Sugar is sweet, fun, and everywhere. It comes in a multitude of shapes and colors and is a part of our American culture. Sadly it’s also addictive and likely to increase your waistline, as well as your risk for diabetes, and heart attack. At the same time it’ll lower your immune system. On top of all this, it’s hard to quit, it’s really, really hard to quit. This makes sense since sugar is addictive; just like tobacco or any other addictive substance.
The American Heart Association suggests a maximum of about 6 teaspoons of sugar for women (24 grams) and 9 teaspoons (36 grams) of sugar for men each day. To put this in perspective, there are approximately 9 1/3 teaspoons of sugar in one 12oz can of soda, so more than anyone’s recommended limit. Other areas to watch out are cereal and yogurt. When buying either, take a look at the grams of sugar per serving size, then look at the serving size. Yeah, go ahead, it might surprise you.
Another surprising fact is that if you drink one can of soda a day on top of your normal diet you could gain an extra 10-15 lbs a year.
Simple sugars, like we are familiar with, aren’t generally found in nature. Because of this our bodies are not designed to handle them. On top of that, they have absolutely no health benefit (besides the psychological kind.) So what does happen when we eat sugar?
Within minutes of our eating the stuff it begins to dissolve in our gut and is quickly absorbed into our blood stream. If you’ve ever seen the 2001 movie The Fast and the Furious, there’s a scene where one of the characters uses nitrous oxide in a race. It gives his car a huge burst of energy, but it destroys the engine.
That’s kind of like what happens in our bodies. Sure we don’t melt on the spot, our bodies are really good at adapting. But over weeks, months, and even years of pumping this foreign stuff into our bodies, they eventually give out. The pancreas releases insulin which signals the body to digest the sugar in the blood stream, using it or storing it as fat. After a while the body has gotten used to the continual overload of insulin and no longer responds. This means the sugar isn’t dealt with and stays in the blood, circulating through and destroying nerves, blood vessels, and any number of other body structures. This is called diabetes.
Fixing the problem:
How do we fix this? Cut back on sugar. As with salt, our bodies are used to a certain amount in our food, so if we cut it out completely things just don’t taste as good. Also, our bodies respond to sugar the same way they do to addictive drugs. This suggests that sugar should be treated as an addictive substance, so ease off gradually to avoid withdrawal.
For more detailed ways to remove sugar from your diet try our shopping tips page
Types of sugar:
The sweet stuff comes in many forms and is labeled in many different ways. Here is a pretty good list to watch for:
agave nectar, evaporated cane juice, malt syrup, brown sugar, fructose, maple syrup, cane crystals, fruit juice concentrates, molasses, cane sugar, glucose, raw sugar, corn sweetener, high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, corn syrup, honey, syrup, crystalline, invert sugar
If this is too confusing just look at the sugar amount under the nutrient box, it’s a bit simpler.