Is Sugar The Bane Of Our Existence?

I couldn’t resist using this picture (courtesy of Yahoo! Movies.)

But yes, research is beginning to shed light on the amount of sugar in our diets and the possible correlation between the excess amounts of sugar and obesity, heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, cancer, etc.  The man at the forefront bringing this information to our attention is Dr. Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist in San Francisco.  He has declared a war on sugar believing that it is toxic to our bodies.  Because there’s so much of it hiding in our food we have become a nation of very sick people and 75% of the illnesses could be preventable.  Sad and true.  From high fructose corn syrup to table sugar, it doesn’t matter what kind of sugar, the matter is that we are eating massive quantities of it and don’t even realize.  A few months back Dr. Lustig was interviewed by Dr. Sanjay Gupta on 60 Minutes on CBS.  Take a look.

Also, recently, Dr. Lustig was on the radio (WNYC) with actor Alec Baldwin on Here’s The Thing.  If you haven’t heard this interview yet, definitely listen.  It’s a half-hour and definitely worth your time.

Now, I have talked to a few people about this and there seems to be a misunderstanding when it comes to cutting out dietary sugar.  Many people have become nearly crazed, thinking that they can’t even eat fruit because it contains fructose.  What Dr. Lustig is trying to convey is that extra added sugar (sugar added to foods where sugar isn’t necessary) should be cut out.  Fruit is good and provides necessary vitamins and minerals in our diets.  It is low in calories and you only need one piece of fruit to do the trick and satisfy hunger.  Men should not have more than 150 calories from sugar per day and women should not have more than 100 calories from sugar per day.

Anyway, take a look at the video and make sure to check-out the radio broadcast.  Feel free to leave a comment and let me know what you think.  Do you think cutting out all dietary sugar is too harsh?  Or, do you think it’s necessary to wage a war on sugar because it’s having some very negative effects on our population?

Tips for Decreasing Your Daily Sugar Intake

A few months back, around Easter, I wrote a post about sugar and what the daily recommended intake of sugar is for the average person (it’s about 25 grams, based on a 2000 calorie diet).

In my last post entitled Sugar Sugar (sing along! Honey! Honey! Sugar! Sugar!)  I gave some homework to pay attention to your body and see how your body reacted to sugar.  I’ve actually come to notice that if I eat too much sugar, I get a slight headache, right above or between my eyes.

Last week, during lunch, Phil and I shared a lemonade.  It was good, but I glanced at the nutrition facts after I had my half and in one serving there was 25g of sugar!  That’s my recommended intake blown to smithereens right there.  Ugh!  And it was only lunch time.  Lo and behold a little bit later, I was sitting at my desk and that sugar rush headache came right on.

I started to think of ways to keep an eye on sugar intake, since it’s so easy to go over without even noticing.  Here are some ideas:

  • If you use a smart phone or iPad, use a calorie tracker app, like MyFitnessPal or Lose It.  You can also sign up online to track your foods, but the smart phone apps allow you to scan the bar code of the food you’re eating and it saves all the nutritional information and compiles it with the other foods you’ve eaten in the day.  When you set up a profile, it will then be able to calculate your daily intake and show if you’ve gone over, reached, or stayed under your daily intake of sugar (along with all other macro and micronutrients).
  • If you have a craving for something sweet, replace with a piece of fruit or some berries.  After a while, the taste of sweets, like candy, might become rather gross.
  • Instead of drinking lemonade that comes from a powder, add some actual lemon to your water.  Fresh mint leaves would be awesome too.
  • Brew some of your favorite, natural tea; one that has some natural sweetness, like lemon mint, vanilla rooibos, apricot, peach, or even chai.  Let it cool and put it in the fridge.  Instead of going for a can of soda, pour a nice, cool glass of your favorite tea.  Again, fresh mint leaves would be awesome.
  • If you take sugar in your coffee, add it yourself so you are aware of how much you are actually ingesting and can add it to your app or take a mental note for future reference.  Maybe try to slowly scale back the amount you ingest.
  • Take a look at the nutrition facts on the back of the package of whatever you are eating and add up the amount of sugar you eat in a day.

Try these out and let me know what you find.  Awareness is the first step to better health.

I hope you all have a happy and healthy day.  Love to you all! :)

Sugar Sugar

With a holiday weekend approaching I’ve been thinking about the mass quantities of candy that will be consumed over the next week. Easter candies are sweet indulgences and high in empty calories which means that it provides energy but no nutrition.  I’m prepped to eat more sugar than I’m used to (not to mention, I’ll be near Hershey, PA this weekend) so I wanted to look a little deeper into sugar and how it effects the body.

So here’s a little lesson: we all know fruit is sugary because it contains fructose which is a monosaccharide.  Monosaccharides take our bodies one step to break down and absorb.  Drinking fresh juice, though low in fiber, is abundant in nutrition but high in fructose at the same time.  Sucrose, typically table sugar, and sugar added to food and candy is a disaccharide and takes two steps for our bodies to break down and absorb.  Both sugars trigger an insulin (a hormone released from the pancreas to regulate the sugar we ingest) release but the insulin that gets released from fructose intake is less than the insulin released when sucrose is ingested.  Over time, if the body can no longer release enough insulin to regulate the sugar in the blood then diabetes can develop.  Separate from diabetes, high amounts of sugar in the diet can also lead to inflammation which could lead to heart disease, cancer and other “western diseases.”

Now that we have an idea how the body processes sugar and what can happen when you eat too much over time, I ask you all to pay attention to your sugar intake.  A person should ingest about 25 g or 6tsp of sugar per day.  The American Heart Association says that women should ingest about 100 calories from added sugar and men should ingest about 150 calories from added sugar per day.

Take a look at the nutrition facts on the package of what you’re eating and add up the amount of sugar in a day.  The results may be a surprise.  I was shocked to see how much sugar is in my favorite Chobani yogurt.  18g of sugar!  Yowza!  I love Chobani, it has a lot of protein, which I need since I’m not eating meat, so I’m still going to eat it.  That just means that I have to pay more attention to where superfluous sugars may be creeping into my diet.

Sweets, like everything else, are fine in moderation.  I’m a jelly bean girl when it comes to Easter candy.  I sample the flavors and that’s enough for me.  I think this is a good way to keep my sugar intake under control.  And I don’t eat a lot of candy unless it’s a holiday.  I don’t like milk chocolate.  When it comes to chocolate, for me, the darker and more natural, the better.

I’m giving some general homework: become more aware of your sugar intake.  Remember to take into account the soda and alcohol you consume too.  Most importantly, take some time to sit quietly and focus-in on how you feel after eating those sweets.  If you don’t feel normal, don’t feel well, or feel jittery and hyper, use this to bring yourself a better awareness of how much sugar you can or can not consume.

And now you know, and “knowing is half the battle.” :-)  Happy Wednesday everyone!