Two men stood ahead of me in the cafeteria line at the retirement center. The first had severe heart problems, I knew. The second probably did as well for his stomach hung over his belt as if it longed to kiss his thighs. The first man bought a doughnut fritter glistening with enough sugar to make it appear neon. The eyes of the second man glistened, as well, when he saw it. “I’m going to have one of those,” he half-whispered — whether to me or to himself, I wasn’t sure. Leaning into the cooler in front of me, I plucked out a container of freshly sliced pineapple. “This is my poison,” I said as if in answer.
The man’s eyes fell upon the jeweled fruit, his face crinkling with a smile. “That looks, good, too.”
“And it’s good for you,” l replied, smiling back.
“I think I’ll have the pineapple instead,” he decided.
My work was done. Satisfied, I walked away. For one day, at least, I’d delayed someone’s cardiac arrest.
I know. I know. Sugar is addictive. It feeds bacteria in the gut that grow fat and send up craving signals to the brain. The more we eat, the greater the addiction and the greater the chance of succumbing to all the attending evils: obesity, diabetes, heart problems, dementia and cavities.
Sweet as it is, pineapple won’t threaten a life. One researcher, Kimber Stanhope, a nutritional biologist ran an experiment that required volunteers to eat fruit, enough to equal 25 percent of their daily intake from sugar. (“Sugar, the new food villain,” The Week, 4/14/17, pg. 11.) Her guinea pigs quit after a few days. They couldn’t eat enough fruit to a match the sugar in two brownies and a coke.
Sugar substitutes have their problems, too. Never mind that they are chemicals and not food. All that concentrated sweetness ”trick[s] the body into craving even more calories that will make us gain weight.” (Ibid, pg. 11.)
Telling folks to “just say no,” probably won’t cure a sugar addiction, nor more than saying it can cure a drug addiction. But I offer a little encouragement. I quit sugar cold turkey several years ago. The first 6 months were hell. Then the cravings subsided by degrees. Today, I can look slice of pecan pie in the eye and never salivate.