Today’s post is a wake up call about the dangers of sugar. Does this mean we won’t talk about wonderful bakeries and desserts anymore? No. We still love our sugar, we can’t help ourselves. But, it does mean that we all need to know where the hidden sugars are and how to make responsible choices while understanding the health implications. To say we are eating sugar in moderation is a lie.
Today’s post is written by Edith Kirkland. Edith is a Holistic Health Counselor with a degree sanctioned by the State of New York Department of Education from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. The school teaches bio-individuality, meaning we are all different: just because something works for you does not mean it will work for me. The school also explores primary foods (relationships, career, physical activity, and spirituality) in order to understand why people may have unhealthy eating behaviors. (Click here to read more about what this means.)
I love sugar. Who doesn’t? Seriously. Anyone who knows me understands that I’d like nothing better than to eat Reese’s peanut butter cups, donuts, and cookie dough for the rest of my life. It would be a short one. I would live longer on water alone than on water and sugar. This is because our bodies were not designed to handle sugar. It is an anti-nutrient, which actually depletes our bodies of minerals and digestive enzymes when it is metabolized and also makes it so that we don’t digest our foods properly. When it is metabolized, it is done so primarily by our livers (like alcohol) and raises triglycerides while keeping our HDLs low. (This phenomenon is the pattern that predicts heart disease.) It throws our body out of balance and causes inflammation or disease. Excess sugar is so toxic that the body turns it into fat just to get rid of it. It then attaches itself to protein molecules in arteries and acts like sandpaper – yes, sandpaper – inside our cell walls. Sugar can cause arthritis, diabetes, obesity, arteriosclerosis, hypoglycemia, acidosis, osteoporosis, allergies, cancer, stroke, Alzheimer’s and heart disease. Since it is so highly addictive, we don’t want to quit. We’d rather take a pill, blame something else when we’re sick, or hope we’re one of the lucky few who don’t get sick or fat.
That was just a little background to freak you out. Did it work? It makes me CRAZY. Think about yourself: do you crave sugar? If you do, you are addicted. Do you have mood swings? Try going a week without sugar and see how much more even keeled you are – then think about your children. If it affects YOU that way, how do you think it’s affecting them? Please let me reiterate that I’m no saint: I can go days without it and feel great – truly, I am nicer to my children and I am more sane…then I decide that one cookie won’t hurt and before I know it, I’ve eaten the whole box!! I really believe it’s like an alcoholic falling off the wagon.
Sugar is everywhere. Thanks to the studies done in the early ‘80’s “proving” how bad fat is for us, companies turned to sugar to replace the fat taken out of processed foods. SnackWell, anyone? Entenmann’s Fat Free Coffee Cake? From 1960 to 1980, roughly 1 in 7 Americans was obese Today, 1 in 3 is obese. That number refers to children as well. It is generally believed that we will see the first generation of children who will have a shorter life expectancy than their parents because of unhealthy eating habits. Let me say that again: our kids life expectancy is shorter than our own. Studies today are proving that SUGAR is one of the things that is killing us.
Fat consumption has actually gone down during the past 50 years, but people are getting sicker and fatter. Fat is not the culprit here. In the 1800’s people consumed 12 pounds of sugar per year per person. In the 1950’s it went up to 110 pounds/person/year. 1960’s=114; 1970’s=123; 1980’s=126. Then BOOM: 1990’s=145 and 2000’s=152!! When accounting for waste and loss, 152 pounds is approximately 32 teaspoons of sugar per person, per day! Last week, 60 Minutes aired a segment called “Is Sugar Toxic?” with several experts including Dr. Robert Lustig, who also did an amazing video lecture (where I got a lot of my information) that went viral on You Tube last year – over 2,200,000 hits – called “Sugar: The Bitter Truth.” Gary Taubes (who wrote Good Calories, Bad Calories) did a follow up article in the New York Times later… There was even an article about how bad sugar is for you in the kids’ Time magazine, just this week. Y’all, we all need to wake up and take this seriously.
I have many people ask me, “How much sugar per day is okay?” There is really no definitive answer, because the real answer is none, but that is impossible. If we could keep our kids intake to about 24 grams of sugar per day, that would be ideal. So, here’s a fairly typical day for a child: Breakfast: cereal (3/4 cup Kellogg’s granola: 21 grams sugar), milk (1 cup skim: 13 grams sugar), apple juice (1 cup: 28 grams sugar). Lunch: turkey sandwich (bread: 4 grams sugar), Yoplait yogurt (26 grams sugar), Teddy Grahams (8 grams sugar), and Gatorade (12 oz bottle- 21 grams sugar). Snack: granola bar, (chewy dipps – 13 grams sugar), Icee, (small: 31 grams sugar). Dinner: hamburger, (bun: 5 grams sugar, 1 tbsp KETCHUP, 10 grams sugar), salad, (Ken’s fat free salad dressing- 10 grams sugar) fries (again, ketchup 10 grams sugar), bowl of ice cream (1/2 cup cookies n cream: 17 grams sugar). SO – in one day of fairly “normal” eating: 217 grams of sugar. If you need a visual, 4 grams of sugar equals about 1 teaspoon, so that much sugar is almost 54 teaspoons – a little over 1 cup of sugar and WAY over the scary average I just referenced.
So what can we do? Remember that just because your children are skinny does not mean they can eat as much sugar as they want. Skinny does not equal healthy. First, we need to work together so that sugar is a TREAT and not an everyday occurrence. Our children do NOT need Gatorade – ever. It’s impressive how commercials have led us to believe that after running a mile in a track meet, they need it. Give your children water to drink and let the occasional Gatorade or other sugary drink be a treat. Juice is obviously better, but it is still sugar. Give your child an apple to eat and a glass of water – not apple juice. Try plain yogurt and add some vanilla, cinnamon, and a little bit of honey – your little bit will not add up to the amount in pre-prepared yogurt. If you are out to dinner, let them choose to have either a sprite or a dessert – not both. Next, read the ingredients – not just the “claims” on the box, and be aware. If we at least start thinking about cutting back, we can all get better.
Here is a list of some other names that mean sugar: beet sugar, brown sugar, buttered syrup, cane juice crystals, cane sugar, caramel, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, confectioner’s sugar, carob syrup, castor sugar, date sugar, demerara sugar, dextran, dextrose, diastatic malt, diatase, ethyl maltol, fructose, fruit juice, fruit juice concentrate, galactose, glucose, glucose solids, golden sugar, golden syrup, grape sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, icing sugar, invert sugar, lactose, maltodextrin, maltose, malt syrup, maple syrup, molasses, muscovado sugar, panocha, raw sugar, refiner’s syrup, rice syrup, sorbitol, sorghum syrup, sucrose and treacle.
Do not be lured by fake sugars either: they may provide no calories and no sugar, but they sure aren’t healthy!! Finally, try to get your children to eat as many vegetables as possible. By filling up with healthy food, there will not be as much room for the bad things. Keep making them try things because it can take more than 20 times of tasting and seeing something before they may like it. And they may never like it, but at least they can learn to eat it anyway. My son wanted to give up tofu and beets for Lent! All three of my children have hated sweet potatoes for years.
My kids beg me not to read the ingredients. And, no, they are not the neighborhood oddballs who aren’t allowed to eat any sugar, but I am trying to make them understand about making good food choices. I sure would love to have some other moms in my boat! Please?! Remember: our kids life expectancy is shorter than our own. Let’s change that.
We all know the answer, and yet – how boring, and, in our world, unrealistic! So, do the best you can, as this really will make huge strides towards a healthier family, community and America. To quote Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemmna: “Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
Other sources for this post include Raymond Francis (Beyond Health News), Dr. Dwight Lundell (a former heart doctor), the American Heart Association, and F. Magendie.
Thank you Edith! Here is the video that went viral, even though it’s 89 minutes long. Warning: the following video may have you cleaning your cabinets and refrigerator out!