I’m not sure how chocolate and candy hearts became the symbol for Valentine’s Day, but I do know that the latest research continues to show us that sugar can be significantly detrimental to our health. Here are just a few of the most noted harmful effects of sugar:
• Sugar causes inflammation. This is particularly harmful to those suffering from joint pain, arthritis and migraines.
• Sugar suppresses the immune system. If you are suffering from a cold, the flu, bronchitis, or cancer, avoid sugar to give your body’s immune system the best opportunity at healing.
• Sugar feeds every cell in our body – including cancer cells. Several recent studies indicate that sugar may increase the growth of cancer cells; other research shows that it is the weight gain from sugar that increases our risk of cancer; especially harmful is increased fat around our heart and organs. Either way, reducing sugar may reduce our risk of cancer.
• Sugar is a main culprit in the growing epidemic of obesity and adult-onset diabetes in the U.S. According to health scientists at MD Anderson, the average American eats 260 cups of sugar a year! This isn’t just from sweets, it’s also from hidden sources, such as tomato sauce, salad dressing, “healthy” cereals, and more.
• Finally, sugar is addictive. When we eat sugar (and chocolate) our body releases the brain chemicals dopamine, serotonin and endorphins. These are the same chemicals that addicts crave. So while you think having one or two pieces of heart-shaped chocolates won’t be too bad, your brain is thinking “I want more!” That’s why so many of us find it hard to resist sweet temptations.
Healthy ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day
What does a candy-free February look like?
Try some of these non-food nourishing gift ideas:
The American Heart Association suggests a gift from the heart, such as a poem or love letter. Choose a favorite poem or write what you feel. Write or type it on beautiful paper (check out some options on Etsy.) In between relationships? Write yourself a loving, “non-negotiable” list – all the things you will never put up with in a relationship ever again. Or write a friend or loved one who has been an inspiration or support in your life.
Savor the moments in pictures. Do you have a ton of pictures on your phone but rarely print them out? Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to remember your loved ones with the thoughtful gift of photos. I love the app Groovebook – for $2.99 a month you can upload up to 100 pictures and Groovebook automatically sends you a photo album each month! Or go for a year of love with a photo calendar – apps like Shutterfly make it easy!
Spend a night with no electronics or digital distractions! Make a fire, bundle up and go for a walk, or have a few friends over and serve the heart-healthy treats below with sparkling water and raspberries.
Instead of reaching for something sweet, chocolaty or gooey this Valentine’s Day, try some of these ideas for indulging the ones you love. (And that includes YOU!)