Tim wears the editor cap in our household. Proofreading yet another article on sugar’s impact on our health can’t be very exciting for him. And it’s likely this won’t be the last time I revisit the subject.
On Hólmgardur 26, home of my childhood, the sugar drawer was next to the stove. The drawer was filled to the rim. Before I arrived, the sixth child, my parents rented a one bedroom apartment with a “kitchen,” a single burner hot plate. It must have seemed like a great luxury to mamma to have money to buy sugar and a designated drawer to store it.
Historically, particularly in Europe where sugar cane can’t grow, sugar was considered a great luxury. Not many suspected the toxicity of sugar and sapiens’ relationship. Since then, warning bells are ringing. The sugar industry pays scientists to let sugar off the hook and point to another baddy. (Harvard Research)
Most sugar comes from sugar cane (30% from sugar beets). The sun’s energy and green leaves bring about a chemical change (photosynthesis), and the plant grows. When the juice is extracted from the stalks, what remains is a dry pulpy fibrous residue, bagasse. That’s such a cool word. Just had to work it into the article. Bagasse, aka fiber, what they removes, is what we should be eating more of. Instead, our brain pleads for the white substance, sugar cane stripped of vitamins and minerals that contribute to a host of health issues, obesity, fatigue, poor concentration, and weak bones.
When we enjoy something, we want more of it. Take working out for example. When you are all done, you feel like a million? It’s how I feel after a couple sets of bat wing reps. A feeling of accomplishment pours over me. You can debate that spending seven minutes in the gym is unlikely to firm up my triceps, but it’s better than no reps. When it comes to food choices, inching away from processed food with added sugar will benefit our health.
The recommended daily intake of added sugar for women is 25 grams. That’s about six teaspoons. In 1812, the average person ate about 9 grams a day. According to healthline.com, Americans’ average intake is 76.7 grams per day. Our bodies are charitable hosts to sugar, as Milkweed plants are to caterpillars, food turning them into beautiful butterflies. But sugar injures while Milkweed nurtures. The Diabetes Council reports that our consumption is on the increase and, as of 2017, the United States has the highest consumption per person in the world with 126 grams per day.
But why recommend 25 grams? Why not say “zero added sugar.” Suggesting 25 grams is like suggesting you can listen to heavy metal music two hours a day. Maybe the hair cells in the cochlea (inner ear) can suffer through this abuse, at least for a while. Seeing the harm wrong food choices cause may have clouded my desire to be open-minded. But in the long run, wouldn’t it just be easier to avoid added sugar altogether? Whom amongst us can take one small, round, crisp, and chocolatey M&M from a sea in rainbow’s colors?
Speaking of fruit and sugar. “My doctor wants me to stay away from sugar, so I’m limiting it to one-a-day.” If you didn’t say this, a friend might have. “Putting it to the test,” as Dr. Greger would say, a Canadian research team put people on about a 20 servings-of-fruit-a-day diet for a few weeks with no adverse effects on weight, blood pressure or triglycerides. However, a wondrous 38-point drop in LDL cholesterol was noted. Studies continue to suggest fruit and vegetables shouldn’t be on the cutting (calories) block. Why?
Sugar is either natural as in raspberries and pineapple, or added. Mother Nature puts many health-promoting qualities—bagasse, vitamins, and minerals—into fruit. Fruits contain antioxidants that offer health benefits and protection from heart disease and other damaging effects of free radicals in your body. Fruits and veggies are nutrition and fiber powerhouses with health-enhancing qualities. Produce is cheaper than drugs. And no sitting at the doctor’s waiting room wondering why an elderly woman crosses her legs each time she coughs. Hopefully, it isn’t catching.
Added sugar is on the list of ingredients. Sugar has many names. Besides those ending in “ose,” such as maltose or sucrose, other names for sugar include molasses, cane sugar, corn sweetener, raw sugar, syrup, honey or fruit juice concentrates. No added sugars mean no sugar-containing ingredients.
One 12-ounce can of regular soda contains eight teaspoons of sugar and zero nutrition. Women reach their limit before they finish drinking one can. Eliminating sugar from our diet is really hard. If you grew up with a sugar drawer as I did, it’s even harder. (Well, I can’t prove that.) But one piece of chocolate can be like a drink for an alcoholic, or cigarette for a smoker trying to quit.
To concede something new is true is best accomplished when we do our own research choosing trusted sources. Believe those who seek the truth and not those seeking life in their reality. Doubt those who discover a solution to chronic health problems and sell the answers as pills in a bottle or powder in a drink — question everything.
Michael Moss, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, spent a decade researching the way producers of packaged and processed foods distort the American diet. In his book, Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, we find out that most CEOs and their families don’t eat what their companies sell. Why is that?
Reluctant to think badly of US food corporations? Ask, why is it that most of US cereal is banned in the UK, Australia, Japan, and most of Europe? Why does the EU require that Kraft Mac and Cheese boxes are labeled with the phrase: “May have an adverse affect on activity and attention in children.” (Scientific American)
It does not matter what we have been told. We have immense power over our health destiny. Deciding to reach for an apple and hummus is no piece of cake. Hard choices, healthy life. Easy Choices, unhealthy life.