I think many know the answer is probably both enjoyable and detestable. Enjoyable because it makes everything taste better. Detestable because we also know it isn’t exactly healthy and is a contributor to putting on excess weight.
However, both require more detailed information, and much will probably surprise you.
Simply stated by David Leonhardt of the New York Times, “sugar encourages overeating and causes health problems.” And, “research consistently points to the harms of sugar, including obesity, diabetes and other diseases”.
There are many sugar bearing foods and drinks, but perhaps the most common is the array of soft drinks so readily available. There are no less than 60 research studies that were fairly rigorous in their research that support the direct relationship of soft drink consumption to obesity, diabetes and other metabolic diseases. We should point out that 26 studies did not find a link between sugary soft drinks and poor health…. all 26 studies were carried out by researchers with financial ties to the beverage industry.
Last year the New York Times reported that “Coca-Cola was providing millions in funding to scientists who sought to downplay the link between sugary drinks and obesity.”
The problem is one cannot simply say “I won’t eat any more sugar, or at least not an excess of sugar”. This is complicated because virtually everything we eat has some content of sugar. So, let’s divide it into simple categories, 1) natural sugar like what comes to us in fresh fruits and vegetables. This is healthy sugar and acceptable. 2) Sugar added, or better labeled, as refined sugar. This comes to us from our favorite soft drink, slice of cake, or more surprisingly from your morning cereal. Sugar added is the most dangerous of the two types.
Simply stated, it is harmful, addictive and has few, if any, redeeming values other than the quick and fleeting sweet taste of what you are consuming.
If sugar added exists in everything you eat, how can you avoid it? Here are some simple rules to follow:
Prepare Your Own Breakfast
Your first meal of the day is often the one most laden with sugar, particularly if you eat cereal. Some are better than others, but as a general statement, eat them sparingly. And no, you don’t have to start eating weird sounding foods. A breakfast is best comprised of fresh fruit, nuts, plain yoghurt, plain oatmeal and pita bread. These are all free of added sugars. If time is critical, try boiling eggs the day before and refrigerate them so you can grab one or two in the morning.
Your Pantry stock can be your downfall.
Take a tour of your in-house stock in the cabinets and pantry. Items such as sauces, crackers and breads all have added sugar of real significance. No sugar added alternatives include Victoria’s pasta sauces, saltines, yellow mustard, Triscuits and Trader Joe tortillas. In fact, Trader Joe’s is a great place to shop, but in all supermarkets work, you must become a good label reader
Eliminate Bad Foods
There are many examples of heavy sugar added foods and drinks, but perhaps the worst are sodas and sports drinks. These are the worst offenders and should be eliminated entirely from your diet. And, as an extra bonus, you will be eliminating one of the larger sources of added calories. Diet soda, while better than regular sodas are only “less bad”. The worst foods that should be avoided can be generally categorized as all processed foods. Simple rule; fresh is good, processed is not!
Portion Control is Important
Does this mean measuring every teaspoonful of what you eat…no, but it does mean to be aware of the portions of everything you eat, i.e., all hamburgers are not the same size, four eggs are more than two eggs, etc. Particular concerns are restaurant portions and desserts. Be aware of the portion you are being served. Some restaurants size large portions of meals knowing patrons want “doggie bags”. Be sure you don’t consume every morsel you have been served.
I remember a friend who always ordered dessert. When served he would break off the portion he was going to eat, then open the pepper shaker and pour pepper over the remaining amount so he would not be tempted. Extreme, yes, but he accomplished his objective.
Many find food labels hard to understand as they contain lots of percentage information about food contents that may not be of great concern to us. However, there are several key items to look for and they are generally emboldened. As of May 2016, food producers must include “sugar” and/or “sugar added” on the label. This rule will be phased in during 2018. This is a major breakthrough. Before, one had to look at Calories and wonder how much might be sugar? The sugar added is a real eye-opener for many of us. Pull a can of food or a processed box of food and check it out. A distinction between the sugars can be seen in the innocent and healthy sounding “Chobani Kids Strawberry Yogurt”. It will soon contain the line of “added sugar” on the nutrition label in order to account for “evaporated cane juice’ which has 10g in the one serving of this yogurt. An adult should consume about 25g to 30g per day. Children, depending on age, should consume marginally less. However, the example of the yogurt contents of 10g equates to approximately 2.5 teaspoons of sugar. Startling!
There are many descriptive words that can be misleading. Common ones for sugar include: fruit juice concentrates, apple juice concentrate, high-fructose corn syrup, evaporated cane juice, rice syrup and flo-malt.
David Leonhardt, an op-ed columnist with the New York Times, often writes about nutrition and sugar decided to take his research much more personal. He chose to go one month without sugar.
Sugar can affect you in many ways. It will add weight, excess weight can lead to diabetes, heart disease, etc. At Alta Health Group we work with our patients and offer real-world help. This includes the basic discussion during a patient exam, an in-office A1(c) test for instant answers, and our Alta Health Group Cookbook where we have published 100 sensible recipes.
The busy season in SW Florida is drawing to an end. Now is time to make an appointment for your regular check-up and get back on program after a long winter.