“In men, the risk of heart disease increases after age 45. In women, the risk increases after age 55. In people who have diabetes, the risk of heart disease increases after age 40.” * US Department of Health and Human Services
You don’t have to have insulin intolerance or diabetes to put your heart at risk. The more refined sugar we eat over the age of 40 the more likely we are to develop heart disease, high blood pressure, and a greater risk of stroke.
The spleen/pancreas is responsible for insulin production that enables the absorption of glucose sugars into the cells of the body.  Too much sugar means either the spleen cannot produce enough insulin (diabetes type 1) or the body becomes insulin resistant (diabetes type 2) Glucose that is unprocessed by insulin remains in the bloodstream damaging arteries causing high blood pressure and heart disease.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine each of the organs relates to a flavour.  For example, the heart likes bitter flavour foods such as lettuce, chicory, and herbs such as basil, thyme, and oregano.  Whereas the liver likes sour foods such as lemons and limes.  The flavour for a healthy spleen/pancreas is sweet, however, too much of a good thing can weaken these organs.   The 5element system of Chinese Medicine would recommend eating whole grains such as brown rice, millet and quinoa and starchy vegetables such as carrots, butternut squash, sweet potato, parsnips which have a naturally sweet flavour, to keep the spleen and sugar levels healthy.  These foods are complex carbohydrates that take time to release their sugars rather than refined carbohydrates such as white bread, cake, pastries and pasta that give quick sugar hits but are missing the fiber and minerals of whole-grains.  Healthy food doesn’t have to mean boring food, find recipes that are full of delicious, sexy scrumptiousness – if you consciously love your food, you love yourself.

Try a perfect summer recipe Red Rice with Minted Peas from the Good Food Better Sex Cookbook.  It is packed full of slow-releasing sugars plus naturally super sweet peas which in Chinese Medicine are great for the spleen.  They build blood and alleviate constipation.  They remove internal dampness, increase metabolism and raise energy levels, all this from the humble pea.  In western medicine, they contain a rich supply of B vitamins and iron which prevents cognitive and energetic decline that comes with anemia.
Red Rice with Minted Peas (recipe from Good Food: Better Sex)
• 50g red rice per person
• 50g brown rice per person
• 50g frozen peas per person
• 300ml stock
• 
1 tblsp. fresh chopped mint
• Juice of half a lemon
• 50ml olive oil
• Sea salt and pepper
Put the rice and stock in a heavy-based saucepan, with a tightly fitting lid, bring to the boil then turn down to the lowest simmer you can for approximately 40 minutes. At forty minutes, test if it is cooked. It should be chewy but not hard. Sprinkle the frozen peas on top of the rice, put the lid back on and allow to cook and allow to cook for a further 5 minutes. When the peas are cooked let the rice stand for two minutes which will allow it to fluff up naturally. Tip the contents into a bowl and lightly stir in the mint, lemon, olive oil and seasoning.

One tip from Chinese Medicine is to CHEW CHEW CHEW your food. This is where the sugars are released into the mouth, broken down by the teeth and saliva, sending signals to the brain that this is sweet, tasty food.  To chew your food and increase digestion takes time so to reduce sweet cravings don’t eat your food on the run.  Slow it down and taste every mouthful.
Often we use refined carbohydrates and sugary foods such as chocolate, chips, cake and biscuits to soothe an overwrought system.  They are comfort foods giving us a quick hit of love and self-care, but in the long term using food to meet and emotional needs is unhealthy.  A chocolate bar can never really love us.  If we find healthy alternatives, to refined sweet foods such as pasta, bread and chocolate, that taste really good we are more likely to make a change to a nourishing, wholesome, healthy life. This is especially important as we progress through life and our bodies repair and regeneration take a little longer.
So be sugar smart, keep your blood sugars healthy, blood pressure down, and your heart pumping strongly.

If you would like to learn more about Stopping Sweet Cravings including the emotional aspect of food in Traditional Chinese Medicine, join me for the Online Talk on 15th July at 7 pm.  We will cover theory information plus practical healthy alternatives and acupressure points with space for Q&A
Visit https://joannefaulkner.ie/online-talk/ for more tickets and more information.

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