Sugar – a toxin

I have procrastinated writing this article because I love sugar and everything that has sugar in it.  By sugar I mean sucrose – beet and cane sugar, white and brown, and high fructose corn syrup.  Sugar has been a hot topic for quite a few years and I’ve tried my best to ignore it because eating a Butterfinger for dinner is my idea of heaven.  I would happily eat like a six year old for the rest of my life if I could.  I have no medical background whatsoever, so for any technical questions, please ask your doctor.  I’m just reporting the word on the street – too much sugar is not good for us.

Refined sugar does not contain any protein, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants or fiber.  It either replaces more nutritious foods (like when we only eat a chocolate chip cookie for lunch) or it is eaten in addition to other foods that sustain our weight, which is why we get fatter.  Sugar is reported to be a toxic addiction.

We know that eating too much sugar makes us fatter.  But there is a lot more going on that we can’t see so easily.  Too much sugar can lead to fatty liver, insulin resistance, inflammation, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, fatigue, depression, hyperactivity, lower immune function, some cancers and diabetes.  Then there are the secondary diseases that increase in likelihood if you have any of the primary ones. Do I have your attention yet?

It was recently estimated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that 156 pounds of sugar is consumed per capita every year!  That is over 31 five pound bags of sugar per person a year. In the early 2000s, one in three American was obese and 14 million were diabetic. Yikes!

What to do?  Eat better and reduce your sugar intake!  In 2003 the United Nations and the World Health Organization recommended that our sugar intake should not exceed 10% of our daily caloric intake.  If you eat 1500 calories a day that’s no more than 150 calories a day from sugar.

To be a healthy eater, retrain your palate to expect less sweet.  Eat foods with more grams of fiber than sugar.  We should be eating 20-25 grams of fiber a day.

To reduce sugar in your diet:

  • Start with slow but steady decrease in sugar.
  • Slowly reduce your use of artificial sweeteners in all foods.
  • Read food labels before buying – look for hidden sugar.  If sugar is listed in the first five ingredients, it probably has too much sugar.
  • Avoid refined white flour.

If you read ingredients to find the amount of sugar, be aware that sugar has many names:

Invert Sugar
High Fructose Corn Syrup

Names of artificial sweeteners:

Aspertame (Nutrasweet)
Acesulfame Potassium (Sunette)
Saccharin (Sweet n’ Low)
Sucralose (Splenda)

The Glycemic Index was developed to classify how quickly and how high a food raises blood sugar levels as compared to the reference food – glucose.

High Glycemic Index foods are white flour wheat breads, corn flakes, white potatoes, potato chips and dates.

Medium Glycemic Index foods:
Sweet potatoes, oatmeal, Raisin Bran, Stone Wheat Thins, cranberry juice, white rice, rice cakes and raisins. 

Low Glycemic Index foods:
Sprouted grain breads, berries, apples, pears, peanuts, cashews, non-starchy vegetables, yogurts, milk soy milk, brown rice, barley, bulgar, beans, lentils, other legumes, any protein.

Make your body work to digest its food by avoiding processed foods and eating high fiber and unprocessed foods like those listed under Low Glycemic above.

Good luck and I’ll see you next to the carrots in the fresh produce aisle.