Before you start reading, go into your kitchen and measure out a half-cup of sugar.
Would you eat that much straight sugar on a daily basis?
Now, go into your cupboard and fridge and grab a few items – maybe your breakfast cereal, a bottle of ketchup, or a box of crackers?
Read through the label. Is there sugar on there? Maybe it’s hidden and named sucrose, dextrose, high fructose corn syrup, anything ending in -ose or a type of syrup.
For example, these “only 90 calorie” Special K cereal bars are made up of 36% sugar with the ingredients: sugar, corn syrup, fructose, sugar, dextrose, sugar. Yes, this is listed as a “Special K Challenge” friendly snack, but I would not recommend it as a “healthy breakfast.”
Marketing at its finest. A glorified candy bar.
I’ll bet a large majority of items in your fridge or cupboard found in boxes/bags/bottles contain sugar in some form, especially “low-fat” foods. Low-fat foods taste gross with the fat removed, so food companies throw in some sugar to ramp up the flavor. Then, they market it to innocent consumers trying to lose weight.
To start this series on sugar off, I’ll just list some shocking facts on this sweet poison. In future posts, I’ll explain what this white and deadly substance is doing to our bodies and how we can cut down on sugar and still enjoy sweetness in foods.
How Much Sugar do We Eat?
The average American eats 22 tsp of sugar per day (just about a half-cup) for a total of 130 pounds per year. Just add another 10 tsp on that for kids. Children consume 32 tsp of sugar per day!
To put this in perspective, women should aim for less than 6 tsp per day and men less than 9 tsp per day.
Kids need good nutrition to grow and develop, and eating 500 calories of added sugar per day is not providing adequate vitamins and minerals for growth. It is just contributing to the ever-expanding waist and the ever-decreasing life expectancy. One in 3 children are expected to develop diabetes in their lifetime. Some are even diagnosed with diabetes as teenagers.
If kids are drinking juice with their breakfast cereal (some of the worst offenders are raisin bran or granola), drinking down Gatorade or Vitamin Water, and ending their day with dessert, a constant stream of sugar is flowing through their blood. There’s less room in the diet for essential vitamins and minerals and good nutrition for growth. Sugar does not contribute to satiety, which can lead to overeating.
Sugar is readily available and found everywhere. In the early 1800s, the average American consumed about 5 pounds of sugar per year. Now, we eat that much sugar in less than 2 weeks!
The average American consumes 156 pounds per year. Guess how many green vegetables we eat? Only 25 pounds per year!
We consume 61 pounds from America’s favorite sweetener – high fructose corn syrup.
This cheap and available sweetener is thrown in processed foods everywhere and is used to sweeten the 53 gallons of soda the average Americans drink per year.
A 12 oz can of soda has about 10 tsp of sugar, but most people buy the 20 oz bottles (or even 64 oz for only 99 cents at the gas station – what a deal!). The 20 oz bottles contain 2.5 servings, but I doubt anyone is getting multiple servings out of it. Instead, they’re chugging down 25 tsp of sugar and driving their blood sugars into diabetes range.
What’s the Problem with Sugar?
Here’s the key point: sugar has absolutely NO nutritional value. Instead, it depletes your body of vitamins, including B vitamins (for energy) and magnesium (for relaxation and your nervous system).
It can deterioriate the hardest substance in the body – enamel. Just imagine what it can do to your inner organs.
If you want an idea, refined sugar is linked to: obesity, diabetes, hypertension, high and low blood sugar, aching joints and limbs, depression, fatigue, acne, skin irritation, violent behavior… Instead of limiting sugar, we’re fighting a war against fat and eating more and more sugar each year.
Sugar is also addictive. If you want proof, go through your cupboard and eliminate all items with sugar. Give it up for 1 month. If you’re used to consuming it, you may go through withdrawal symptoms – headaches and cravings. In animal studies, researchers have shown sugar is more addictive as cocaine.
Another test – make a pan of brownies and only eat one. Pretty soon, you may be justifying in your head that “it’s only one more.” Moderation is not be the best advice for sugar, especially those with chronic exposure day in and day out. Willpower is hard if your brain’s biochemistry is out of whack. You wouldn’t tell an alcoholic to only have 1 drink. If you have “no willpower” around sugar, you’re probably a sugarholic.
Believe me, I used to be a sugarholic – Halloween candy and girl scout cookies would not last long around me.
In the next post on sugar, I will begin to explain what sugar does in our bodies. In the meantime, start looking at ingredient labels to see how prevalent sugar is, or better yet – buy REAL FOOD without ingredient labels! Fruits & vegetables do not have added sugar (well, I hope they’re not injecting sugar into carrots!).