Did you know that if we took out all the food containing added sugar in the grocery store, we would be removing 80%? The average North American consumes over 140 lbs of sugar per year, 72 of which are added sugars! It’s not the candy and cupcakes that are the issue. It’s the food that we think is supposed to be good for us. Say whaaaaat? Yup. I’m just getting started.
So, I want to be crystal clear before I dive into this topic. Our bodies need sugar. In fact, it is THE most needed macronutrient in the body where it takes on the form of glycogen, stored in the muscles and liver, and glucose- our primary source of immediate fuel that courses through our blood. And our craniums do not function well without it. It is their fuel. What we are looking at here is the overconsumption of the sweet stuff about which we are unaware. That’s right. The food industry is sneaky like that.
If the food we are eating is supposed to be good for our bodies- “contains 50% of your RDE for Vitamin C”, “all natural”, and, my favorite, “low fat”- then why are super-healthy elite athletes with diets you can bounce a quarter on still turning up in doctor’s offices with chronic illnesses? I’ll tell you why. For the sake of argument, it’s because most food that has been carefully marketed toward the health-conscious yet super busy hockey Mom/committee chair/ski club president/event planner or part-time athlete/full-time bank manager still contains this life-sucking, energy-sapping white poison. Umm, say that again? Yes. It is hiding in plain sight, my friend. Barley Malt? Sugar. Maltodextrin? More sugar. Fructooliosaccharides? Sugar! Sugar! Sugar!
High fructose corn syrup or, as we Canucks say, glucose-fructose, gets a special nod here. Not only is it pretty much like unleashing Chuck Norris in your blood stream, it is also derived from, you guessed it, corn. Corn is one of THE MOST genetically modified crops in Canada- right up there with soy, canola, and cotton. This is not good people: our bodies need NATURAL nutrition not something created in a lab. But that’s a whole other ball of wax. Let’s focus again at finger-pointing with squinty eyes the sugar situation.
Sugar is ubiquitous. It is in EVERYTHING. Peruse the bread section and you will be hard-pressed to find a loaf that doesn’t contain some form of it. Head down the pasta sauce aisle. It’s in that, too. I’ve seen sugar, in its varied form, in stuff that it has no business being in, well….other than to create a bliss point for the consumer so they will keep buying more or as a preservative to keep it on the shelves for longer. Notice how a homemade loaf of bread really only lasts a few days, but when you go into your cupboards for the store bought bread 3 weeks later, it has no mold on it? Gross! As a general rule of thumb, things that are good for us go moldy. Straight up.
Here’s the thing: at the chemical level, all forms of sweetener, whether artificial or natural, share the exact same chemistry. Yes, it’s ALL the same. So that’s your honey, your maple syrup, your table sugar, your agave nectar, and, sadly, your stevia. It’s just that the nutrition in some forms of sweeteners have been highly processed-out leaving them as “empty calories” while other more natural forms still retain much of their original nutritional profile such as “date sugar” for example. Date sugar is just dehydrated dates that have been ground up into a powder- there’s really nothing much else to the process. You can add that to your garage of useless facts for the day. Just kidding! This IS food for thought.
So, what can you do about it?
Brace yourself because it will involve a little bit of initial sleuth-work in the grocery store, so you will need to invest some time in your health, but it will be so worth it for you and your family. You either invest in your illness or you invest in your wellness. It’s that simple.
1. Read your labels. The next time you are out “doing a shop”, give yourself extra time to spend (read:invest) in the grocery store. When you are meandering the aisles, pick up that box of crackers and scroll down the list. When you come to a name you don’t recognize, pull out your handy list (provided here), and check to see if it’s on that list. Or why not just put that box back if you don’t know what you are eating? Don’t assume the food business has your best health at heart. They don’t. It’s about profit for them, not people.
2.Buy the full fat version. If you see anything that says “fat free”, “reduced fat”, or “low fat”, keep moving along, bro. You are much bettter off to buy the full fat version of a product. You see, they have to keep selling the product, so it has to taste the same or close to the same as the original, so something has to stand in its place. While many other gross things can be added, sugar is a prime choice for flavour replacement.
3. Replace all of your artificial sweeteners with natural sweeteners. Yes, you might still be putting added sweeteners in your body, but these are at least natural, less processed, and, consequently, will have nutritional benefits to them. For example, raw honey is a powerhouse in that it has 27 minerals, 22 amino acids, helps improve good gut bacteria levels, raises antioxidant levels, and has over 5, 000 live enzymes in it! And that’s a shortened list! Don’t go too crazy with natural sweeteners, though, because they are all high on the glycemic index which means your body burns through them quickly and if it doesn’t know what to do with it, it gets stored in the liver and you have yourself some fatty liver disease. Doesn’t sound great, does it? According to the American Heart Association, the current RDA of sugar for men is 36g; for women, it’s 20g: and for kiddos its 12g.
4. Find other ways to sweeten your life. Where are you lacking sweetness? This might be joy, spontaneity, hugs, ‘you’ time…the list could go on and on. The point is this: if you are missing things in your life which naturally get the feel-good hormones flowing, there is a high chance you will reach for sweetness in it’s tangible form known as the bag of cookies or that bowl of Werther’s on Patty’s desk just staring at you, begging you to pick one up as it glistens gold under the fluorescent lighting. Ah..instant gratification, right? Fill your life with things that bring you long-lasting joy and you will more easily stay away from things that bring you only temporary pleasure.
Listen up, honey. May I call you that? Sweet foods are a normal part of our diets, just in very small amounts and in their natural forms so that your natural body can process the information you consume. Giving sugar the boot may be more obvious such as deciding that tub of ice cream is no longer helping you live with the energy you crave or it may mean that you will need to invest some time doing a little reading while at Costco. Or both. If you want to live a longer and healthier life, start your action plan, like yesterday, using one or more of the tips here or in other blogs, magazines, online articles to help you on your sugar-free way!
Yours in sugar evangelism,