Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Sugar Blues

 You will not find sugar blues listed in any medical books, and recent research has offered conflicting evidence about the link between sugar consumption and a child's moodiness. Still, many parents and teachers often complain that too many sweets make children irritable. In a study in which children were fed an amount of sugar equal to that in two frosted cupcakes, the young subjects felt weak and shaky afterward and found it difficult to concentrate or to remain in their seats.  The children also responded differently to sugar than adults do. Like adults, their blood sugar levels increased, but unlike adults, their adrenaline levels also increased-an average of ten times higher than normal! No wonder they got the nervous jitters!
     If you give an adult size portion of sugar to a child the effect is much stronger than it would be on an adult. Clark's Rule(*a standard formula for prescribing pediatric doses of herbs, I have explained it more in depth at the end of this note*) can be applied to colas and sweets as well as to doses of medicine. I'll do the math for you. Let's say your family goes out for ice cream cones and everyone gets a double-scoop. According to Clark's Rule, for your 75lb 5th grader, eating this cone will be the equivalent of your eating 4 scoops; for your 25 pound tyke, it will be like eating 12 scoops. And sugar is not the only problem.  Most parents wouldn't think of giving their child coffee, but colas and other carbonated soft drinks are loaded with caffeine(as well as sugar). For a child, one can of a caffeinated soft drink is equal to an entire cup of coffee for an adult. You can also figure in the eight teaspoons of sugar in the typical 12-ounce can of soda!
     Sweet-tasting herbs such as licorice, hibiscus, rose hips, and stevia provide a healthy alternative and can replace at least some sweets. Unlike sugar, they will not affect a child's blood sugar level in the slightest. In its native Paraguay, stevia, which is even sweeter than sugar, is used to keep blood sugar levels stable.  Peppermint and spearmint are all-time children's favorites. Children also tend to like the sweet and fruity taste of herbs like lemongrass and lemon balm, and the spiciness of cinnamon, ginger, and anise. Sarsaparilla and wintergreen taste like root beer. According to studies from the University of Michigan, parents can help curtail the development of a sweet tooth by not dispensing sweetened foods to begin with. Children under two years old are attracted to sweets, but as they grow older, their desire for sugar is based on how much they had as infants.  Sweets are only for an occasional treat, not every day consumption.
      If you build your child a foundation of healthy eating early in life, then nourishing foods is what they will crave. However, if you children already have a pretty insistent sweet tooth and you want to build some healthier habits, here are some herbal drinks you can use to replace the caffeine and sugar saturated soft drinks they've grown accustomed to:
                                      Herbal Root Beer
                                     2 teaspoons sarsaparilla root
                                     1 teaspoon each licorice root, wintergreen leaves, and stevia leaves
                                     1/2 teaspoon cinnamon bark
                                      2 cups water
                                     1 quart carbonated water
Simmer herbs in the plain water in an uncovered pan for 10 minutes, then remove from heat.  Cover the pan and let cool. Strain out herbs, add carbonated water, and serve. For variety, you can use flavored carbonated water. Because stevia is sometimes hard to find, it is optional

                                       Kid's Herbal Punch
                                      2 cups boiling water
                                      1 teaspoon each hibiscus flowers, lemongrass leaves, and rose hips
                                      1/2 teaspoon spearmint leaves
  Pour boiling water over herbs and steep for 10 minutes. Strain out herbs and let cool. This punch is tasty when mixed with 100% apple juice

*Clark's Rule is a standard formula for prescribing pediatric doses of herbs. This rule, in which the average adult is assumed to weigh 150 pounds, allows you to convert adult formulas to suit your child's weigh. this means that if the suggested dosage for an adult is one cup of herb tea and your child weighs 50 pounds, you would give him/her one-third of a cup.*

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