The Skinny on Sugar

… is still a sugar. Once upon a time Fats got all the bad press but with more research and AND an increase in convenient, mass-produced foods SUGAR has now become public enemy #1. The tough part is Westerners love us some sugar and it’s been proven to be far more addictive than cocaine so once you activate that sweet tooth it is extremely difficult to deactivate it. In fact, like any addiction, you require greater amounts to get that sweet high. Overtime this has resulted in almost every manufactured and processed food source containing some (and most often a lot) of sugar. Like a vicious cycle, this has led to an obesity epidemic as well as a huge spike in the number of people with Diabetes and other metabolic conditions. Add to this our society’s affinity for inactivity and you’ve got a lethal combination.

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Don’t get me wrong. There is definitely a place for sugar in our daily diets, just not to the extremes we currently have. Males should consume no more than 9 teaspoons (38 grams) of sugar daily; women should have no more than 6 teaspoons (25 grams) per day. On average, Americans consume a whopping 22 teaspoons of sugar EACH DAY! Most of this sugar comes from all the added sweeteners to basically everything packaged and manufactured out there from crackers, to cereals, to breads, to frozen dinners – don’t believe me? Just start paying more attention to the nutrition labels of all the foods you buy.

Sugar has become ubiquitous in our food products and it’s not always obvious as it has many aliases.

One of the most frustrating things for me as a fitness and health professional are the false claims of “healthier” foods. Marketers tug on parent heartstrings to feed little Johnny their products because they’re healthier than other brands – sweetened with natural fruit concentrates, or that corn syrup is the same as real sugar. Most often these alternate versions have been so far processed that they no longer contain any of the “healthy” benefits of the original fruit they came from or are worse for us than actual sugar (but used because it is much cheaper – ahhh there’s the rub – the bottom line!). Another facet of this is that now more and more savory foods contain added sugars too. Again, check your labels.

Speaking of sweeteners – natural ones are again advertised to be better for you and I would agree to an extent. Raw honey for example is better because it has little to no processing to strip them of their added (antimicrobial) benefits. But anyway you look at it; honey in a product is still ADDED sugar.

So don’t get me started on artificial sweeteners. Yes, they are little to zero calories but, they are all chemicals, so it’s a choice – do you want the extra cals or the unknown long-term effects of consuming a man-made chemical substitute. Not to mention, the number artificial sweeteners play on a body’s system. The body tastes sugar, sends signals to the brain that it’s sugar and responds as if there is sugar but guess what?– no sugar – it has shown that people’s sugar cravings actually INCREASE after because they never really had that sugar boost. This can lead to consuming more calories in the long run to satiate that sweet tooth that you tried to fool.
Don’t despair! All is not lost if you do love your sweets. Awareness is the first step. If you know you’re prone to sweets, monitor the intake, type and amount. Read, read, read your food labels and educate yourself. Stick to naturally occurring sugars (fresh, frozen and canned fruits WITHOUT added sugars/ 100% fruit juices/ Milk and plain yogurt). Know that you can train yourself OFF of sweets with some self-discipline in about a week. Our taste buds turn over every 7-10 days so if you can cut down significantly on the sugar in your diet for a week or so – you will no longer crave them so much AS LONG as you stick to it. And yes, sometimes you just have to have a piece of the cake and eat it too. That’s ok as long as it’s just the piece that you eat and not the whole cake.

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Author: tammyjuco

Motivating and assisting you and your family to a healthier and happier lifestyle.