweetness of healthy fruits and vegetables?

My parents didn’t give me sugar as a young child, which I’m sure is part of the reason why I was generally well-behaved. Both my folks maintain that I only ever had two tantrums in the whole of my childhood (not including my hormonal teens), one of which was when I was unwell and thus not myself. I used to snack on raw veggies and pieces of fruit. My lunchbox would consist of a wholemeal sandwich with a healthy filling such as a banana (for some natural, nutritious sweetness) or mashed avocado, some carrot or pepper sticks, a handful of olives, some fruit and other such healthful things (yes, I did get teased about the olives, but the omegas they contained were probably part of the reason I was academically above-average, so who had the last laugh?). Alternatively, my mum would send me to school with some veggie-packed leftovers from the night-before, which I would gobble down appreciatively while my peers munched on crisps, chocolate and white-bread filled with processed meat. I remember a friend once coming over to play and asking me where we kept the crisps, to which I replied we don’t have crisps. I think she found the whole thing very confusing.

If you’re in need of a sweet fix, or want to give your kids a healthy treat, try my new recipe for pumpkin bread:

Mali’s Pumpkin Bread

Wet ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 7.5 oz pumpkin puree
  • 200ml sugar-free applesauce (I used a jar of baby food!)
  • 50 ml oil (sunflower, olive, coconut – you choose. Alternatively, you could try omitting this and upping the applesauce to 250ml)
  • 1/3 cup orange juice (about 1 orange’s worth. For an extra, aromatic kick of orange, finely grate the zest and add to the dry ingredients)
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Dry ingredients:

  • 2 cups wholemeal flour of choice (I used a mixture of wheat, barley and buckwheat)
  • 3 tsp (1 tbsp) baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¾ cup granular sugar substitute (such as stevia, xylitol, erithritol or splenda – make sure it’s equivalent to sugar in volume and sweetness)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp mixed spice

Topping (optional)

  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp granular sugar substitute
  • 1 tbsp each pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and flaxseeds.
  • ½ tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 180/350. Spray a 9×5 inch loaf pan with non-stick spray, or line with greaseproof paper and brush with oil.

In a medium bowl or jug, beat together the wet ingredients till smooth and well-combined.

In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients till well-combined (I’m too lazy to sift, so I just dry whisk everything to get rid of lumps and ensure even distribution of ingredients).

Add wet mixture to dry mixture and mix together with a fork till well combined.

Pour into prepared loaf tin.

Blitz topping ingredients in a blender until seeds are ground but still fairly chunky. Spread this mixture over the top of the unbaked loaf.

Bake for about 1 hour or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. The topping should be dark brown in colour, but not burnt!

I’m sure this would work with pureed sweet potato, butternut squash or carrot if you can’t get hold of pumpkin. Luckily in SA it’s in season and SUPER cheap.

Happy baking!


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