By Cinthia Jahnsen
Is sugar really as harmful as some make it sound? The answer is “yes.”
Agave nectar, brown rice syrup, high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, evaporated cane juice, glucose, lactose, malt syrup, molasses, sucrose. Do any of these sound familiar? Sometimes sugar is disguised as other names such as these. I don’t know about you, but I have a ‘baked goods’ weakness. I can avoid most candy, soda, salty snacks etc. but put a warm brownie in front of me and I cannot resist.
Sugar is a huge part of the American diet. Added Sugar is in almost everything we eat such as bread, peanut butter, jelly, ketchup, salad dressing, and even cereals that are advertised as healthy. Have you ever noticed that on the food nutrition labels, there is no daily value for sugar? Hmmm, coincidence? I think not.
What role does sugar play in the American diet?
A BIG one! In 2012, during the Halloween season it was estimated that customers would spend $2.2 billion on candy for Halloween. Wow, that is a lot of candy. In our neighborhood, there are not that many kids, so the neighbors hand out handfuls of candy. My kids get more candy than I ever got as a kid, and I had a pillow case for trick-or-treating. Not only do kids get a ton of candy on Halloween, but they get candy at their school Halloween carnival, church trick or treat parties, neighborhood gatherings and many other costume party events they attend. And this is just Halloween….. Don’t even get me started on Easter and Christmas goodies. (Homemade fudge. Need I say more. Yum!) Guess what that number one ingredient is in all that candy they are consuming? You guessed it…sugar. So we know that kids eat a lot of sugar on and around Halloween, but what about the average American on an average day?
How much sugar do Americans consume on a daily basis?
According to data from the US in 2008 “people are consuming over 60 pounds (28 kg) of added sugar per year and this does not include fruit juices.” You will most likely find sugar as an ingredient on most of the food you are buying. Due to the deep pockets of the sugar industries, there is not a recommended label on our food for daily intake of sugar. However, a new FDA proposal advises a daily guideline for the intake of sugar which should be no more than 10 percent of your daily calories consumed.
Researchers on TODAY’s Health and Wellness recommend dividing by 4 to figure out your daily teaspoons or grams of sugar recommended. For example, “take the calories (your daily calories) and divide by 4 to get the grams of added sugar. For 200 calories, this is 50 grams. And for teaspoons? Divide by 4 again to get around 12 teaspoons of added sugars daily. Depending on your daily calorie intake, a recommended added sugar intake can range from 6 teaspoons to 15 teaspoons a day, for most people.” Many people are consuming almost double this amount daily.
Is sugar really as harmful as some make it sound?
Yes! Eric Steiss, a neuroscientist at the organ research institute, uses function MRI scanners to see how our brains function and react to sweeteners. He was interviewed on 60 minutes stating, “Sugar activates the brain in a very special way that is reminiscent to drugs like Cocaine.” Whoa, thats a little scary!
According to the Harvard Health Publications from Harvard Medical School, too much sugar can lead to heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes. It is also a known link to cavities, can raise blood pressure and may also “stimulate the liver to dump more harmful fats into the bloodstream.”
You be the judge.
If you are not convinced of the influence sugar has over your body and brain, try to go without sugar for a week. See how your body reacts. You might experience headaches, cravings, aches and pains, and even mood swings. Sounds sort of like a drug addiction recovery doesn’t it? After the initial shock of eliminating sugar from your body, check out your weight. Do you feel slimmer, have you lost a couple of pounds? This is because most of the foods that do contain large amounts of sugar (or even artificial sweeteners) are things that we know are not nutritionally healthy for us. Things like soda, cupcakes, candy, donuts, even peanut butter etc.
All things in moderation.
Now honestly I am not one who has given up sugar completely, but I have friends who have, and they tell me how much clearer their minds are and how much easier it is for them to control their weight. I do however help my kids to make healthy choices at home. I try to teach them what things are good for them and what things are not. There are some things that are always off limits, like drugs and alcohol, and there are other things that are ok to have sometimes on occasion like soda and candy. We still have baking sessions and they still go to birthday parties full of junk food, but I am hoping that if we consider the lessons learned behind sugar consumption we can consume it in moderation as to not harm our bodies or our brains.