Monday, June 4, 2012

SUGAR...can't live with it, can't live without it...or can we?

It is no secret that consuming excessive amounts of sugar is "bad" for you, but unfortunately we still see diseases developing from sugar overdoses even when the source is "healthy".  

Here's what I mean.  I see it all too often, the health conscious,  regular exerciser, "I-eat-everything-from-Whole-Foods" type, who starts their day with a bowl of granola, yogurt, and some type of fruit.  This is the quintessential "healthy breakfast".  However, when we break this down you are looking at upwards of 50-60g of added sugar in one sitting!  Now you can do better on your granola, yogurt, and fruit choices and bring this down to 30g of sugar, but that is still outrageous.  RDA of sugar (which I think is totally ridiculous by the way; you don't "need" added sugar EVER to come into your diet...anyway), is 50g/day.  We're talking honey, agave, cane sugar, brown rice syrup, malt barley, corn syrup, raw sugar, etc, etc.  I would even throw fruit in there, but I don't think that's "counted" by the FDA in this allowance.  If you eat anything, and I mean anything that came from a box, can, wrapper, jar, or other container it most likely has a sugar content.  Go ahead look at your ingredients list, and see what form of sugar gets into your mouth every time you eat.  And we're talking "healthy" foods here...Kind Bars (10g sugar), Justin's Nut butters (3-7g sugar), Brown rice cereal (1-16g sugar), granola (8-25g sugar), regular yogurt (16-28g sugar), plain Greek yogurt (7g sugar), chai tea (8-16g sugar), and the list goes on...

My point is this, we have spent the past 50-60 years living in a fat-phobic nation.  Avoiding fats at all costs, why...because dietary fats, make you fat right?!  Wrong!  Anything in excess will make you fat, but if you have a healthy balanced diet, eating an avocado, egg yolk, olive oil, butter, whole fat milk, or even steak is not going to make you fat.  Unfortunately, it's not that simple.  So what will make you fat...high sugar, replacement foods that your body has no idea how to process.  

When you stump your metabolism by feeding it a "diet food" (you know what they are), or a hydrogenated oil, or some crappy protein bar you are slowing down your metabolism and causing more damage than good.  This lead to our belief that real sugar is better than HFCS, and off we go with the organic agave, raw honey, organic brown rice syrup, or "made with real sugar"-products.  Congrats, you are now eating foods your body recognizes, however like the American lifestyle we just can't get enough of a good thing can we!  Over consuming sugar may be the most detrimental thing we could do when it comes to our health.  Sugar consumption is related to many obvious diseases we've all heard about; mainly diabetes, and obesity.  But the diseases that are typically associated with healthy dietary fat (i.e. you do not have high cholesterol because you eat an egg everyday...that's ridiculous!), are in fact entirely associated with dietary sugar.  For example: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and CVD are not a result of excess dietary fats, they're a result of excess dietary sugars.  Obesity, CVD, stroke, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease have all risen dramatically since we cut down on fats and increased our carbohydrates.  

Now, since I preach this stuff all the time I thought it'd be a good experiment to count my daily grams of added sugar in a typical day.  Everyone can make excuses for their "typical day": we were out to lunch that day, we went to a movie, we were out of town, everyone else was having it...etc, etc.  I could use the same excuses...we were out of town, I'm pregnant...whatever!  I tried not to change my food intake just because I was counting sugar grams, just did everything as I normally would.  This was a weekend day, and Rob had a race, so we were outside most of the day, thus snacks were needed.  I only counted added sugar and fruit (not any starch or fiber- which make up the other parts of carbohydrates).  Here's what happened:
8g in my Chai
8g in my brown rice cereal

Snacks throughout the day:
15g in 2 of my muffins (totally guessing)
7g in serving of Justin's chocolate almond butter
10g in Kind bar 
5g in 3 cherries (estimate)
2g in BBQ chips

No sugar :)

No sugar :)

10g in dark chocolate (gotta have my chocolate!)

And the grand total is....65g of added sugar in one day of a relatively clean healthy diet.  That's 16tsp of sugar!  That's incredible, I was shocked.  Imagine how much worse it could be?!  I would challenge you to do this experiment on your diet, and see where you come in.  Bringing awareness to your diet (one nutrient at a time) is the first step towards a more refined healthier diet.  Once you do it, and you find that one food or one item that has too much sugar (for me it was my Chai, just something I didn't need, and easy to cut out), you won't have it anymore; and whether it's cutting out 8g or 15g it's something, it's progress in the right direction!

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