Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Our No. 1 Enemy: Added Sugar

The beginning of a new calendar year is a time when many of us are more receptive to embracing opportunities and challenges that may be a little out of our comfort zones.

That’s why today I intend to strike while that iron is hot!

When people ask me what’s the thing they need to do or change first in their diet, my answer isn’t giving up dairy or meat … it’s eliminating added sugar (as opposed to naturally-occurring sugars like those found in fruits, vegetables and whole grains) and processed food.

All those boxes staring at us from the shelves in supermarkets that promise everything from weight loss to energy are lying -- just read the list of ingredients, one more unhealthful than the other and many we can’t even pronounce much less find on our own in a supermarket (because they don’t exist there, only in factories).

And I have to hand it to the marketers, they’ve become more and more creative masking the word “sugar” by using words that many of us overlook such as: cane juice crystals, cane sugar, caramel, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, carob syrup, dextran, dextrose, fructose, galactose, high fructose corn syrup, honey, juice concentrate, lactose, maltodextrin, maltose, malt syrup, molasses, natural sweeteners, sorbitol, sucrose and treacle.

And these are only a few. (A good rule of thumb is to look for any words ending in -ose.)

Oh and artificial sweeteners aren’t any better. In fact, recent studies suggest they are worse.

In his book Food Rules, author Michael Pollan offers excellent advice on how to make the right choices:

“Shop the periphery of a supermarket.”

That’s where you’ll find whole-food. Avoid the “dreaded center aisles, where processed foods predominate. Stick to the edges, where the meat, dairy, produce and fish are pretty much as they started out.”

I know what some of you may be thinking, “A little bit of sugar never hurt anyone.”

But that’s just it -- we’re no longer talking about “a little bit of sugar.” We’re beyond a little bit. Sugar is in everything -- our breads, yogurt, cold cereals, hot cereals, ketchup, peanut butter, apple sauce, fruit drinks, soups, tomato sauces, etc. etc. etc.

It’s also addictive, just like alcohol and nicotine. Food manufacturers know this so they add more to everything to hook us. And when we're promised low-fat snacks, take a look at the sugar content. It’s been increased to make up for the fat that's been removed. It’s deception at its finest.

Case in point, it’s no secret that I love Starbucks pumpkin spice soy lattes. In fact, in the past I have enjoyed a "tall" almost daily. No big deal, right? I work out. I eat healthy. This is my "sweet treat."

Well that sweet treat contains 39 grams of sugar (or about 8 teaspoons) -- and that’s without whipped cream. Let's put that in perspective -- according to the American Heart Association, women should limit added sugars to approximately 6 teaspoons, while men should take in no more than 9 teaspoons a day. I'm over that daily allowance with one 12-ounce drink! (I want to note that the doctors and health advocates that Matt and I follow suggest that ZERO added sugar be the ultimate goal.) 

I drank my last soy latte on Jan. 1, 2013.

Very recently, I bumped into a gal at Wegmans. She asked me about Coconut Sugar (new to me at the time) and its health benefits. I didn’t have any information on it. When I went home, I sent a note to a well-renowned chef in California to inquire about it. This was her response:

“Just because something is less bad doesn’t make it good. When it comes to sweeteners, use the fruit, the whole fruit and nothing but the fruit.” (Sorry Agave!)

In a 60 Minutes segment, Dr. Sanjay Gupta reports on new research showing that beyond weight gain, sugar can take a serious toll on our health, worsening conditions ranging from heart disease to cancer. The research of Dr. Robert Lustig, UCSF Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology, is highlighted. Watch the video below.

Lustig is well-known for his YouTube presentation titled, Sugar: The Bitter Truth, which explores the damage caused by sugary foods. He argues that fructose (too much) and fiber (not enough) appear to be cornerstones of the obesity epidemic through their effects on insulin. Click here to view.

For more information, Gupta is also featured in 60 Minutes Overtime in the segment, Sugar and Kids: The Toxic Truth. Watch it here.

I assure you, all three videos are time well spent.

Lean more about whole-food eating. LIKE us on Facebook.

You can also read Dr. Lustig's book Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity and Disease.

A cool pic I found online that visually shows the
amount of sugar in some of our more common soft drinks.

1 comment:

  1. Great post!I'm trying to give up sugar, too. Starbucks is so addictive (chai latte,anyone?) but it can be done.