What's Sugar Doing To Us?

Posted by Jessica Meyers Altman on

I just watched an amazing movie called Fed Up.  The movie focuses on how the low-fat craze that took hold in the 80's, is now being found to be in part, responsible for the rise in obesity. How could this be? A low-fat, whole food, plant-based diet is most likely the best type of lifestyle to follow. However, "low-fat" processed foods are not. Why? When the McGovern report came out in 1977, reporting that saturated fats led to heart disease, Americans and their food producers launched a food revolution. Low-fat foods sprang up everywhere. Fat was demonized and taken out of foods. Processed foods have to be shelf stable for a long time. By taking out the fat, food producers had to replace it with something that would make the food taste good to the consumer. Enter....sugar. Sugar by the tablespoon replaced the fat, and in so doing, created an epidemic of obesity. 

The more sugar we eat, the more insulin our bodies have to produce to deal with the excess sugar in our blood stream. Insulin helps to store excess sugar in the form of fat. Fat gets deposited into our cells, making it harder for future amounts of glucose/sugar to get into the cells for energy. The glucose remains in the blood and the body keeps making more insulin to deal with it. This wears out our pancreas (which makes insulin) and creates insulin resistance, the precursor to diabetes. It's no coincidence that as sugar levels in our foods have climbed, so too have rates of Type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes, used to be known as adult onset. This term can no longer be used. Children are getting Type 2 diabetes at alarming rates. For more on this, visit Dr. Barnard's website on preventing and reversing diabetes.

Sugar is an addictive food. Our bodies crave it. When we eat it, it takes more of it to give us the same thrill. Just like addictive drugs, sugar manipulates the biochemistry in our brains to make us crave it more. A little doesn't satiate, we need more. Over the last 30 years, that's exactly what we have been given. What's so bad about a little sugar? Nothing. But it's not a little. The average American consumes 20 tsp of sugar per day! The American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 tsp a day (but that's a lot too!).  Sugar hides in many places you don't think about it. Cereals, sauces, drinks, salad dressings, yogurt, peanut butter, granola bars, condiments, crackers, potato chips, and many other inconspicuous foods. Take a look on a food label. Sugar doesn't have a daily caloric percentage. Do you find that odd? Lobbyists in the food industry don't want you to know how much you're really consuming, and they keep it in misleading terminology.  They list it in grams, not teaspoons, since most Americans don't conceptualize gram measurements. This is no mistake. This is purposeful on the part of the food producers.

How can you break your addiction? Take a break from sugar. Avoid processed foods and eat whole fruits and vegetables, nuts, grains, and legumes. If baking, use a whole food sweetener like date paste or bananas, which provides sweetness, but also fiber, magnesium, and potassium.  Wanting a sweet treat? Grab some berries.  Skip the dressings and dips in restaurants. Avoid drinks other than water.  If you typically consume a lot of sugar, you'll find you'll shed a bit of weight with these new changes, without changing your caloric intake.  It's not about the calories, but what type of calories you're consuming. Are they empty or are they nutrient packed? 100 calories of soda doesn't equal 100 calories of nutrient dense foods like broccoli, apples, beans. and nuts. 

When you eat a whole food, plant-based diet, you will naturally consume less sugar. The key is WHOLE food. Avoid processed foods where ingredients are unknown. Eat foods you can identify. Have foods cut and prepared so that you make good decisions when you're hungry. This will help you to avoid food cravings and grabbing that sugary, salty snack. 

For ideas on foods without added sugars, visit me over on www.gardenfreshfoodie.com where I'm always cooking up whole food nutrition! Happy and healthy eating to you! BTW-lots of zucchini recipes coming your way soon....


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