According to a CSFII USDA survey, we Americans eat 20.5 teaspoons of granulated sugar every day. This statistic is a bit absurd when compared to the figure consumed by the French. On average they consume one-eighteenth the amount that we do. Could this be the reason why the French eat lots of butter, animal fat, and cheese while suffering from fewer cases of chronic disease? Perhaps the paradox is not so much a paradox after all.
Why Sugar Is Bad
Sugar is a processed substance that is foreign to our bodies. For this reason alone, it is best to consume organic sugar in small quantities, but preferably not at all. Another great reason to decrease you sugar intake is that it impacts the physiology of our bodies in dramatic ways. Sugar is largely responsible for obesity (excess sugar is stored as fat), cancer, diabetes, gum infections, tooth decay, yeast infections hypoglycemia and hyperactivity. Sugar can also decrease growth hormone, encourage cancer, increase cholesterol, encourage fatigue and food allergies, incur gallstones and contribute to osteoporosis. In addition, when it enters the body, it feeds harmful bacteria that live in the mouth. It also suppresses immune function. This list is just a sampling of the ill-effects that sugar has on our bodies.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that the average American consumes anywhere between 150 to 170 pounds of simple sugars in one year. This is the equivalent of eating ¼ to ½ pounds of sugar each day. Less than 100 years ago, the average intake of sugar was only about 4 pounds per person per year. This is a huge difference and a statistic that tells us we are consuming above and beyond what nature intended. Just take a look at the food you eat on a daily basis. If you enjoy the more obvious sugar laden foods like pastries, donuts, cookies, cakes, and candies, then you know you’ve got some work to do. And if you eat these sweets in moderation, great, but there are numerous foods out there (namely processed foods) which contain way more sugar than you would think just by virtue of the way they are made.
White bread, white flour products, processed fruit juice and even rice cakes not only have more sugar than your body can take, but they also have a high glycemic index. When we eat foods with a high glycemic index, we often experience wild swings in blood sugar which causes a high. The high is then followed by a low, hypoglycemic state which can result in depression and irritability. Over the long term, these foods leave you insensitive to your own pancreatic insulin. When this happens, your body loses its ability to control blood sugar levels, which can lead to diabetes, depression and obesity.
Refined white sugar contains no nutrients whatsoever. It contains no fiber, no minerals, no proteins, no fats, no enzymes-just empty calories. In order to digest it, the body has to take nutrients from its storehouse of enzymes and nutrients. All of the B vitamins which are essential to nerve function and vitamin C, which is required for keeping the immune system active and for repairing connective tissue are needed in this process. Calcium, sodium, potassium and magnesium are also taken from various parts of the body in order to make use of the sugar. Think about that each time you add white sugar to your morning cup of coffee or take a bite of that glazed doughnut. Is it really worth it?
What We Can Do!
Perhaps it’s time to re-examine our relationship with sugar. Maybe it should be treated like any other addiction, because let’s face it, most Americans are addicted to sugar- whether we are conscious about it or not. In fact, researchers have found that there is a strong correlation between alcohol and or other addictive drugs and a strong craving for sugar. Those who are addicted to sugar have strong withdrawals when sugar is removed from the diet.
Think about what you eat on any given day. For breakfast, you may have cereal (lots of sugar there), perhaps you add sugar to coffee or tea and some mornings French toast is on the menu. At lunch you will most definitely find sugar in restaurant foods, in salad dressings or in pasta sauce. For a snack, yogurt seems like a healthy option but most contain upwards of 15 grams of sugar. At dinner there is sugar in ketchup, BBQ sauce, pizza and bread. Then there’s dessert and voila-you have incorporated loads of detrimental sugar to your daily diet. Still, there are other sources from which we obtain sugar that might not be so obvious. Certain types of crackers, canned vegetables and fruits and peanut butter are some examples. Just take a look at labels as you shop. If sugar is one of the top ingredients in the product, gingerly put it back on the shelf.
Unfortunately, we are biologically programmed to eat sweets. It is in our genes. Our biological sweet tooth was well under way when we were still living in caves. In order to make it through the day we had to eat nutrient-packed foods. Berries and other fruits helped boost our energy levels to enable us to perform the physical tasks of a typical day. If we fulfilled our collective sweet tooth today with fruits only, having a “sweet tooth” would not be such a negative thing.
The good news is, there are so many wonderful alternatives to sugar. When it comes to sweeteners, it is important to avoid all products containing aspartame, splenda, saccharin, refined white sugar, desserts made with white flour and white sugar. In moderate quantities, these sweeteners may be replaced with stevia, agave nectar, blackstrap molasses, certified raw, organic honey, pure grade B maple syrup, rice bran syrup, carob candy and organic chocolate, preferable raw. By cutting back on your intake of sugar you will be doing your body a huge favor. If you break down occasionally there’s no need to feel guilty, but do try to avoid it. With time, your body will thank you immensely.