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Health and Sugar – Extra Icing on the Cake
America has a sugar problem, and it’s getting worse every day. Did you know that it is estimated that one in four people has diabetes or is in a pre-diabetic state?
In 1801, historians estimated that sugar consumption per person was about 8.4 pounds of sugar per year, or about 2.2 teaspoons per day. Current consumption has skyrocketed to around 170 pounds. per year, or about one cup per day!
The rise in refined sugar consumption has created a nation of obese, malnourished people who must ultimately succumb to insulin in order to ease blood sugar into cells for energy.
We simply ignore the relationship between health and sugar – hardly surprising since sugar has many faces, many of which are far less than obvious. Sugar isn’t just the sweet white stuff that gets sprinkled on your cereal or added to your coffee.
As for the obvious places where sugar abounds, there are cakes, cookies, pastries and candies, which not only contain sugar, but are often loaded with excess sugar – more sugar than our taste buds n need it. There is indeed “an additional icing on the cake”.
Then there are soft drinks, sweetened with HFCS (high fructose corn syrup).
Plus, all processed carbs are basically sugar! In addition to the obvious places where sugar resides, it also hides in bread, bagels, cereal, canned foods, pasta sauce, crackers, yogurt, salad dressings, and peanut butter.
I’ve said it many times before, but it bears repeating. Learn to read food labels and do so with anything you plan to put in your grocery cart. Be on the lookout for the many forms of sugar.
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 widely used because it is inexpensive. As such, companies get untold mileage with just a small amount of HFCS. Beware of products containing HFCS in the ingredients.
But HFCS is not the end. If you’re trying to avoid sugar, you should also look for corn syrup solids; fructose; dextrose; lactose; maltodextrin; ethyl maltol; barley malt; diastasis; sorbital; modified corn starches; sucrose; and carob syrup.
To determine the number of teaspoons of sugar in a product, take the number of grams of sugar and divide it by 4. So if a product has 28 grams of sugar, think 7 teaspoons of sugar.
• Half a cup of Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey contains 28 grams or 7 teaspoons of sugar.
• A large 16-ounce Starbucks Strawberries and Creme Frappuccino, with whipped cream, includes 85 grams, or about 21 teaspoons of sugar.
• Big Gulp or Super Sized sodas are the worst offenders and can contain well over 20 teaspoons of sugar!
And while it’s tempting, don’t think artificial sweeteners are part of the solution. Artificial sweeteners, such as Splenda, aspartame and saccharin present their own problems and should be avoided at all costs.
These sweeteners, offered on their own or ruthlessly marketed as diet products or healthy or healthier products than their “naturally sweet” counterparts, are actually harmful chemicals, possibly suitable for pesticides, but certainly not for human consumption.
A good 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 will not raise blood sugar like real sugar. Agave nectar is also a better substitution.
Also, please don’t be misled into thinking that using more natural sugars like honey or raw sugar is a safe bet. If you have blood sugar control issues, sugar is still sugar.
For many of us, an improved diet requires a better understanding of health and sugar, and usually results in a reduction in our overall sugar intake.
At first it may seem like something is missing – your body may even go into withdrawal, craving sugar or sweetness like it’s a drug.
Start managing your sugar craving by adding sweet vegetables like carrots or beets, or by eating an apple or other fresh fruit. Although fruits contain sugar, these foods contain enough nutrients and fiber to slow digestion, preventing rapid spikes in blood sugar.
Eventually, you’ll learn how to replace old sugar or artificially sweetened foods with better choices. Your body will reward you: you will feel less irritable and more balanced.
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