Devil in Disguise
Sugar by any other name is still as sweet.
One of the most common responses from my clients when I start working with them to reduce their sugar intake is, "I really don't eat sweets that much so it shouldn't be that hard". But what many people don't realize (and what the sugar and food industry doesn't want to tell you), is that sugar is not just in that slice of birthday cake, or in the soda we already know to watch out for. If I were to look in your pantry or fridge, I'd probably find added sugar in nearly all the products you buy. You could say it's hidden in plain sight.
Corn Syrup, dextrose, maltose, fructose, rice syrup, evaporated cane juice, agave -- these are just a few of the ways that refined sugar is disguised on our food labels. And even so-called health foods are just as guilty. Purchased a protein bar recently? You might as well eat your favorite donut. An oatmeal raisin Clif Bar has 20 grams of sugar (4.8 teaspoons). A jelly donut from Dunkin' Donuts is 15 grams (3.8 teaspoons). Ditto for that low-fat, flavored yogurt I know you bought thinking it was healthy. Go on, go check it now. While you're in your kitchen go ahead and check your bread label, cereal, peanut butter, canned veggies, salad dressing, ketchup and pasta sauce. Do you see a pattern here?
So here's some science-y stuff for you...refined sugar, or sucrose, is extracted from either sugarcane or beets and lacks minerals and fiber -- requiring the body to put in extra effort to digest. And while your body is doing that, it also has to get rid of minerals and enzymes that it had stored for a rainy day to make room to absorb the sucrose. So instead of giving the body nutrients, you're getting a deficiency. And don't get me started on what it does to your mood - can you say Jekyll and Hyde? When sugar enters your bloodstream and raises your blood sugar levels you get excited, nervous, and become what I like to call a super-tasker. That's why you bought that afternoon candy bar, to get that boost to finish the work day. Am I right? But then the fatigue and depression pay a visit once the high wears off and your blood sugar takes a nose dive.
And did you know sugar qualifies as an addictive substance, just like cocaine and heroin? Having just a little drives a desire for more. And when you quit sugar it can cause withdrawal symptoms like headaches, mood swings, and fatigue. Believe me, I went through it myself. And it's a big reason why I'm so passionate about educating others about the dangers. The average American eats about 100 pounds of sugar and sweeteners each year (oh yes, don't think just because your sugar is fake you're off the hook - more on that later). The World Health Organization recommends keeping sugar intake to no more than six teaspoons/25 grams per day for an adult. The USDA wants to be your friend so they say 12 teaspoons per day is okay. But of course we don't stick to that either. We Americans have to go big or go home by consuming 30 teaspoons of sugar a day. Which has lead to higher obesity rates, especially among children. I wouldn't call this winning, would you?
So about the fake stuff...Aspartame, Saccharin, Sucralose, Acesulfame K, and Neotame. Sounds like a chemical experiment because it is. And your body is the testing lab. But you may know these by their friendlier names -- NutraSweet, Equal, Sweet'N Low, Splenda. Besides the side effects that can occur from having these in your favorite beverage or baked goods -- like headaches, hearing loss, anxiety attacks, numbness in the extremities, chest pain, depression, and GI disorders -- there have also been European studies linking two of them to cancer. Add in three neurotoxins found in Aspartame and, well, you get the point. So while people think they're making a healthier choice, those who use artificial sweeteners end up consuming more calories elsewhere plus they have the chemical Russian roulette to play.
But let's get back to YOU, shall we? Did you tally up the sugar in your kitchen yet? Well, here's the good news -- now you know and you can do something about it. Starting today. There are plenty of delicious, natural, affordable, sugar-free or low-sugar options out there. You just have to take the time to read the labels. Go on, take all the time you need. Your health is worth it.