The Use and Abuse of Sugar

The Use and Abuse of Sugar

Health talk in an evangelistic effort.

By GEORGE CORNFORTH, Dietitian, New England Sanitarium, Massachusetts

There are two kinds of sugar—fruit sugar, found in fruits and honey, and cane sugar, found in sugar cane, maple sap, beets, and other vegetables. Perhaps the latter might be called vegetable sugar, because it is found in stems and roots. We might make an­other classification of sugar, namely, natural and concentrated, or refined. Both fruit sugar and cane sugar, as they occur in fruits and veg­etables, are natural sugars. The concentrated sugars are granulated sugar, maple sugar, maple sirup, candy, and confectioner's. If we should eat both kinds of sugar in no more concentrated form than that in which it grows, we would not eat enough to do us any harm. But in the con­centrated form of candy, confectioner's, sirups, and foods sweetened with granulated sugar, its taste is so much enjoyed and it is so nutritious that it is difficult for many people to refrain from eating too much.

The concentrated vegetable, or cane sugars, are irritating to the mucous membrane lining the alimentary tract, and tend to produce gas­tric catarrh. One sometimes wonders if there is some connection between the prevalence of ap­pendicitis and cancer and the excessive amount of sugar eaten. The presence of a large amount of sugar in the stomach interferes with digestion, as a concentrated-solution of sugar tends to preserve food. The natural, or dilute, forms of sugar, as found in honey and fruits, are not irritating and do not interfere with digestion. On this point I quote from Dr. O. S. Parrett:

"Cane sugar, when used freely, does show a marked tendency to irritate the mucous membrane of the digestive tract. It favors the development of a catarrh­al condition of the mucosa, and when used in large quantities, is doubtless as grave a dietetic error as the use of meat. Experimentally, a solution containing fifty grams of sugar, which is a little less than two ounces, dissolved in a glass of water, when given-to a patient who had been having trouble with digestion, was found to be vomited up after a little time so sour and acid that it set the patient's teeth on edge. The same patient was then given invert sugar, which is the natural sugar found in honey and sweet fruits, and the same quantity of sugar was found to digest per­fectly well, without any annoying symptoms whatever. Experiments on animals, such as dogs, has shown this same tendency for cane sugar to be\ irritating to the mucous membrane.

"The question of sweets is simply that of securing the right kind of sugar."—Review and Herald, Dec. 29, 1932.

Cane sugar is readily absorbed, and if taken in excessive quantities may be absorbed before being digested. There is no digestive ferment in the blood to digest it, and so it becomes a foreign substance in the blood which must be eliminated. Fruit sugar, being predigested, is ready to be absorbed into the blood without di­gestion, and it is not a foreign substance when absorbed; although if taken in excess it may be absorbed more rapidly than it can be used by the body, and will be eliminated by the kidneys.

Another important difference between the natural and the concentrated sugars is that the natural sugars are accompanied by food miner­als, which are indispensable to health, while the process of refining and concentrating sugar re­moves these health-preserving substances, so that a diet which includes large quantities of sugar is sure to be lacking in food minerals. Maple sugar, maple sirup, and brown sugar are open to the objections that apply to concen­trated sugars, but they do not have the food minerals removed from them as does granu­lated sugar.

Sugar-cane juice is found to be health pro­moting when fed to babies, because it provides the food minerals, which are so necessary to build healthy bodies. However, when cane sugar is included too largely in the diet, it will make the building of sound teeth impossible, for it will take calcium right out of the inside of the teeth. A diet in which cane sugar is too largely included lacks calcium, but sugar-cane juice contains calcium.

Concentrated sugar is so nutritious that it quickly satisfies, and takes. away the appetite. For this reason anyone who eats quantities of sugar and candy, especially between meals, is not likely to eat enough wholesome 'food, to maintain health. One chocolate cream, for in­stance, furnishes almost Ioo calories ; a quarter of a pound of chocolate creams furnishes about 500 calories. One square of chocolate furnishes 175 calories ; a quarter-pound bar furnishes 7oo calories. About 2,500 calories is the food re­quirement for a day, or about Soo calories to a meal. One can readily see what a quantity of nourishment is taken by eating a little candy between meals, which will detract just so much from the appetite for wholesome food at meal­time, and it is more fully demineralized than white bread or white rice.

Only Fault of Granulated Sugar

An average lump of sugar contains as much sugar as a yard of sugar cane, but what a differ­ence! A child will spend all day chewing on a yard of sugar cane (he cannot consume it in less time) ; and as he chews, he swallows large quantities of saliva, the ferments of which help to digest the sugar. He also swallows a consid­erable aniount of woody fiber that provides val­uable roughage. In contrast, a child can eat the same amount of sugar in sweets, chocolate, cake, etc., in a minute, or an enormous amount of ex­cess sugar in a few minutes;' and this sugar receives the minimum of mastication and in-salivation. I quote:

"In many respects white sugar is an ideal food, for it is cheap, pure, and not easily contaminated. Its ad­vantages from the standpoint of a chemist are very well stated in the words of the late Edwin F. Slosson, as follows : 'Common sugar is an almost ideal food; cheap, clean, white, portable, imperishable, unadulter­ated, germ-free, highly nutritious, completely soluble, altogether digestible, easily assimilable, requires no cooking, and leaves no residue.... Its only fault is its perfection. It is so pure that man cannot live on it.' "

Four ounces of sugar a day is the limit that the body can use. Before the last world war the average American was using four and one-half ounces of sugar a day. Babies cannot eat their four and a half ounces a day, and there are some adults who are sensible enough not to eat that much; therefore there are many people in this country who are eating more than the aver­age, or much more sugar than is good for them.

We are sometimes reminded by people who wish to make an excuse for satisfying their craving for candy, that candy is given to sol­diers to enable them to work hard or make forced marches. It is true that sugar and candy are concentrated foods, and may be used to sup­port a short strenuous effort, the body drawing on its existing supply of minerals for the time being, but that would not do for a continuous diet. Soldiers tell us that the amount of sugar and candy they received was limited in amount, it being not nearly so much as the average American uses constantly.

Speaking of the craving people have for sugar may lead some to ask if that craving does not indicate that the body needs sugar. Not nec­essarily. It may be a cultivated taste. The crav­ing for alcoholic liquors or tea or coffee does not indicate that the body needs these poisons. Rather, the craving for sugar may indicate that the body needs minerals that it is not getting.

Constructive Aids in Using Less Sugar

To guard against the excessive use of sugar, I would offer the following suggestions : Per­suade yourself to satisfy your craving for sweets as largely as possible with natural sweets—raisins, prunes, dates, figs, apples, sweet oranges, pears, bananas, honey. These contain most valuable minerals, as well as sugar. Eat no candy between meals. If candy is eaten let it be only one or two pieces eaten at the end of a meal as dessert. Eat only one dessert with a meal.

A small amount of sugar, just enough to make it palatable, may be used to sweeten cooked and canned fruit, not enough to preserve it. Preserves and jellies , should be treated as candy, just a little being eaten occasionally as a part of a meal, as an accompaniment to a meat substitute, or with cottage cheese, or in des­serts.

Suggested Food Candy Recipes

Grind together through a food chopper, using the finest cutter, three parts raisins to one part pecan-nut meats or other nuts. Press into the shape of caramels.

Use figs and nuts in the same way.

Use three parts stoned dates and one part shredded coconut ground together. Form into balls or cubes.

Stuff dates with peanut butter, with which a little strained honey and vanilla have been mixed.

Soak prunes overnight in enough water to cover ; then stew them slowly one hour in small amount of water. 'Remove stones from the prunes. Fill with toasted almonds. Serve with whipped cream.

A ripe, mellow, sweet banana sliced over a dish of cereal does well in taking the place of the sugar that so many people like on cereal, or sprinkle raisins or chopped dates over it. Pitted dates cooked in cereal or mixed into dry cereal makes a delicious combination.

For a very palatable blend of flavors try grinding together figs, dates, raisins, walnuts, maple sugar, coconut, and a little citron and peanut butter. Candied cherries may be added if at hand. Form into cakes or squares.

Try peanut butter and strained honey stirred together, as a spread for bread.

Molasses is valuable for its mineral matter, especially iron, and also for its.laxative effect.

For a drink try honey orange nectar—juice of one or more oranges, juice of one lemon, one half cup of strained honey, and water enough to make one quart liquid. Chill before serving.


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By GEORGE CORNFORTH, Dietitian, New England Sanitarium, Massachusetts

August 1947

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