Sugar spell: Breaking away from your sweet tooth’s hold
Monday, August 31, 2015
It was a gray day in America earlier this year when the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended adults and children reduce their daily intake of sugar to less than 10 percent of their total energy intake. In English, that's roughly 25 grams of sugar per day. America's sweet tooth wept in agony, not just from the cavities.
Many can relate to the sugar spell. Sugar is my kryptonite. Chocolate chip cookies. Ice cream. Cake. Peanut butter cookies. A spoonful of peanut butter. Another spoonful of peanut butter. Donuts. Cheesecake. Handful of chocolate chips. Mr. Goodbar. Fro yo. With Fruttie Pebbles. Gelato. Peanut M&Ms. Peanut butter flavored everything. Clif bars that I like to pretend are healthy. Giada's double chocolate and mint cookies I plan on making this weekend. All of my favorite things.
But what am I doing to my body?
Yale Health says the average American consumes 22 teaspoons of added sugar every day. That's 110 grams of sugar daily — a disconcerting 85 grams higher than the WHO's recommended amount.
The effects of sugar on the body are more bitter than sweet. High consumption of sugar leads to weight gain, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, tooth decay and high cholesterol.
Sugar can affect your mood, and it can impact relationships with others. A recent study out of the University of London found the quality of family functionality is correlated with the dietary habits of the family. High sugar consumption among children related to poor family functioning.
According to the American Heart Association, sugars can be naturally occurring or added. Natural sugars are found in foods like fruit and milk. Added sugars are syrups and sugars that are added in during preparation, processing or right at the dinner table. Added sugars can be referred to as empty calories because they provide no nutritional benefits.
Where is all this added sugar hiding? Check your "healthy" breakfast bars, yogurts and breads. Odds are they have more sugar than you realize. They're also in high concentration in sodas, fruit drinks, cakes, cereals, cookies, ice cream and candy.
"That Sugar Film," a recent documentary, aims to educate consumers about the dangers of added sugar, which is found in 80 percent of all supermarket foods, according to The New York Times. The film features Damon Gameau, who gives up a regular diet for one containing 40 teaspoons of sugar daily for two months. That's 200 grams of sugar per day, an astounding 175 grams over the recommended daily intake.
But the kicker is that Gameau's not eating spoonfuls of sugar or chowing down on some cake and ice cream. He consumes common everyday foods that are marketed as "healthy." Gameau's health and waistline changed rapidly.
"The fact that this happened when I was following the low-fat diet that we've all been prescribed for 35 years — that was surprising," Gameau said in an interview. "I swapped [real and simple foods] for the refined carbohydrates. Cereals, low-fat yogurts and apple juice would be my breakfast instead of eggs and avocado. And lunch would be pasta with pasta sauce, or some vegetables or fish with a teriyaki sauce or some kind of dressing that had added sugars in it."
All of this sounds similar to the regular American diet. So how much sugar are you consuming per day?
In July, the FDA proposed an update to the Nutrition Facts label found on food packages in the U.S. On nutrition labels today, you will see the total carbohydrates and dietary fiber have a "daily value" listed. The FDA wants a daily value for sugar listed now as well.
It is with great sadness that we deprive our sweet tooth, but it's a large step in the right direction for the heart health of America.
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