My apologies to Rick James, but “I’m a sugar freak, a sugar freak; I’m a sugar freak, sugar freak, yow ….” Seriously, I know why my pudge persists. It is my drug of choice. And I mean both drug and choice.
There’s a great article in the April/May issue of Green America (http://www.greenamerica.org/pubs/greenamerican/) on how much of the white stuff we consume, what form and how much is actually allowable. In “developed” nations we are so driven by what food companies have trained our taste buds and exploited our bodily functions to crave by adding all manner of chemicals and seemingly harmless substances — fructose? “Isn’t that in fruit? It’s gotta be healthy, right?”
So, here’s the skinny (pardon the reference) from the American Heart Association: six teaspoons (30 grams) per day for women and nine teaspoons (45 grams) for men. The next package of food you handle, check the label — start your day with a cup of sugar, about two and one-half teaspoons in a bowl of Fruit Loops, four teaspoons in eight ounces of orange juice and eight and one-half teaspoons in that container of yogurt.
Mind you, I couldn’t find a formula for figuring out how much to change the allowance for children, but it could/should only be less. Dr. Robert Lustig at UC San Francisco says we crave sugar from birth, that “our brain lights up for sugar in the same way it does for cocaine.”
He says that, in fact, sugar is, quite simply, a toxin. Given that the big three items in processed food production are salt, fat and sugar, with sugar leading the way, we need to be all the more vigilant when it comes to reading labels (which hopefully, I might interject, should soon have “No GMO” labels on them as well).
So much of our more pleasant childhood memories are strongly triggered by sugar plums dancing in our heads at holidays, birthdays and vacation time, it’s no wonder we’re habituated to things that are bad. And, not only has sugar been shown to prompt obesity and diabetes, but now possibly Alzheimer’s, cancer, heart disease and auto-immune diseases.
Hopefully, most people are aware of the fact that any sweetener will cause blood sugar levels to spike and when it drops we feel all the hungrier. We keep eating until we feel full. We sleep eight hours and, when the body awakens, it wants to break that fast with nutrition: What are we feeding it?
High-fructose corn syrup, anyone? Chemical sweeteners are just that, chemical, and most sugar is from GMO (genetically modified organism) beets — and don’t forget the social and environmental impact sugar production has on our planet. Green America presents an easy-to-read chart of all the sweet stuff, including the supposedly “healthy alternatives.” I suggest checking it out for a real eye-opener.
So, how do you kick the habit?
Good ol’ Dr. Oz says, “Don’t eat anything with sugar listed in the first five ingredients and check to see how much total sugar is in a serving.”
Beyond that, Green America suggests this:• Avoid soda (12 ounces of Coke equals eight teaspoons sugar);
• Avoid juice: the fiber in fruit helps keep fructose in check to pass through your system without spiking your blood sugar levels, but juicing fruit takes out the fiber;
• Eat whole, unprocessed foods;
• Check labels;
• Eat breakfast with protein and little to no carbohydrates and sweets;
• Power through with your pursuit of healthy food consumption; and
• There are various studies about homeopathic means of control, like drinking green tea, cinnamon, etc., with no conclusive results yet, but it’s worth adding to your diet!
So, as we embark on the happy, carefree days of summer, let’s keep in mind that, ultimately, our fond memories shouldn’t be tainted by health issues that could, long ago, have been avoided by better habits.
Have you noticed how good the nectarines have been lately?
The scoop on sugar WebMD: http://bit.ly/ZI6hkA
Green America, “Sickeningly Sweet”: http://www.greenamerica.org/pubs/greenamerican/
Green America, “Kick your sugar addiction”: http://bit.ly/19njODK
“Salt, Sugar, and Fat,” by Michael Moss, Random House, 2013
“Frankenfood,“ Green American, April/May 2012 issue