Thursday, March 4, 2010

How do you stack up?

We have way too much sugar in our Standard America Diet (SAD). In fact, the consumption of sugar in the U.S. per person has risen exponentially. Historically, sweets came in the form of fruit and honey. Sweets, as we know them today, were reserved for the wealthy as sugar was very expensive. In the 1700s, the average American consumed less than 20 pounds of sugar per year. By the end of the 1800s, Americans consumed about 63 pounds per year per person (this had everything to do with the new availability of a cheap sugar source as the slave trade in the Caribbean made sugar production possible). Today, Americans shockingly consume over 150 pounds of sugar per year per person! That is the weight of an average adult in sugar!! Just plain freakish, don’t you think?

Well, consider this: Today, school-day breakfast might be a Pop Tart or sugary cereal. In many schools across the nation, vending machines crank out Snickers bars and Coke. There was a time when dessert after dinner meant a handful of cherries in the summer or a sliced apple in the Fall. Now, a sweet cake or ice cream seems to be standard dessert after dinner. We are bombarded with sugar!

And to complicate matters, if you are a label reader (and we encourage you to read labels and more importantly, to read the list of ingredients), you might not even find the word sugar in the product you buy. Why? Because sugar comes in about 41 different names! For example, these ingredients are all sugar: barley malt, beet sugar, brown sugar, buttered syrup, cane-juice crystals, cane sugar, caramel, carob syrup, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, date sugar, dextran, dextrose, diatase, diastatic malt, ethyl maltol, fructose, fruit juice, fruit juice concentrate, glucose, glucose solids, golden sugar, golden syrup, grape sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, invert sugar, lactose, malt syrup, maltodextrin, maltose, mannitol, molasses, raw sugar, refiner's syrup, sorbitol, sorghum syrup, sucrose, sugar, turbinado sugar, yellow sugar. PHEW!!

Finally, even if we do understand that we are eating or drinking something with sugar, do we really appreciate the amount of sugar in that food or drink? For example, you might know that Coke has about 40 grams of sugar. But do you know what 40 grams of sugar looks like? Check it out!

And did you know that the amount of sugar in your Pop Tart when stacked up, looks something like this?

Check out Sugar Stacks to get a sense of the amount of sugar you consume in the foods and drinks you enjoy.

Everyone knows or has at least heard that too much sugar causes an array of health problems like rotten teeth, diabetes, obesity, heart disease and cancer. It even causes fatigue because your blood sugar levels rise and crash when you eat too much sugar. So how do we kick our sugar habit? Sweet treats (food or beverage) should be a treat, not a staple. Michael Pollan recently spelled out a good rule of thumb in his new book, Food Rules: "No snacks, no seconds, no sweets - except on days that begin with the letter S." Replace desserts with a luscious seasonal fruit after dinner. Replace sodas and fruit drinks with fresh water, tea or coconut water. Replace sugary breakfasts with hearty, complex carbohydrates, good fats and proteins such as a whole grain tortilla with peanut butter and banana. You will all-around feel better! And, eating whole foods rich in the following nutrients will help stave off your craving for sugar: Chromium, B-complex Vitamins, L-Glutamine, Manganese, Panthothenic Acid, Vitamin C, and Zinc.

So, simply put, leave sugary treats for a birthday party or a weekend splurge. Don’t make it an everyday habit.


Overconsumption of Sugar Causes Fatigue

Profiling Food Consumption in America

Sugar: Toxic Invader #1

Who You Calling Sugar?

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