The Robinson Self-Teaching Curriculum: The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide, No Sugar in The Diet (Part IV)
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One of the primary tenets of the Robinson Self-Teaching Curriculum, designed by biochemist Dr. Arthur Robinson, is that the consumption of sugar be restricted to that which is normally found in foods. Refined, added sugar consumption is to be monitored very closely and kept quite low or more like close to nothing, which in today’s world can be difficult for families to do. This is especially true if you, the parent, enjoys eating lots of sugar or at the very least can’t live without adding it to your favorite dishes and drinks. What's more is, sugar is in practically every food we buy at the store.
The Robinson Self-Teaching Curriculum is a homeschooling program created by the Robinson family after the mother of the children suddenly died, leaving Dr. Robinson to care for and teach his 6 children. Together they developed a system in which the children completed all schoolwork independently without much help. After the young child could read, write and compute basic arithmetic problems they were on their own from that point forward. The Robinson children fared out quite well in their adult lives, as they have completed doctorate degrees in science-related fields.
- For a short expose on the curriculum and more on the Robinson family story, see: Single-Parent Homeschooling: The Robinson Self-Teaching Curriculum.
Why Eliminating (or Restricting) Sugar from Your Family’s Diet is a Good Thing
Many of us who homeschool our children know and have figured out that the homeschooling life is not simply having “school-at-home.” It’s a lifestyle, which has a direct effect on our families in ways physical, mental, spiritual and emotional. It is frequently said of children who attend traditional, brick and mortar schools that what happens at home affects what happens at school, and vice versa. With homeschoolers though these are not individual spheres of life, as there is no separation between at home and at school; it’s all interconnected. This is important to the present discussion because it concerns the diet of the child and family as a whole. Diet has a profound effect upon the brain, which in turn is responsible for thinking, behaving and regulating essential physical processes constantly taking place within the body. Most importantly, diet has long-term effects on health. Habits established in childhood tends to follow us well into adulthood, and as we age. Our children are learning from us all the time, even as we plan our meals and sit down at the dinner table together. These are important teaching opportunities.
Sugar: What You Should Know About It
- Sugar adds lots of calories, but contains no nutritional value. The extra calories are stored as fat, which can cause obesity, a significant risk-factor of Pediatric Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus and cardiovascular disease. Incidences of Pediatric Type 2 Diabetes has increased dramatically in children within the last decade, especially during adolescent years. Children of Hispanic, African-American, Asian, Pacific Islander and Native American ethnicity groups are particularly at risk. (Source: Medscape)
- Sugar increases Low-Density Lipoproteins (LDL). This is a type of cholesterol molecule responsible for carrying and depositing fat molecules to arteries, which can cause cardiovascular disease such as atherosclerosis, heart attack, peripheral artery disease and stroke. (Source: American Heart Association)
- Excess sugar intake leads to development of cavities. Once simple sugars are ingested, bacteria called streptococcus mutans breaks down the sugar present on the teeth. The bacteria produces an acid causing dental caries. It's actually the acid that causes the cavities on the teeth. (Source: WebMD)
- Consumption of excess sugar over the long-term has been associated with memory loss, Alzheimer's Disease and mood disorders. This is especially the case with high-fructose corn syrup, a more concentrated, although cheaper form of sugar. It is found frequently in packaged, processed foods including: spaghetti sauce, soda drinks, ice cream, yogurt, applesauce, bread, ketchup and even cough syrup. It is literally in everything we buy at the store these days and unlike glucose, fructose can only be broken down by the liver. (Source: Natural News and "How Bad for You is High Fructose Corn Syrup?" on How Stuff Works)
So if sugar is in nearly all the foods we eat, how do we eliminate it from our diet?
The human body actually needs sugar; it's a carbohydrate necessary and important for energy. Carbs come in the form of sugars, starches, and fiber. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the average diet should contain 40% to 60% carbohydrates and that most of them should be from complex carbohydrates, found in starchy foods and natural sugars. Unlike refined sugars found in processed foods, complex carbohydrates contain nutrition vital for health: vitamins, minerals and fiber.
The NIH recommends:
- limit refined sugars: table sugar, honey, candy, soda, and syrups. This is likely the sugar that Dr. Robinson is referring to when he says "No sugar," although he did say that they used honey on occasion. Honey does contain vitamins and minerals but only in trace amounts. Most people tend to use less of it because it is sweeter than table sugar.
- increase intake of whole foods such as fruits and vegetables, legumes and whole grains (rice, cereal, breads)
- consuming food (carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals) in its most natural form is best.
For those of us who want to get more serious about getting rid of the sugar in our lives, here's another more detailed approach.
- Read the labels on food, paying particular attention to high fructose corn syrup, sugar, cane juice and molasses. Only buy products with the lowest total sugar content.
- Purchase only fruit that is fresh and unprocessed or fruits that come packed in juice, or water. Light syrup is a better choice than heavy syrup.
- Buy plain yogurt and stir in fresh fruit or home-made preserves, instead of the sweetened kind.
- Do not buy junk foods: they are high in refined sugar. Packaged baked goods, candy, sodas, sport drinks, Kool-Aid type drinks, and desserts fall under this category. Graham crackers, vanilla wafers and bagels are better choices.
- Purchase dry roasted nuts, tortilla chips and popcorn for healthier snack foods.
- Opt for home-made foods made with less sugar over store-brought, packaged processed food items. Make your own preserves, tomato sauces and salad dressings, for example. If you must have baked goods, make them yourself at home.
- Cut back on use of table sugar for fresh fruit, coffee, tea and cereal.
- Opt for water and unsweetened drinks instead of soda and store-brought fruit juice
- Rely on spices such as cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg to flavor foods.
Children and Sugar: The Facts
Kids are still getting too much sugar, regardless of family income level or socioeconomic status.
Most of the excess sugar is from food sources when compared to drinks, although 40% of sugars are from drinks.
Most of the added sugar children consume are from processed foods, especially packaged breakfast bars, granola bars, cereals with high sugar content, and candy.
Teenagers in the U.S. are taking in 28 teaspoons of added sugar on a daily basis on average. (Source: American Heart Association)
Children younger than 12, according to the USDA has an intake of over 40 pounds of added sugar each year at a rate of 32 teaspoons daily. (Source: American Heart Association)