Desert Rose shrubs adorn the ruins of a sugar factory at Caneel Bay on the island of St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands.
It wasn’t that long ago that I was eating left-over wedding cupcakes every morning. We ordered too many mini cupcakes for my daughter’s wedding, and there were at least ten dozen left. I forced a lot of them on people as they left the reception. (I’m sorry!) But I took home at least three dozen. The cupcakes were so rich — and so good. I couldn’t let them go to waste. (So I let them go to my waist.) I knew they weren’t a healthy choice, but hey, a calorie is a calorie, I thought. I could exchange a bowl of cereal for a cupcake. No harm, no foul.
But then I had an epiphany when I saw the video at the bottom of this post. Sugar is bad for you. Really bad for you. I’ve been hearing this for decades, but shrugged it off even though diabetes runs in my family. Now Valentine’s Day approaches, another sugar-soaked holiday. I’ve cut back on sugar so much in the past year that I don’t even like it. (And almost no alcohol, either.) I’m not even tempted — well, okay, occasionally I succumb. And I do eat a lot of fruit. I wish I could say I feel so much better, but I don’t. I do feel smug, though! At least I haven’t gained any weight, always a problem as you grow older.
Does spurning sugar make me a sourpuss? I hope I’m still as sweet as always. (Some who know me will say, What?) I’m bucking against the trend toward eating sugar. Sugar cane is the world’s largest crop. High fructose corn sugar from corn is ubiquitous. You can’t escape sugar in almost any processed food. Recent statistics showed that U.S. adults consume 22.2 teaspoons of sugar daily — or 355 calories. That greatly exceeds the daily recommended amount. Dietitians have said that the average-sized women should be consuming no more than 6.25 teaspoons; men 9.4. Read the link below on Sucrose to see just what this chemical does to you!
Only two plants produce the sucrose that humans crave so much: sugar cane and sugar beets. I started thinking about sugar again when my family and I recently went to the small beautiful island of St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands for my son’s wedding. (There seems to be a wedding theme here.) The island is now mostly a U.S. national park, but you can see the ruins of some of the sugar cane plantations that covered the island after Europeans first settled the island in 1718 and started farming. The Europeans used African and Indian slaves to work the plantations. Raising sugar cane and processing the cane into refined sugar was and still is hard work.
Sugar, as molasses, was traded from the Caribbean to Europe or New England, where it was distilled into rum. The profits from the sale of sugar were used to purchase manufactured goods, which were then shipped to West Africa, where they were bartered for slaves. The slaves were then brought back to the Caribbean to be sold to sugar planters. The profits from the sale of the slaves were then used to buy more sugar, which was shipped to Europe. The cycle would continue over and over. To read more, click on the link Triangular Trade at the bottom of the post.
The Europeans chopped down the native plants to plant their sugar cane plantations and introduced a lot of foreign animals. The descendants of some of these animals run wild on the island today, such as mongoose, goats, donkeys and deer. Many of the trees and vegetation did return when sugar cane plantations were abandoned. St. John was the site of one of the first significant slave rebellions in the New World in 1733, but the rebellion was put down. Slavery wasn’t abolished in St. John until 1848, and after that the sugar plantations shut down. Now St. John’s main industry is tourism.
In case you’re wondering where the Virgin Islands group got its name, you can thank Christopher Columbus and his crew. They were the first Europeans to see these islands and named the island group “Once Mil Virgenes”, or Eleven Thousand Virgins, in honor of the feast day of Saint Ursula and the 11,000 virgins who were martyred with her.
I wrote about the mongoose, which were also introduced to St. John and other tropical islands to control rats (which they didn’t), such as the Big Island of Hawaii. Why Did the Mongoose Cross the Road?
Here’s a long video that explains why sugar is bad for you. In it, Robert H. Lustig, MD, UCSF Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology, explores the damage caused by sugary foods. He argues that too much fructose too much and not enough fiber appear to be cornerstones of the obesity epidemic through their effects on insulin.