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Let food be your medicine.

Take your medicine with a spoon full of sugar.

"Let food be your medicine."


"A spoon full of sugar makes the medicine go down."

Mary Poppins

As a degreed, qualified, studied, Nutrition authority, people are fond of asking me questions about food to help them clarify things. Questions like “what is the truth about sugar? Can I use it, or must I cut it out of my diet? Is it Good or Bad, Virtue or Vice, Yes or No, In or Out, Right or Wrong, Black or White?

They want me to categorise it for them, to help them know how they ought to feel about it.

My response to this complicated question is to draw on the wisdom of renowned experts:

Expert Opinions

I start by quoting Hippocrates, the father of medicine (a very credible source to add weight to my words). He said: “let food be your medicine, and medicine your food”. They nod their understanding.

Yes, they get the picture. Eating is like taking pills. The perfect diet consists of eating only food with medicinal properties. Approved foods that come with a string of accolades and endorsements- Carrots and Broccoli and Fish and Berries and Garlic and whatever else the people in the know have seen it fit to proclaim the goodness of. Sugar doesn’t ever get its praises sung, at best, it gets written off as “empty” calories, offering no goodness. At worst, it is blamed for a range of maladies from obesity to tooth decay to bad behaviour in children. Certainly, it must be in the “bad” category. Just as they think the vexing question can be laid to rest, I follow my quotation of Hippocrates up with one from a world renowned expert on child rearing, Mary Poppins, who sang: “just a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down, in the most delightful way”. I’ve long been an admirer of Mrs Poppins’ wisdom. I know that she is onto something. With her seemingly simple song, she has put her finger on a weighty truth about our existence here on earth and how it all works.

Living full, healthy, productive lives, involves swallowing a fair amount of “medicine”, but thankfully, there is an abundance of “sugar” around that helps it all go down smoothly.

The sugar is every bit as important as the medicine itself, because in its absence, we would not manage to continue taking the medicine. Let me give you an example from another part of life:

Love and Romance

The love that strong relationships are built on, is like the bread and water and apples, so crucial to a healthy diet. The irreplaceable basics that nourish and feed and sustain- the medicine. It makes participants healthy and strong, no relationship can survive without it. This is the type of love that enables acceptance of an imperfect partner. It has a large stock of forgivenesses and compromises. It is deliberately choosing kindness and understanding and support, again and again and again. It is the day to day caring, the commitment to living together and sharing life with one person. It is the conscious decision to do so, in sickness and in health, and the willpower to follow through with this decision. Romance is like cream and butter and gravy and wine. It is candle-lit meals and flowers and poems and racing pulses and butterfly-filled stomachs. It adds flavour to what may otherwise get a bit bland. It is highly rewarding, and keeps us coming back for more. A knob of butter can make an otherwise broccoli-averse eater get it down. A romantic dinner can make the problem of dirty socks on the floor next to the washing basket feel like less of a chore, less of a grind, no big deal. Of course, it is not a substitute for the substance of the meal. A relationship could never stay alive on romance alone, but a bit of romance goes a long way toward making the rest palatable. In fact, it can turn something bearable into something delightful.

I can understand where the message got skewed. If “low fat” is better than “high fat”, then “no fat” must be even better than “low fat”. Too much sugar is bad, so no sugar must be the ideal. Following this line of thinking, we’ve come to a place where many people, in the name of health, are trying to maintain an eating style that is the equivalent of trying to stay in a relationship without any romance to make it appealing. Staying, then, requires white-knuckled commitment and dogged determination. It is like trying to stick without any glue.

A bit of oil, a bit of butter, some sugar, some chocolate, gravy, salt, cream, wine- is what keeps us feeling good about eating, and what helps us to keep going day after day. It is the sugar that makes the medicine go down- delightfully so.

Miss Poppins’ song

Jane: It is a game isn't it Mary Poppins?

Mary Poppins: Well, it depends on your point of view. You see... In every job that must be done There is an element of fun You find the fun and snap! The job's a game And every task you undertake Becomes a piece of cake A lark! A spree! It's very clear to see that... Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down In a most delightful way A robin feathering his nest Has very little time to rest While gathering his bits of twine and twig Though quite intent in his pursuit He has a merry tune to toot He knows a song will move the job along The honey bees that fetch the nectar From the flowers to the comb Never tire of ever buzzing to and fro Because they take a little nip From every flower that they sip And hence they find Their task is not a grind.

Sound Bite

“The quality of life is in proportion, always, to the capacity for delight”. Julia Cameron
"I'm sure I'll take you with pleasure!" the Queen said. "Two pence a week, and jam every other day." Alice couldn't help laughing, as she said, "I don't want you to hire ME - and I don't care for jam." "It's very good jam," said the Queen. "Well, I don't want any TO-DAY, at any rate." "You couldn't have it if you DID want it," the Queen said. "The rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday - but never jam to-day." "It MUST come sometimes to "jam to-day,"" Alice objected. "No, it can't," said the Queen. "It's jam every OTHER day: to-day isn't any OTHER day, you know." "I don't understand you," said Alice. "It's dreadfully confusing!” Lewis Carrol (ps, I’m for dropping the confusing rules and enjoying the jam!)

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