Nothing is scarier than the amount of Sugar kids eat on Halloween. In late October here in South Africa, we follow the United States in celebrating Halloween, A 2,500-year-old Irish tradition that has been hijacked in recent decades by major food companies who sell us the holiday in brightly coloured bags of sugary sweets.
For those of us who want to live better, healthier lives, October is an ideal time to learn more about sugar. No Not Really! We should learn about this killer A.S.A.P. and not wait for it to attack our children.
Why We Like (and Need) Sugar
Let’s face it, Sugar tastes good. Without sugar some foods would not be as palatable. Nature gave us a “sweet tooth” so we would be attracted to sweet and healthful foods found in nature, such as fruit. In designing our bodies, nature clearly didn’t anticipate the availability of huge quantities of refined sugars. The body is not capable of regulating the excessive amounts of glucose resulting from a high sugar diet.
Since the central nervous system needs glucose continuously to provide energy for use by nervous tissue, and the brain needs it constantly as its primary source of energy, the human body is designed to interfere with blood sugar within limits only. The brain needs a constant supply of glucose as its main fuel to function properly, but that doesn’t mean added sugar is healthy. A well-balanced diet provides an adequate glucose supply to keep us functioning at our peak.
Different Kinds of Sugar
The mainstream media tend to refer to sugar in general terms and overlook an important fact about sugar: That not all sugars are created equal!
There are many types of sweeteners (sucrose, glucose or dextrose, fructose, maltose, lactose and sugar alcohols sorbitol and xylitol) depending on the source and varying from naturally occurring such as the sugar in fruit, to highly refined, such as white table sugar.
Why Food Companies Want Us Addicted To Sugar
Everyone knows that soft drinks and other beverages are unnecessarily loaded with huge quantities of sugar, often in the form of high-fructose corn syrup. And, of course, don’t forget the pastries, candy bars, cookies, ice creams and other sweets that are also loaded with sugar. But many consumers do not know that white table sugar and high fructose corn syrup are common additives in breads, cereals, sauces, dressings, canned fruit, specialty coffee drinks, watered down “juices” and many other foods and beverages — including those advertised as “healthy.”
Why are convenience and manufactured foods loaded with sugar? Because sugar acts as a stabilizer and preservative, tastes good and is cheap. Manufacturers also know that the more sugar customers eat, the more they crave it, and that’s good for business.
What’s So Bad About Most Sugars?
It is estimated that the average American consumes an average of between 100 to 160 pounds of refined sugar per year. That estimate is even more shocking when you consider that the human body was designed to consume exactly zero pounds of refined sugar each year.
The World Health Organization recommends that sugar consumption should not exceed 10% of a person’s total daily calorie intake. That’s about 200 calories a day for a person consuming a 2000-calorie daily diet.
Studies show that high consumption of sugar plays a role in the increasing development of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, hyperactivity and tooth decay.
Ironically, eating too much sugar actually robs your body of sugar. The over consumption of refined sugar and flour (simple carbohydrates) often causes hypoglycemia, which causes blood sugar to fall below normoglycemic levels. The result is hunger, loss of balance or dizziness, rapid heart beat, weakness, anxiety and excessive sweating. Hypoglycemia can lead not only to overeating and fatigue but also obesity and diabetes.
High consumption of refined sugars can also cause learning disabilities in children and adolescents and even violent or aggressive behavior in adults, some experts believe.
Sugar also depletes the body of nutrients and can hinder performance if eaten 30 to 60 minutes before an athletic event. Eating sugar right before intense physical activity will increase the glucose in your bloodstream giving you energy — but only for a short time. The insulin that your body releases in response will lower your glucose level, leaving you with less energy than you had to begin with.
Regular intake of refined sugars makes you more susceptible to bacterial and viral infections and other ailments because sugar (sucrose) weakens the immune system suppressing the protective functions of cells.
Aspartame and saccharin are just plain harmful, may even cause birth defects or cancer over time if consumed too much. Another problem is that these artificial sweeteners are not even effective for weight loss. Americans are increasingly consuming many artificially sweetened foods and diet soft drinks to cut calories, but people just keep getting heavier.
While eating too much sugar of any type is bad for you, white table sugar, brown sugar (white sugar mixed with molasses) and high fructose corn syrup have absolutely no redeeming qualities from a health point of view — they are truly empty calories devoid of any nutrients.
Raw or turbinado sugar, which many believe are healthier alternatives, are basically just as bad due the purification process it undergoes. Refined sugar has no nutritional value. Zero. The refining process of sugar cane or sugar beets eliminates all vitamins and minerals. Refined sugars are harmful for the digestive system and cause abnormal acid and enzyme levels.
What To Do?
Remember: You don’t need to eat sugar to get the glucose your cells need. Eliminating all refined sugars and artificial sweeteners from your diet would be ideal. A well-balanced diet will not only provide adequate amounts of glucose for the body to function properly but it will also help regulate the sugar levels in your bloodstream.
Clearly, it’s important to dramatically reduce the amount of sugar we eat. And it’s not as hard as it sounds. Just as we have become accustomed to lots of over sweetened foods and beverages, we will grow accustomed to smaller quantities of healthier foods that are less sweet. We can also learn to use our sweet tooth for its original purpose: enjoying fruit.
However, choosing to eliminate refined sugar from your diet is challenging. Sugar is everywhere in manufactured and restaurant foods. You’re are bound to find sugar in inconspicuous food items, especially if you eat out, buy fast, prepared, frozen and packaged foods and diet or sugar-free foods and drinks.
So What Now?
So What Now Here’s what to do:
1. Avoid all packaged food that contains sugar as a major ingredient
2. Teach your body to live without hardcore sweets, and to enjoy fruit and low-sugar foods.
3. Dramatically reduce to the greatest extent possible the amount of sugar you use in cooking
4. Use healthier alternatives to refined sugars.
5. Check labels for the sugars under a different name, Lactose, fructose etc
In the next issue,
Are Sugar Substitutes any better?…read more
Leave Your Comments
Your input would be appreciated. Please leave your comments below. If you have a question, please ask it here and we will answer you directly.