As a child, I was taught that sugar is essential to brain function. I believed that I wouldn’t get good grades unless I consumed lots of sugar. As an adult, when I began to learn about healthy eating, I was shocked to discover how wrong I was. I realized that I was a sugar addict from childhood. It is very hard to overcome the sugar addiction. I am still working on it.
Sugar wasn’t always a common pantry item. Until the middle of the 18th century, sugar was a luxury. Sugar farming was so profitable that plantation owners referred to sugar as “white gold”.
Sugar became very popular during the 18th century.
- In 1700, the average person consumed about 4 pounds of sugar per year.
- In 1800, the average person consumed about 18 pounds of sugar per year.
- In 1900, individual consumption had risen to 90 pounds of sugar per year.
- In 2009, more than 50 percent of Americans consumed 180 pounds of sugar per year.
In 1975, the obesity rate in the US was 15%. In 2009, 32% of Americans were obese and an additional 33% were overweight.
In 1893, there were fewer than 3 cases of diabetes per 100,000 people in US. Today, there are almost 8,000 cases of diabetes per 100,000. Refined sugar is not only the main cause of diabetes, but it also causes cancer growth, tooth decay, depression, and many other health problems.
Sugar is loaded into soft drinks, fruit juices, sports drinks, and most processed foods. Surprisingly, most infant formulas are loaded with sugar and corn syrup. Today, 55% of sweeteners used in food and beverage manufacturing are made from corn, and the number one source of calories in America is soda, in the form of high fructose corn syrup. High fructose corn syrup was introduced into the US food industry in the early 1970s. Food companies discovered that high fructose corn syrup was not only much cheaper to make, but is also about 20 percent sweeter than table sugar. This allowed for the average soda size to increase from 8 ounces to 20 ounces with little financial costs to manufacturers, but significant costs to people in the form of increased obesity, diabetes, and chronic disease. Clinical trials have shown that those who consume high fructose corn syrup tend to develop higher risk factors for cardiovascular disease within as little as two weeks. Consuming high fructose corn syrup triggers the inflammation that is at the root of obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, dementia, and accelerated aging.
Even if we don’t add sugar to our diets, it sneaks up in the form of processed foods. Most food companies disguise sugar on food labels by giving it many different names. Check out Sugarstacks.com to visualize the amounts of sugar hidden in different foods. It is surprising, but might help to break the sugar addiction!
To reduce sugar consumption, many people have turned to artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, sucralose, saccharin, neotame, etc. The bad news is that artificial sweeteners are far worse than sugar! Ironically, people consuming “diet” soda end up putting on more weight than people drinking “regular” soda.
What about fruit? Fruits can contain lots of sugar in the form of fructose, but they are also loaded with nutrients that are important for our health. Fruits contain fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytonutrients. If given the choice between cake or fruit, definitely go for fruit!
The best way to prevent overconsumption of sugar is to eat whole foods and stay away from anything that has been processed. I know that it is very hard to do these days, but we can definitely reduce the amount of processed stuff that we eat. When craving something sweet, reach for a juicy fruit!