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Sugar My Friend. Sugar My Enemy.

It would be easy-- and probably a lot of fun-- to pretend that having acute intermittent porphyria gives me free reign to eat all the carbs and sugars I want. But interestingly enough, after being officially diagnosed with porphyria, I started to make a lot of lifestyle changes and dropped weight at a slow but steady pace. And I didn't alter my carbohydrate intake a single bit.

I owe much of this to my switch from processed sugars to more natural sweeteners like agave or honey, supplementing my choice to use raw turbinado sugar. Every morning I usually add a spoonful or two of sugar to my French Press coffee pot, to cut the bitter and to leave a light sweet taste on my tongue. The turbinado warms to an almost molasses taste-- you can tell because it's brown, not white, that it'll be closer to caramel than just pure white sugar. Life's good for me. I make tea or bake and use agave nectar, which (according to various sources on the internet, which isn't always right) has one of the lowest glycemic indexes of sweeteners out there.

And now that a heat wave has struck NYC where I live, I have a few ice cream sandwiches tucked away in the freezer. But here's the deal: they're made from soy products and have no cholesterol. They're tiny, too. That's why they're called Cuties:

I'm not saying this as diet advice-- eat a bunch of Cuties soy ice cream sandwiches and put raw sugar in your coffee. I'm saying that I try to focus on various forms of sweeteners, various ways of getting sweets. Not featured, of course, is the best way to get your sugar fix: a banana. Fruits and veggies offer the best sweets available, the kind that does the body good.

Just because we have porphyria doesn't mean we should eat really delicious donuts covered in frosting and delivered by unicorns (okay, every once in a blue moon is okay), but we can have our sweet moments that are good for us without compromising our health. After all, too much unhealthy eating and sugar can lead to type 2 diabetes and obesity, which would further complicate porphyria problems. We must stay vigilant! But sweet!

--Miranda Dennis


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