When invited to dinner, despite disliking the layer of oil glistening on a meal, you still eat it; a friend who loves baking gives you a piece of a sugar-loaded cake, you’re compelled to eat it; when dining out, your friends start eating the free bread before the order is taken, guess what you do? You tend to eat it too!
Sometimes we struggle between being mindful about our choices and the choices that help us fit in or please others. Other times, we are simply on autopilot because our habits have been formed.
I moved to Germany more than a few years ago to raise my children. Besides initially struggling with adjustment, I also struggled with saying “no” to a piece of cake offered with coffee everywhere. Despite never previously ordering cake with coffee, I found myself doing “in Rome, what the Romans do,” and in my case, what the Germans do.
When it comes to food, Germans love their Brot (bread), Wurst (sausage), and especially afternoon Kaffe und Kuchen (coffee and cake). Bakeries sprout everywhere with freshly baked cakes, pies, and wholesome bread. I too learned the art of baking only after moving to Germany.
During the first few years after my arrival, I felt inclined to have my coffee and eat the cake too. I wanted to avoid appearing unappreciative or picky. Later on, I noticed I craved a piece of apple strudel or quark bällchen when passing by a bakery. And that’s how habits start to form, by coupling actions.
It was not until after becoming a Health & Wellness Coach, that I challenged this habit in the making. Being my best client, I decided to simply say “no” to both afternoon coffee and cake.
The effects of caffeine linger in the body from 8 to 14 hours. Avoiding afternoon coffee in favor of a good night sleep made sense. I left the cake for special occasions like weddings and birthday parties.
What’s in a cake? Generally, a cake is made of nutrient-devoided white flour, sugar, butter, eggs. A pie has fruit, which would be healthy if not marinated in sugar beforehand. Other ingredients are used like gelatin, milk, quark, cream. Simply put, a cake is a fat & sugar bomb, otherwise it wouldn’t taste so good.
Some “old age” diseases, even if genetically pre-disposed can be preventable when exercising the power of choice.
Sugar is 50% glucose 50% fructose. Every single cell in our body uses glucose for energy. Very little of it is converted into fat, unless of course, it’s overconsumed.
Fructose, on the other hand, is metabolized entirely by the liver. It creates uric acid which leads to gout and hypertension. It produces more fat than glucose, some of which remains in the liver. It increases inflammation and interferes with leptin, a hormone that signals satiety to the brain.
As of 2015, the WHO recommends the reduction of sugar consumption to less than 10% of daily caloric intake. This translates to 50g or 12 teaspoons per day for a 2000 calorie diet. For real health benefits, it’s best to keep consumption to 5% or 6 teaspoons per day. To put this in perspective, one 12oz can of coke contains 39g or ~8 teaspoons of sugar.
Sugar refers to, not only table sugar added to your coffee, but also those added by manufacturers and the naturally found in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit concentrate.
Next time you reach for that luscious treat, think about how you are putting yourself at risk of contracting metabolic syndrome, which is a cluster of diseases including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
What about that apple, it has naturally occurring fructose too? The advantage is that fruits and vegetables are loaded with fiber, volume, vitamins, minerals and anti-inflammatory properties which are heart-healthy. Depending on the produce, fructose content can be very small. Fiber and volume are satiating, so chances are you will stop eating before reaching a fructose overload.
For every meal there is a healthier alternative, your older self will appreciate it if you choose well. I don’t know about you, but next time I’m invited for a coffee, I’ll be having herbal tea and an apple instead. After all, it’s the company that counts.