Friday, October 21, 2011

Free Friday: Sugar Me Sick

According to a 2009 report by the American Heart Association, Americans guzzle 22 teaspoons of sugar a day EACH!  Most of this comes from soda and candy.  One soda alone carries around 8 teaspoons of sugar.  Alarmingly, teenagers raise the average for Americans by consuming up to 34 teaspoons of sugar in one day.  Recommendations from the AHA allow 6 to 8 teaspoons of sugar a day, depending on your size.  Personally, I think the goal should be 0.

Processed sugar comes to us in many forms: white sugar (from cane or beets), corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, and many other disguises in our food.  It's hiding in almost anything packaged like cookies, crackers, pasta sauces, peanut butter, salad dressings, mayonnaise, you name it.  Even bread, meat and soup can be loaded with sugar.

So, what's the problem with sugar?  Well, humans haven't been consuming these quantities of refined sugars for very long, so the long-term effects are just beginning to occur to us.  Many experts blame high consumption of refined sugar for a plethora of diseases.  Diabetes is the most obvious, but many recent studies indicate that sugar may play a huge role in hundreds of other diseases.

In her book Lick the Sugar Habit (which I highly recommend), Dr. Nancy Appleton references dozens of studies that implicate sugar in connection with cancer, heart disease, obesity, tooth decay, mineral deficiencies, depression, intestinal disorders, free radical damage, constipation, asthma, and the list goes on.  With as much sugar as humans consume daily, it would not be surprising if scientists soon discover that sugar is the main problem in most chronic diseases.

Why wait until science clearly tells us what we all already know?  Refined sugar is toxic and contributes to disease.  Cutting this out of your diet in all of its forms will do nothing but contribute to your health and well being.  As humans, we should be getting healthy sugars from fruits and vegetables.  Concentrated, denatured sugar is nowhere to be found in nature.  Even honey is a rare treat for an animal in the wild that dares to penetrate a beehive.

If you have a sweet tooth, learn to enjoy foods that are naturally sweet (like fruit and dates).  If you have to have sweets, find ones that are sweetened with less harmful sweeteners like agave, coconut palm sugar or stevia (ultimately, the goal should be to avoid any form of concentrated sweetener).

I would also recommend learning to enjoy the other flavors that food has to offer.  Bitter is a taste that most people stay away from, but you can develop a taste for slightly bitter foods by introducing them with other foods like in a green smoothie.  Sour, salty, spicy, pungent, and astringent are some other tastes that can be enjoyed.  Learning to enjoy flavors can be exciting with plant foods, because there is so much variety.  Be adventurous!  Enjoy food.  Be healthy!

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