Sugar….I love sugary foods. I crave sugary foods. This is no secret. In all honesty, I believe I have an addiction to sugar. My husband is currently on the ketogenic diet, which is a strict low-carb with an emphasis on fats. He has lost nearly 30 lbs. and feels great! Through his research, he has become more aware of the dangers of sugar and is urging me to cut back. I know sugar is bad for me, but I do not necessarily take the time to consider how bad. So, this post is as much for me as it is for you. I will share how it affects our bodies, a simple equation to help us remember how much sugar is in food, and show the other names for sugar that can be found on ingredient labels. I have a major problem when it comes to sugar and my desire is to cut back significantly. Hopefully what I share will urge you to also research the affects of sugar and draw your own conclusions.
Let’s start with the ways sugar can affect our bodies. I will give a brief example of how it affects different organs and will include the full article at the bottom. First of all, when sugar enters our blood stream in high amounts it can affect the heart. Long term, this causes stress on the heart, which can lead to heart failure. Sugar can also lower the levels of good cholesterol and trigger triglycerides (a type of fat) to line arteries and put us at risk for heart attacks and strokes. Excessive sugar consumption can also affect the brain. It can lead to lower memory storage and an inability to properly store new information. It has been linked to depression and dementia. Kidneys are the filters for our blood and consuming too much sugar makes them work overtime. If we are constantly experiencing high blood sugars, that can contribute to type 2 diabetes and extreme cases can cause kidney failure. Too much sugar can have the same effect as alcohol consumption on the liver and is the second leading cause of cirrhosis. Excessive sugar consumption can also affect the skin and joints. Let’s also think about the fact that it has no nutritional value and leads to more dentist trips. I’ve never met anyone who likes going to the dentist!
Well, how much sugar is safe to consume? In 2010, the average American consumed 132 lbs of sugar in just one year! That is obviously over the recommended amount. The American Heart Association states women should only have 6 teaspoons per day and men come in at 9 teaspoons. Now, when you visualize 6 teaspoons being poured into a bowl, that actually seems like a lot. What I intend to show you is we consume 6 teaspoons quite quickly on a daily basis. Before going over that, though, I want to share a simple equation with you that should help significantly.
4 grams=1 teaspoon
Remember this equation so the next time you look at an ingredient label that says how many grams of sugar are in something, you will be able to better visualize how much per serving. So, I put together a sample day of foods someone might eat when trying to watch his/her weight. Let’s look at how much sugar this person would be consuming in one day.
*1 Nutrigrain bar- 3 tsp
*6 inch Chicken Teriyaki sub from Subway- 4.5 tsp
*Mott’s Applesauce (1 serving cup)- 5 tsp
*Yoplait Thick and Creamy Yogurt- 7 tsp
*Lean Cuisine Beef Chow Fun- 4.5 tsp
If you add that up, it comes to a whopping 24 teaspoons! Remember what we are supposed to be consuming? 6 tsp or 9 tsp!
My favorite soft drink is Dr. Pepper. I used to drink 1-2 every day. Now, I drink maybe 1-2 per week. A 20 oz. Dr. Pepper contains 17 teaspoons of sugar! Recently, I bought a Vitamin Water. Water that contains vitamins. That sounds healthy, right? 8.25 teaspoons of sugar. With that one bottled water I was already over my daily amount. Isn’t that crazy?
So, you might say, “I need to start checking food labels.” And, yes, you should. The problem is that food companies are quite tricky. They don’t just label sugars as sugar. Take a look at this list!
Brown rice syrup
Cane juice crystals
High fructose corn syrup
Corn syrup solids
Evaporated cane juice
Fruit juice concentrate
Grape juice concentrate
Those are various names for sugar. Overwhelmed? I think the key thing to remember is the equation. If you come in under the daily recommended amount it won’t matter as much if you can remember all these names.
My quest to learn more about sugar and its affects has challenged me. I really do love sugar. I just posted a chocolate chip brownie recipe last week! I think the key is to do your best and occasionally indulge. I have never been one to do well completely eliminating things. The restriction of it causes me to give up if I ever slip. So, my goal is to greatly reduce my sugar intake by cutting out….Dr. Pepper (yes, I said it), to start paying closer attention to food labels, and to really limit my desserts. My Hardees ice cream shake from yesterday was probably not a good idea! I am always a work in progress, but I do want to be better. I want to be healthy for me and for my family. We are not exactly young parents so my husband and I are really starting to think about our choices and how they will later impact our health. Like I said, I am preaching to myself. I need to make some major changes, but I won’t completely deprive myself of some yummy sweets. I just need to cut back on how often that happens!