If you ever wanted to know what My Little Pony tastes like, hop on over to Starbucks asap. They’ve got a special edition Unicorn Frappuccino that’s only available through tomorrow. So hurry. If I were 35 years younger, and still loved the colors pink and purple as much as I now love black and gray, there would be no more appealing drink on earth. It’s a Slushee bred with a milkshake, or Kool-aid flavored mik. It’s exactly what Barbie would order on her dream vacation in Miami. It’s a drink so girly, Vice President Pence could not consume it alone.
Since going on a low carb diet in 2009, I’ve stopped drinking anything with sugar, including juice. I’ve never tasted a mythical or a real Frappuccino. I can only imagine the sweetness as I reminisce about the hot days of my Texas childhood when my functioning beta cells were on high alert, always ready for an influx of Welch’s grape soda. I remember when I first learned the purpose of the water fountain at my elementary school. It was the place you went when your Capri Sun had a lame straw and you urgently needed a liquid to wash down the Oreos (or in my kosher case, Hydrox sandwich cookies, appetizingly named like an emollient lotion you’d find in the bathroom medicine cabinet). Water was a drink for our pets, not for us. At summer camp we self-served bug juice from giant red plastic drink dispensers. My grandmothers always had Coke, Sprite, and Ginger Ale. At home, my dad didn’t give us sodas because he knew they weren’t healthy, and instead my brother and I drank pink lemonade, juice boxes, and plenty of Capri Sun. Tea wasn’t on my radar, and since I grew up in the pre-Starbucks-in-every-mall era, I knew coffee only as an ice cream flavor and a bitter adult morning drink.
I discovered water after high school. I was on a trip in Israel and drinking it was mandatory on our guided hikes. Shortly thereafter I met the man I would eventually marry. On our first official date we met at a cafe. He ordered a cappuccino. I’d never had one, but decided it was a good time to try. Because nothing says cool and sophisticated on a first date like a frothy milk mustache. When the drink arrived I stared at it like I’d just been served a cup of cough suppressant. But since I was on a date with the hottest guy I’d ever seen, I withheld all sarcastic comments. I smiled, told myself I’d just chug it like a vile Lone Star beer, and demurely asked him if I should add sugar to my cappuccino. He said, “You can if you want to.” I did. And I was instantly transformed into a coffee addict.
My timing was good. Starbucks began to appear everywhere. And though I don’t love their coffee, I do love the comfort of knowing that they’re in the vicinity. I once read a statistic that my chances of living within 20 miles of a Starbucks were around 80%. That’s a long, but still walkable, distance. So I have the reassurance that -worst case scenario- there’s no transportation, I can still get to a place with coffee.
But now the whole world is angry at Starbucks because they’ve created yet another drink full of sugar. (Where was the uproar over the Green Tea Frappuccino which has even more carbs than the unicorn drink?) The people of the internet have been making jokes about the Unicorn Frappuccino, calling it diabetes-in-a-cup. And everyone knows that unicorns don’t give you diabetes, so the joke isn’t funny. And what also isn’t funny is that the one responsible for the type 2 diabetes crisis in America is not a horny horse or any single food/beverage corporation, but the U.S. government.
Although more than two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese, as are some 30 percent of children and teens, and half of all adults have type 2 diabetes or pre diabetes, the most recent U.S. government’s dietary guidelines still recommend a diet heavy in whole grains and low in fat. These are the very same guidelines that brought us to unprecedented levels of metabolic syndrome . Grains, just like sugar, and just like juice, raise blood sugar. If you’ve got great metabolic-health, your body might do okay with a lot of grains in the short-term. If you have diabetes, the grains are going to make you sick immediately. When your blood sugar is too high, you aren’t healthy. That’s why people with diabetes are supposed to try to achieve normal blood glucose levels.
Imagine your pancreas is on fire and you have two choices about how to handle the situation.
1. You eat protein, fat, and low carb veggies, which act like water on your flaming pancreas
2. You eat healthy(?) grains and fruit, which make the fire burn hotter.
Isn’t the correct answer obvious?
A 12 ounce Unicorn Frappuccino has the same amount of carbohydrate as a 12 ounce bottle of apple juice. But Twitter isn’t hating on apple juice, which is nutritionally not much better than soda. And the American Diabetes Association has yet to advocate for a low-carb diet. Click on their featured recipes and you’ll get one for chicken with noodles and broccoli, which is almost as carb-laden as the unicorn drink, or the linguine sprinkled with bread crumbs because, duh, people with diabetes should always be encouraged to layer their carbs with more carbs. The idea that such recipes are good for people with diabetes is just as fabled as the unicorn.