avoiding sugar

What do kale and Coca-cola have in common?

Kale certainly has gotten its share of attention in the past few years. It has grown in popularity in the U.S. and around the world because it is nutritious and affordable. In Kenya, it seems to be everywhere. It even grows by the roadside in some areas, free for the taking. The Kenyans call it “sukuma wiki” (“pushing the week”) because it fills in the gaps for many when the cupboard is bare. IMG_8709

I heard someone ask recently "When did kale get an agent?" Clearly, kale doesn’t need one. Kale's popularity is organic, driven by consumer interest in a high-quality, nutrient-dense, delicious food. It blankets the Kenyan landscape and farms stateside, as well.

Coca-cola ads and products can also be seen dotting the landscape at home and abroad. In Kenya, we spotted billboard after billboard, and shop after shop, sporting its familiar red and white logo. Consumers love its sweetness, but, In contrast to kale, Coca-cola has no nutritional value, and actually has been linked to chronic diseases and 184,000 deaths worldwide each year, according to a recent study conducted at Tufts University.

Its popularity is clearly not organic, but by design. The Coca-cola company is strategically targeting Africa to boost its soda sales. Sales in the U.S. have declined for five consecutive years. To counterbalance the situation, there is an aggressive marketing campaign focused on Africa.

Their goal is evidently to get in every mom and pop shop they can possibly find (or build). But they are not content with staying inside. The company offers to paint the exterior of the "dukas" (small shops) in exchange for displaying their logo prominently.

"Enjoy Coke cold."

They've even extended their "Share a coke with a friend" campaign to Kenya.


I spotted the only good use for a coke bottle in my Maasai host's home. They had filled the bottle with wild honey.


Kale and Coke. Both popular. Both omnipresent. That's where the similarities end.

Help! I have a sweet tooth! A three-step plan for staving off that sugar craving

Okay, so you have a sweet tooth. No, actually, for you, it's more like you have sweet teeth. You are the girl in "Oklahoma" who can't say no, only your downfall is not a traveling salesman, but anything that appeals to that sugary taste bud. You simply can't resist one little taste of that ice cream/cake/brownie/muffin. (And, no, I am NOT referring to a four-in-one treat. Some of you were like, "What!? There is an ice cream/cake/brownie/muffin?! Must. find. it. NOW!") sweet tooth

First off, let me say that it's quite natural to like sweet stuff. All of us were born, hard-wired, if you will, with a predisposition for something sweet to eat. If a food was sweet, it meant 1) it wouldn't kill us, and 2) it would give us energy for day-to-day tasks. Unfortunately, we no longer have to hunt around for sweet stuff. To the contrary, now we are hunted (if not haunted) by it. And we can't seem to get away. So, how do we begin to curb that craving? Is there any way to nip it in the bud?

1. Log it (just for a day or two). The prospect of this may scare you, but it just might also scare you "straight." Challenge yourself to write down every morsel that goes in your mouth. In the margins, write down any time you feel a craving. Awareness is a great first step toward wellness. Looking at your patterns in black and white will help open your eyes to where you're at and what needs to change. I took a financial course that recommended a similar step: look at your bank statement...and don't blink. Take a good, hard look. It was an unhappy prospect at first, quite frankly, but knowing the unvarnished truth helped me get on course to a balanced budget. Same thing goes with diet!


2. Look in your log for foods with added sugar (or all sugar). You probably know by now that sugar has many aliases in food products: corn syrup, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, cane sugar, etc. (Click on this link for more specifics.) Highlight those foods, and, again, look for patterns. Are you binging at night? Overdosing on muffins mid-afternoon? When are you ingesting the most sugar? And why?

3. Make a plan to replace one or two of the "regulars" that show up on your list. Don't tackle too much at once. See if you can spot one or two foods that don't necessarily hold huge appeal, but that you turn to because of the time of day or out of habit. Look to take out the low-hanging fruit, so to speak. (Speaking of fruit, it is a great substitute for a sickly, sticky-sweet sugar-laden dessert. Our family recently made one-ingredient ice cream with frozen ripe bananas. We just added a splash of vanilla extract. So technically it was two-ingredient ice cream, I guess. At any rate, it was a hit!)

Here are some more  "swap" suggestions to get you started: Swap soda for any of the following: coconut water (naturally sweet and rich in potassium), sparkly kombucha (for that fizz and probiotic benefit,too), seltzer with lime (fizz and zing). (Caution: diet soda is NOT a good substitute for regular soda! It's as bad as the "real thing." Diet soda is a chemical concoction only suitable for cleaning a carburetor. It negatively impacts your metabolism, throws a wrench in weight loss, and causes cell damage. See this article on more of its dangers from Prevention magazine.)

Diet or no, soda's gotta go!

Look for foods with natural sweeteners like honey or maple syrup instead of refined sugar. They at least have some nutritional benefit. Refined sugar has zero!

Swap sweet cereal for homemade granola or oatmeal. And, actually, I'd recommend homemade cookies, muffins, and the like, over store-bought, over-processed products anytime. They are bound to contain less sugar, and at least you can control how much goes in (and what kind).

Any other ideas? Anyone with a sweet tooth (or teeth) please chime in! Let's help each other out with tips on what to swap out!




If you make only one dietary change to improve your health, it should be this!

You have a frenemy who seems sweet on the surface, but secretly has it in for you. During the course of my studies with the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, I came to understand that this one "food" is one of the most dangerous because it is...

- bubbly and sweet - seemingly harmless and ubiquitous 

- addictive - our brains light up, as if we were taking recreational drugs when we ingest it, and

- damaging - it leads to chronic issues and health complications.

The culprit? Soda. All of the above is bad enough, but just two days ago, in The Washington Post, an article in the health section read:

"Sodas, other sugary drinks linked to thousands of deaths."

SODA stands for Something Other than Dietary Aid! 

SODA stands for Something Other than Dietary Aid! 

There it is, in black and white! Soda is linked to death, the ultimate complication!

My advice? Drop the soda! Drop the soda and  noone gets hurt!

You may want to do this, but struggle with breaking the habit. I understand. Eliminating sugar from your diet is like trying to end a relationship with a bad boyfriend. You know he's bad, but you're just used to him. And he can be so sweet sometimes!

Here's my little secret. When I get tempted sometimes (and I do get tempted), I look at the sweet enticing treats (or drinks) and I think "You kill. You look all enticing and yummy but you are a killer." And now I have proof that it is so.

If you are ready to be scared straight, click on the link above to read the article for yourself. Or watch this brief three-minute video, "Sugar is killing us," for an entertaining, yet eye-opening animated video on the problems with sugar and corn syrup in our diets.

True, you may not be able to drop the "bad boyfriend" overnight, but maybe you can create a little distance between the two of you? I hope so! Your life depends on it!


Hilda Labrada Gore, a long-time DC resident, is an Integrative Nutrition health coach and fitness professional. She is the host and producer of the Wise Traditions podcast. Wise Traditions can be found on YouTube, Apple podcasts, Stitcher, iHeartRadio, Overcast, Google Play Music, tunein, and at westonaprice.org. Basically, you can find it wherever you get your podcasts!