Sugar and Health
by Dr. Robert Kienitz, D.Ac., DTCM
A recent report showed that the average American guzzles about fifty-three gallons of soda pop each year. Since the 60’s the average U.S. citizen has increased their annual intake of added sugars by twenty four pounds which brings the total average intake of sugar to over 100 pounds per year. That equals out to about 700-800 calories per day of added sugars that are expanding waistlines and crowding out more nutritious and less calorie dense foods.
To make matters worse, there is a growing body of evidence (pun intended), that indicates that the overly sweetened American diet is contributing directly to such health problems as diabetes and heart disease.
If you say you don’t think you use too much sugar think again, only about one fourth of the sugar Americans consume is added by the consumer (sugar over cereal). More than two thirds comes from factory produced foods like snacks and drinks. Next time you are shopping check the labels for ingredients, you may find sugar in such unsuspected places as a can of green beans.
According to a recent government food consumption survey, soft drinks now account for one third of the caloric sweeteners (as opposed to so called non-caloric sweeteners like equal and sweet-n-low), we consume. Sweets and sugars account for 16 percent, sweetened grain based foods (cookies and pastries), another 13 percent and fruit drinks 10 percent, breakfast cereals, other grains, milk products (yogurt, ice cream), vegetables fruit and fruit juices making up the rest.
Nutrition experts say the situation has gotten much more serious in recent years as Americans have switched to low fat and fat free foods as a means of weight control. This approach has backfired because many people wrongly assume that if a food is fat free it is healthier and has fewer calories. There are three main flavor enhancers in processed foods, fat, salt and sugar. If you remove fat you can be sure that sugar and or salt is making up the difference for flavors sake.
The body makes little distinction between ordinary white refined sugar and sweeteners like honey, raw sugar and fruit sugar. Aside from the few vitamins in these other sweeteners, compared to refined sugar, sugar is sugar. Most sweet processed foods are calorie rich and nutrient deficient. While experts are predicting an ever worsening epidemic of diseases related to over consumption of sugar laden foods and beverages the are steps you can take to curb your incidental sugar intake.
The first and most effective thing you can do is to limit your consumption of sodas and other sugar sweetened beverages. A simple first step to that end is for every soda you consume, drink and equal amount (12-16 oz.), of water before your next soda. This way you effectively cut your soda intake by half and increase the water your body needs for optimum health. Once you get used to this regimen put two waters between each soda and so on. Eventually you will be optimizing water intake and drinking very few sodas each day.
Another thing that will help cut calories from sugar is to eat fewer refined and processed foods. Don’t buy a can of green beans, buy them fresh and steam them. Look at food labels and avoid over processed foods, in this way you will not only be taking in less sugar but you will also be getting better overall nutrient from the foods you eat.
A third way to cut sugar intake is to crave less sugar by increasing the fruit in your diet. The actual gram of sugar to gram of fiber ratio in fruit is very low, you would have to eat six apples to equal the sugar in a can of soda, and increasing natural fructose through fruit consumption keeps dietary fiber up as well as nutrient rich vitamins and minerals.