Sugar…The Not So Sweet Truth
Many individuals are trying to become healthier but are left confused when it comes to proper nutrition. It seems common sense to eliminate foods that are obviously unhealthy like donuts and candy, but what about other food that masquerades as healthy? Today’s blog will help sort out the good from the bad and inform you of your choices.
FAT makes you FAT: This statement is INCORRECT! Of course, too much of anything is not healthy and animal fat and fried foods are not good for health, but fat is not the main culprit of excess weight gain. There are many foods which are higher in fat such as nuts, avocado and salmon, but these foods are good for you. Your body needs some healthy fat consumption in order to function properly. The real culprit here is SUGAR.
Sugar…What’s the big deal? The body has a natural threshold of acceptable amounts of sugar that can safely be handled on a daily basis. Anything above that is extremely harmful to the body. Complications from excess sugar do not occur after a single slice of cheesecake, but after years of eating sugar in excess. The result? Metabolic disease such as diabetes, kidney disease, fatty liver, and obesity.
Another concern is many individuals assume that being thin makes one healthy. However, unhealthy eating has consequences regardless if seen on the outside. In a study individuals that appear healthy on the outside were put in an MRI to measure the amount of fat inside the body. Individuals with normal BMI’s (body mass index) were found to have unhealthy amounts of visceral fat. (Fat that surrounds the abdomen and vital organs, thus being the most dangerous to health) Thankfully if visceral fat is not extreme an increase in healthy eating habits, stress management, exercise and adequate sleep can help decrease this fat. Let’s now examine current sugar guidelines for optimal health.
The World Health Organization (W.H.O) has recommended the total daily intake of added sugar not exceed 5% of daily calories. This means for a 2,000 calorie diet sugar should be limited to 25 grams daily. The American Heart Association has also recommended the following for daily sugar intake: Adult women= 5 tsp. (20 grams), adult men = 9 tsp. (36 grams) and children 3 tsp. (12 grams)
Grams to Teaspoons Most people are uncertain what one gram of sugar converts to. One teaspoon equals four grams of sugar. From now on when reading nutritional information divide the total number of sugar grams by 4 to get the total number of teaspoons. For example one 12 ounce can of Pepsi has 41 grams divided by 4 = 10.25 teaspoons. Below is an example of a typical day’s meals and the total sugar from those foods.
Breakfast: 1 cup Honey Nut Cheerios (9 grams) , ½ cup skim milk (6.5 grams) , 8oz. orange juice (23 grams) = 10.25 tsp.
Morning Snack: Tall Caramel Frappuccino- nonfat milk and whipped cream (43 grams) = 10.75 tsp.
Lunch: McDonald’s Bacon Clubhouse grilled chicken sandwich (14 grams) , medium fries, 3 ketchup packets (6 grams) , medium Coke (55 grams) = 18.75 tsp.
Snack: Yoplait original 6oz. French vanilla yogurt (26 grams), blueberry Nutri-Grain bar (12 grams) = 9.5 tsp.
Dinner: Prego traditional sauce (½ cup;10 grams) , barilla spaghetti noodles (⅛ of 16 oz. box; 2 grams), 5 meatballs ( grams), 8 oz. apple juice (26 grams) = 9.5 tsp.
Daily Total: 58.75 tsp. That’s more than 6 times the recommendation for men and 12 times the recommendation for women!
Here is an example of popular food and drinks as well as their sugar content.
Popular Kid Food:
What about “sugar-free” products? The trouble with “sugar-free” products and artificial sweeteners is that although they have no calories or fewer calories they still trigger hormonal responses in the body to produce excess insulin just as sugar does. Many products also add sugars but call it something else. There are over 60 names for sugar including maltodextrin, high-fructose corn syrup, dextrose, fruit juice concentrate and golden syrup just to name a few. Although called something else, results are the same.
Processed foods have become common among much of the world today, however processed starches such as white bread, crackers and cereal also produce a “sugar effect”. Even when containing small amounts of sugar, processing has basically turned these products into sugar when consumed. Processed starches are not absorbed by the body in the same way as whole foods and are immediately digested into glucose, thus having the same effect as sugar. The best thing to do is avoid prepackaged foods as much as possible.
Should I worry about fruit? No. When fruit is consumed fiber and other nutrients accompany the sugar. The fruit does not get immediately absorbed by the body like refined starches. Instead, your blood sugar rise is lower and longer. The fiber and other nutrients in the fruit naturally eliminate the negative effects of the sugar. What about fruit juice? When juice is made the fiber is taken out and since fiber is what helps keep blood sugar levels and insulin in balance, juice alone also has the same negative “sugar effect”. If you look at any prepackaged 100% juice it will say on the nutritional label “not an adequate source of fiber” or Fiber 0%. This is why juice is actually hard on your body.
Sugar is addicting Studies have shown that sugar activates neurons in the brain’s pleasure center just as it does with cocaine or heroin. Sugar has also been found to be eight times more addictive than cocaine. Yet another reason to stay away!
The food industry is a business Be aware that we are constantly being sold to, especially when it comes to food and drinks. Since the food industry isn’t going to put things on their packaging that will turn us away from buying their products we need to be responsible consumers and read what’s on the label. Be conscientious and make small changes at a time to help you and your family become healthy.
Originally published October 24, 2014