Some of these sugars occur naturally in fruits, vegetables and other foods. A great number of the foods we eat contain “added” sugar, sugar that has been often times added by the manufacturer to make it taste good or to sweeten it. Next time you are in the grocery store, look at the nutrition facts on a box. Look at the sugar content and then look at the ingredients list. If sugar, or any of its counterparts, is not included in the list, then the sugar is probably natural sugar. If it is in the list, you can bet it has been added and you want to stay away from those types of food.
The most common sources of added sugars include soft drinks, cakes, pies, chocolate, fruit drinks and desserts. Just a single can of cola can contain up to 7 tsps of added sugar, while an average-sized chocolate bar can contain up to 6 tsps.
Studies have claimed that added sugars may increase the risk of high blood pressure, more than sodium. Another study has shown that products that are high in added sugar is related to an increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease (CVD).
One thing is for sure; sugar has been the leading cause to the obesity epidemic that is growing in the US. North of a third of adults are obese. Childhood and adolescent obesity is greatly increasing, doubling and quadrupling over the past 30 or so years.
In children, the sweetened beverages are increasing obesity. I am a school teacher and I see a lot of what the kids are drinking at lunch. They now have these high sugary drinks that come in cans similar to energy drinks, which we all know is full of sugar. Parents and school administrators are not taking into consideration that what these kids are drinking, is what is leading to more and more kids developing diabetes. In addition, in elementary school, the kids are allowed to buy ice cream at lunch, with that child also having other sweets in their lunch and probably getting one after dinner.
In adults, many have several cans or bottles of Coke or Pepsi a day. Many know the risks of drinking that much soda, but many either don’t care or are ignorant to that information. Sports drinks, Starbucks, bottled tea, powdered drinks, etc., are full of added sugars among other harmful chemicals. If the adults aren’t being carful with what they drink, how can we expect the kids to know better?
Sugar Has Addictive Qualities Like Drugs
When people go through withdrawals of sugar, they begin to binge eat, feed into cravings, suffer from headaches and often times feel ill, just like when drug addicts suffer drug withdrawals. We are highly dependent upon sweets and sweeteners to get that fix, and we have become severely addicted. If you look at the food pyramid, sugary items are at the top, meaning to eat in moderation. In the US, there is no such thing as moderation. We are the fattest country. Go figure!
With sugar being on the pyramid, it is like giving us a greenlight, giving us the go to consume sugar. With the food industry pumping out these sugar filled, highly processed “foods,” it is becoming increasingly harder to dial back on our sugar intake.
According to the CDC, statistics show that adults consumed about 13% of their daily calorie intake from added sugars between 2005-2010, which is 3% lower than the 16% intake of children and adolescents between 2005-2008.
Even consuming the recommended daily amount, has been proven to still be harmful to our health. Sugar is just not our friend and sooner or later, we will realize that, hopefully before it’s too late.
Is it Possible to Eliminate Sugar?
Eliminating added sugar foods from your diet can prove to be healthy. This can help with weight loss and the prevention of dental cavities. Foods with natural sugars like fruits and vegetables, are highly favored of processed, added sugars. Many whole foods, planted based vegans get their sugar from grains, fruits, nuts and vegetables.
The question is, for those are not vegan and eat a highly processed diet, is it even possible to eliminate sugar when processed foods are laced with it? Only way it’s possible is if people give up processed foods. It’s not just the added sugar that is bad, but the oils, salt, preservatives and other chemicals.
With this, many people have turned to artificial sweeteners, which have been proven to be worse than consuming regular or added sugar. Artificial sweeteners include saccharin, sucralose and aspartame, which is used in rat poison and cigarettes. These interfere with gut bacteria and increase a person’s chances of becoming obese and developing diabetes.
I love baked goods and with that, they need to be sweetened. Since being vegan, I have found numerous all natural sweeteners that are low on the glycemic index. I use 100% organic pure maple syrup, organic coconut sugar or agave syrup. All are plant based and naturally found. I also know many people use honey. Natural sweeteners are the best way to go if you just have to sweeten something. You can also replace sugar with extracts or spices such as cinnamon, ginger, almond and vanilla. These are also naturally found. For cereals and oatmeal, replace sugar with fruit.
How Can We Lower Sugar Intake of the Public?
For one, we can do more on public awareness campaigns. We see so many ads, commercials and billboards advertising foods that are high in added sugar. With these same advertisement methods, we can spread awareness about sugar intake and how it is effecting our country.
Another was is to tax sugar, make it higher to buy. People tend to steer away from things that are highly priced. In Texas, we don’t have grocery taxes, therefore, maybe they should start taxing sugar.
In the end, you can’t make anyone do or not do something that they do or don’t want to do. It really is left up to each and every adult in the country. I say adult because children are lead by their parents. Once adults start making better decisions about sugar and not buying foods or drinks that are high in sugar, then the kids will be better off.
Many companies offer sugar free alternatives to their products, but is the alternative any better? Many times these alternatives have higher, bad calories than the original. Like sugar free drinks are laced with alternatives like sugar alcohol and aspartame. It’s really not any better.
One thing to remember is that sugar is naturally found in fruits, grains, starches and vegetables, in the form of carbs, but these are good carbs. Keeping it to natural, whole, plant based foods, you will be much healthier and lower your chances of cancer, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and diabetes.