Sugar and Revolution

The quick answer:  The Industrial Revolution brought us unlimited sugar.  We must learn to limit our sugar intake.  Candy is this week's Healthy Change—a timely topic as we approach Easter.


Revolution and Reformation

In Derbyshire, England, the River Derwent flows quietly by hillside pastures divided by moss-covered stonewalls where sheep graze as they have for centuries.  The ancient villages of Hathersage, Belper, and Milford slumber peacefully now.  But two centuries or so ago a revolution exploded here with the world’s first cotton mills—powered by the river and manned 24/7 by women and children. 

Once-bustling mills now lie in silent decay—the Derwent Valley is a World Heritage Site, cradle of the Industrial Revolution and the factory which changed the world for good and ill.  In time the factory system reached our food supply under the guise—better-said disguise—of “modern convenience.”  It changed how we eat—highly processed factory foods, stripped of nutrients and laden with additives, replaced natural, home-cooked meals.  In time, these packaged foods led to today’s chronic diseases including diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and maladies too numerous to mention.  Together they form a modern plague. 

The task before us now is to restore our food chain to its former natural healthfulness—we call this the food reformation—and all who read this blog are part of that restoration, defined by Word of Wisdom Living’s 52 Healthy Changes.   

Derwent Valley Origins

Last week the Beautiful Wife, our eldest son, and I traveled through this same Derwent Valley, visiting the villages of Belper, Milford and Hathersage where ancestors once lived and labored in the early factories. 

We share an ancestor—William Frost of lovely Hathersage, the scene of Charlotte Bronte’s revolutionary Romance Era novel, Jane Eyre.  Bronte lived in the church vicar’s cottage while writing Jane Eyre in the 1840s.  My ancestor Robert Hellewell (of Belper and Milford) married William’s lovely daughter Rachel Frost in the adjoining chapel in 1844.  The BW descends from Rachel’s younger sister Maria. 

Robert, Rachel, and Maria all worked in the textile factories.  It was an era of new ideas driving radical change and they were as the leaves blown before the first gusts of a coming storm.  In time Robert and Rachel, accompanied by Maria, heeded the preaching of early Mormon missionaries and immigrated to the Utah Territory to help build a new Zion in the wilderness.  That new Zion is a work in progress and one task is to restore the wholesomeness of food.  In the Derwent Valley, I though I saw the closing of a circle.


Before the Industrial Revolution, there was a pre-revolution—the sugar boom.  Fortunes could be made building sugar cane plantations in the New World.  Before sugar availability had been limited by Nature—bees could only make so much honey.  Now there was an unlimited supply flowing into Europe and the nature of food began to change. 

Sugar’s sweetness made hot drinks popular according to the colonies supplying European countries—hot chocolate in Spain, coffee in France, and tea in England.  As sugar became cheaper a new treat arose—candy.  In the beginning sweets were an occasional treat; today it’s hard to find a processed food that doesn’t include sugar. 

Soda drinks are a major—and harmful—source of dietary sugar.  So-called diet drinks are equally unhealthy.  Therefore, the year started with Healthy Change #1:  If you consume sodas or other sweet drinks, limit yourself to one (12 oz.) serving per week.  It’s a rule we can live with.

As you know the Healthy Changes follow 13 themes that repeat each quarter of the year—now we start the 2nd quarter and revisit the subject of sugar with this Healthy Change:

Please comment:  How will you manage the Easter candy glut?  Tell about your experience with a "sugar fast."  Or share your sad story of falling off the sugar wagon.

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Reader Comments (9)

We visited my sweet grandma this weekend and she wanted to feed us lunch. I found it interesting that while she still eats lots of processed food as was the fad and a sign of prosperity when she was a young mom, I cook and eat more like her mother. I think her generation saw those foods as progress and the convenience was so wonderful. I was flabbergasted by the huge list of ingredients on the crumb donuts; sometimes I forget that most people don't read labels on the food they buy.

My 3yo daughter has recently developed an allergy to food dye, which results in hives all over her body. While it is scary, it has been a blessing in disguise because now I tell people that she is allergic to food dye and that automatically limits the junk that she eats at other people's homes, church, parties, etc. But it has also opened my eyes to how many things contain dye that you wouldn't expect: microwave popcorn, chocolate cake, Chinese food, Doritos, white marshmallows, children's medicine, etc. It's crazy how hard it is to completely avoid!

March 31, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLindsey

Hi Lindsey
The dye in food, whether artificial or natural, is an element of disguise. Food that is real, whole, and natural shouldn't require such a disguise. Maybe this should be a future Healthy Change—avoid foods with dye in the ingredient list. Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

April 1, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterskip hellewell

This is one that I didn't really think about before I started eating whole foods--now I am so frustrated that sugar seems to be so integral to EVERY gathering--social, church, family, etc. The grandparents don't seem to feel like they can properly care for our children without a LARGE, sugary treat. Sigh.
I did a refined-sugar fast a few years ago and was AMAZED at how much better I felt. No more canker sores, less "low" feelings, more energy, fewer hormonal issues. I am certainly not perfect at it, but I've learned that if I don't bring it home, I don't have a problem consuming too much sugar. If, however, I bring it into my house, I will devour every last bit!

April 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAli

Sugar. My arch nemesis. I started buying these new gummies for the kids that are supposed to be healthier. But they contain Brown Rice Syrup. Which is another fancy name for sugar. I can't win! We do use mostly honey to sweeten our foods, and its helping, but wow. To cut it out means a lot of DIY time for me. HFCS in salad dressing?! Seriously!?! I hate this. And oil and vinegar don't exactly win over the taste buds of my little people. The make it yourself packets...full of MSG. There is something (many things) wrong here. The hardest part isn't cutting it out, its finding ways to replace it without feeling it dramatically.

April 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCamaron

This post is haunting me...I need to cut back. I'm certain I'll feel better, sleep better, etc. Now, where do I wrangle up some extra will power?

April 2, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterkristen

Kristen and Camaron
You're getting it. Sugar is at the crux of our national eating disorder. It's a process and takes time but we collectively are creating a new food culture. Part of the journey is to rediscover alternate flavors to sugary sweetness. So we're learning to use flavors like cinnamon, chili (hotness), and lemon juice more, to name three. It takes time.

April 2, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterskip hellewell

I LOVE sweets and I have a very hard time limiting myself. I would say it's pretty much an addiction I have. So, in order to help myself to be strong I've devised a little reward program. If I go a month without sweets, I buy myself a new outfit. It's the only thing that has worked for me. The longest I have gone is 6 months and I fell off the wagon when well meaning friends provided me with birthday goodies. :) I will say that it takes me about a month without sweets to quit craving them. Once I get past the month mark, it becomes much easier. And..... I do feel better physically and emotionally.

Thank you Skip for giving me a great resource to help remind me how important good nutrition is! You're the best!

April 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCindy

I'm currently on a sugar fast. I feel so good. I have a lot of energy. I don't miss the sugar, but there are moments. I just wish I could convince the school to come up with better rewards. The amount of sugar my kids are given is insane.

April 11, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTori

Love your site! Thank you so much for your passion for health and for sharing all the wonderful information!

May 31, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterShauna

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