Certainly there has been talk of an emerging sugar epidemic. But many people who think they are eating healthy by consuming foods from a health store are actually consuming too much sugar. How can you tell? And what’s the real risk?
Sugar – The Balancing Act for the Body
It’s a delicate balancing act for our body to monitor the amount of sugar in our bloodstream and release the proper hormones to keep our sugar levels “normal”. As a society we are inundating ourselves with sugar. According to the USDA the U.S. sugar consumption in 1821 was 10 pounds per person, 120 pounds in 1970, 120 pounds in 1980 (yes, no change in 10 years there), 141 pounds in 2004, and 199 pounds in 2005.
According to the American Heart Association, it is recommended to consume less than 16 grams of sugar per day. This from natural sources with no added sugar. The recommendation is to eat even less if you are suffering from a serious health condition.
Yet, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, added sugars contribute an average of 16 percent of the total calories in American diets. That’s a whole lot of excess sugar.
Sugar – It Really is an Addiction
When clients try to cut back on sugar they notice withdrawal symptoms – headaches, shaking, etc. If you’ve ever craved sugar, you know it’s truly a craving. And, none of this makes you crazy. Sugar stimulates some of the same neurotransmitters as, and in a manner similar to, alcohol, cocaine, and other drugs of abuse. The more you consume, the more you want. Take it away and the body has a biochemical reaction. So, it’s easy to get started, stay addicted, and difficult to quit.
Sugar – Found in “Health Foods” Too
Unfortunately many “health foods” are as loaded with sugar as a candy bar. To really know, you have to read the label. Look at the amount of sugar per serving and how many servings – do a little math to identify what is the best option.
I want to point out a few of “health foods” that people don’t realize are extremely sugar laden.
1. Energy, Granola, or Snack Bars: These are almost always high in sweeteners. And I don’t care if it’s evaporated cane juice, apple concentrate, or white sugar. It’s still sugar. Many contain 22-50 grams of sugar – more than your total daily recommended intake in just one little bar.
2. Smoothies: Bottled pre-made smoothies are loaded with sugar and the nutrients degrade over time so you aren’t getting a fresh whole foods product. Fresh smoothies from a place like Jamba Juice can exceed 77 grams of sugar (way, way more than your daily recommendation). Even if you make your own at home beware of the desire to have a sweet smoothie by added lots of fruit, yogurt, or sugar (even if it’s a natural sugar). Most people are willing to drink a “green smoothie” only if it tastes like pineapple, apple, or citrus. This is similar to juice in that liquid sugar will absorb faster into your blood stream creating a bad insulin spike.
3. Yogurt: Many yogurts are full of excess sugar and natural sugars in the form of fruit. Plus, yogurt is naturally sweetened by lactose, which provides about 12 grams of natural sugar per 6-ounce serving. Unfortunately, most people don’t eat plain yogurt, they choose one’s with added sugars. Greek yogurt is a bit lower, but the average 6-ounce yogurt container has about 32 grams of sugar, more than your total daily recommendation.
Sugar – What to Do
The best way to cut added sugars out of your diet is to limit processed foods as much as possible. When you do choose a processed food read the nutrition label and do the math. If you need to satisfy your sweet tooth, try fresh fruit.