By Irene Ross, CHHC, AADP
Certified Nutrition and Wellness Coach
Here’s a sobering fact: According to the USDA, Americans now consume over 156 pounds of sugar per year on a per capita basis; in comparison, we eat about 8 pounds of broccoli a year.
That’s 31 5-pound bags of sugar for each of us, and it’s even more sobering to know we don’t get most of it directly from the sugar bowl—more on that later.
According to the National Diabetes Fact Sheet, Dated January 26, 2011: 25.8 million children and adults in the United States—8.3% of the population—have diabetes. Between 55-60% of adults in America are overweight or obese and, according to the Harvard School of Public Health, obesity is one of the top 3 preventable risk factors for premature mortality.
We Are What We Eat
As we digest food in our stomachs, it gets absorbed into our blood—and that’s what creates our cells, tissues and organs, so we feel differently when we drink coffee and eat sugar, or when we eat meat or broccoli.
We only need one teaspoon of sugar in our blood at all times—but many factors have contributed to us often having much, much more. We all know that sugar is bad for us, contributing to such things as Alzheimer’s disease, osteoarthritis, high triglycerides (the bad cholesterol), heart disease, depression, fluid retention, skin aging, headaches, and even some cancers. What we don’t know, however, is the reason for today’s sugar explosion. Since we don’t know the why, we can’t work on the what or the how—as in, how to reduce or eliminate it.
There are many reasons for the “sugar explosion” in today’s world, including:
- Availability: Our ancestors could only rely on a handful of berries or some other fresh fruit that they picked to satisfy their sweet tooth. All that changed in 1689, though, when the first sugar refinery was built. Now, sugar’s all over the place — in canned vegetables, tomato sauce, ketchup, baby food, peanut butter and much more. Candy is stocked on shelf after shelf in supermarkets (usually by the cash register, to trigger impulse buys), drug stores, newsstands, convenience stores and more.
- Our “coffee house/café lifestyle”: Think it’s harmless just because it’s liquid? Think again: In fact, a 16-oz Starbuck’s Frappuccino ® contains 44 grams of sugar, or 10 teaspoons. If it’s small, is it bad? Yes, a tiny, chocolate glazed cake donut from Dunkin’ Donuts contains 14 grams, or 3 teaspoons of sugar.
- The “healthy, sports lifestyle”: As a nutrition and wellness coach, when a client tells me “oh, my diet is very healthy,” it often translates to “oh, I eat gazillion calories per day.” Just because a food is labeled “healthy” doesn’t mean you can have as much as you want.
It’s kind of the same when it comes to those so-called “healthy” sports bars and sugar. They are usually stocked in the health food and wellness sections—but the truth is they’re often loaded with sugar. For instance, one lemon poppy flavor Cliff Bar has 21 grams or 5 teaspoons of sugar. Some might say, “But isn’t the sugar what gives you energy?” To which I respond, “Only short-term energy. You’ll be up initially, but crashing soon after. Better to have something that provides long-term consistent energy—like a protein-rich snack with perhaps a little complex carbohydrate or a fruit.”
Sugar’s Many Names
Here’s a big problem: Sugar has so many different names. Sometimes we don’t even know what a word really means when it’s just another name for sugar.
A couple of years ago I was wandering in the bread aisle of the supermarket. A well-known brand of English muffin screamed—in big, red block letters—“now with no fructose corn syrup!” Yes, we all know what fructose corn syrup is—but when I flipped it over to read the list of ingredients there were at least 4 different words that all meant the same thing—sugar. The final count for sugar was actually quite high.
Look out for these words:
- High Fructose Corn Syrup
- Lactose or Milk Sugar
We hope you enjoyed this article! This is only the first part of a 3-part article by Irene Ross. The next part of Sugar’s Sour Story will be posted next Wednesday!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Irene Ross is a NYC-based certified nutrition and wellness coach. She works with people to help them instantly increase their energy so they avoid that mid-morning or afternoon slump, get more done in less time and balance their life.
She is a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, which is now considered to be the largest nutrition school in the world. While there, she studied over 100 dietary theories, lifestyle management techniques and cutting-edge coaching methods, with instructors including Dr. David Katz; Dr. Bernie Siegel; Dr. Mark Hyman; Deepak Chopra, MD; Dr. Andrew Weil and many others.She also received a BA from Marist College and attended New York University.