America has a sugar problem, and it is growing larger every day. Did you know that it is estimated that one out of every four people either has diabetes or is in a pre-diabetic condition?
In 1801, historians estimated that sugar consumption per person was about 8.4 lbs of sugar a year, translating to about 2.2 teaspoons a day. Current consumption has skyrocketed to about 170 lbs. a year, or about a cup a day!
Increase in refined sugar consumption has created a nation of obese and poorly nourished people who eventually have to succumb to insulin in order to facilitate blood glucose into the cells for energy.
We are simply unaware of the relationship between health and sugar – which is hardly surprising as sugar has many faces, a great proportion of which are way less than obvious. Sugar is not just the sweet white stuff that is sprinkled on your cereal or added to your coffee.
As to the obvious places where sugar abounds, there are cakes, cookies, pastries, and candy, that not only contain sugar, but often are loaded with excess sugar — more sugar than our taste buds require. There is indeed ‘extra icing on the cake.’
Then there are soft drinks, sweetened with HFCS (high fructose corn syrup).
In addition, all processed carbohydrates are in essence sugar! In addition to the obvious places sugar resides, it is also lurking in bread, bagels, cereal, canned foods, pasta sauce, crackers, yogurt, salad dressings and peanut butter.
I’ve said this before many times, but it bears repeating. Learn how to read food labels, and do so with everything you consider putting in your grocery basket. Be on the look-out for sugar’s many guises.
Most people are beginning to understand the dangers of high fructose corn syrup, the most common culprit. A highly concentrated and highly processed sweetener, it is used extensively because it is cheap. As such, companies get untold mileage with just a small amount of HFCS. Beware of products that have HFCS in the ingredients.
But HFCS is hardly the end of it. If you’re trying to avoid sugar, you also need to look for corn syrup solids; fructose; dextrose; lactose; maltodextrin; ethyl maltol; barley malt; diastase; sorbital; modified corn starches; sucrose; and carob syrup.
To determine how many teaspoons of sugar are in a product, take the number of grams of sugar, and divide it by 4. So if a product has 28 grams of sugar in it, think 7 teaspoons of sugar.
• A half a cup of Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey contains 28 grams, or 7 teaspoons of sugar.
• A 16 ounce grande Starbucks Strawberries and Creme Frappuccino, with whipped cream, includes 85 grams, or roughly 21 teaspoons of sugar.
• Big Gulp or Super Sized sodas are the worst offenders, and can have well over 20 teaspoons of sugar!
And while it is tempting, don’t think artificial sweeteners as part of the solution. Artificial sweeteners, such as Splenda, aspartame and saccharine present their own set of problems and should be avoided at all costs.
These sweeteners, offered on their own, or mercilessly marketed in the form of diet products or as products that are either healthy or healthier than their ‘naturally sweetened’ counterparts are actually nasty chemicals, possibly suited for pesticides, but certainly not for human consumption.
A nice alternative to sugar is stevia, especially green stevia if you can find it. Not only is this herb very sweet, but it also has health benefits, and won’t spike the blood glucose up like real sugar. Agave nectar is also a better substitution.
Also, please don’t be mislead into thinking that using more natural sugars like honey or raw sugar is a safe bet. If you are having problems with blood sugar control, sugar is still sugar.
For many us, an improved diet requires a better understanding health and sugar, and usually translates to reducing our overall sugar consumption.
At first, it may feel like something is missing — your body may even go into withdrawal, looking for sugar/sweetness as though it were a drug.
Start dealing with your sugar craving by adding sweet vegetables like carrots or beets, or eat an apple or other fresh fruit. Although fruit has sugar, there are enough nutrients and fiber in these foods to slow down digestion, preventing quick spikes in blood glucose.
Eventually, you will learn to replace the old sugar or artificially sweetened food with better choices. Your body will reward you — you’ll feel less irritable and more in balance.