In the US particularly, there has been a skyrocketing upward trend of sugar in the foods accessible to us over the past several decades, and the effects of this have been jarring when considering our overall health and quality of life. As a result, it is now more important than ever to be conscientious of how much sugar we consume, educate ourselves on different ingredients that are actually sugar in disguise, and diligently check the ingredients every time we take a trip to the grocery store.
The United States of America has become the most overweight nation in the world.
- In 1960, 31% of US Adults were overweight and 13% were obese.
- Today, 70% are overweight and more than 33% are obese.
This creates a huge problem for our metabolic health associated with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, arthritis, depression, anxiety, hormonal issues like hypothyroid, diabetes, estrogen-related problems, and polycystic ovary syndrome. Excess weight also increases our odds of developing cancer.
The most significant contributor to weight gain is overeating sugar. Sugar is a carbohydrate that is used for energy in the body. The problem is that we eat too much as it has become so much more pervasive in both the ingredients of the products we buy as well as in the staples of our typical diet. You might not be aware that most of the foods we eat are actually simple carbohydrates/sugars -like, juices, grains like bread, pasta, rice, cereal, and alcohol.
Natural Society conducted research into the average consumption of sugar from 1700 to the present day, and found that:
- In 1700, the average person consumed approximately 4.9 grams of sugar daily (1.81 kg per year).
- In 1800, the average person consumed approximately 22.4 grams of sugar daily (10.2 kg per year).
- In 1900, the average person consumed approximately 112 grams of sugar daily (40.8 kg per year).
- In 2009, 50 percent of Americans consumed approximately 227 grams of sugar each day – equating to 81.6 kg per year.
4.9 grams of sugar/day vs 227 grams! That’s a big difference.
The problem with sugar is that when it enters the body, it gives us a rush, and your body releases “feel good” hormones like dopamine. But when it quickly dissipates, you start craving that rush again, just like a drug. This leads to overconsumption, and the excess sugar in our bodies gets stored as fat, leading to health issues.
When carbohydrates like sugar get broken down to glucose, it signals your body to produce insulin (an inflammatory hormone) to help transport the glucose to cells in need of energy. When we overeat carbohydrates/sugar, our bodies continually produce insulin. In turn, we become chronically inflamed and re-inflamed every time we eat. Our bodies never have a break from producing insulin, resulting in weight gain, illness and pain.
So what can we do now that we know the effects of sugar on your health?
Stick to foods from nature:
Sticking to foods that come from nature can quickly reduce your sugar intake. Once companies have an opportunity to process or add ingredients, the amount of sugar tends to increase. Instead of simple carbohydrates, try squashes, gourds, or sweet potatoes.
Focus on Healthy Proteins and Fats
Instead of having the base of your diet be simple carbs like bread and pasta, focus on healthy proteins and fats like avocados, olives, fish and chicken. Including more healthy fats will reduce your cravings for sugar and eating more nutrient dense foods help you feel more satiated.
Carefully Read Ingredient Labels
If you aren’t already, be diligent about reading the ingredient labels on every single ready-made product you buy. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires food companies to label their ingredients by quantity. So the first ingredient on the label will have the highest quantity in the overall product. Opt for foods with labels that list some type of whole food as their main ingredient. Ones with sugars at the beginning of the list will contain more sugar per serving and have a more negative impact on your health.
Pay attention to the serving size listed directly below the “Nutrition Facts” title on the label. For instance, upon first glance, you might think, “Oh nice, the sugar content in this walnut butter isn’t too bad,” just before realizing that a serving size is actually only a ½ teaspoon and you’re already spreading four tablespoons onto your apple slices, which is 24 times the amount of sugar you thought you were eating…. happened to a friend. 😉 The point is to be aware that packaging on food often contains more than a single serving. You must multiply the serving size by how much you plan to consume in one meal or snack to get the true amount of sugar you’ll consume.
Also, many companies often use deceptive buzzwords for marketing their products as healthier than they actually are. They attempt to confuse their consumers with healthy-sounding phrases. Or they’ll disguise sugar or other unhealthy ingredients under different names that are more ambiguous, so less consumers are aware of what they’re actually eating. Sneaky, right? We think so, too.
Here are some examples of sugar that are hiding behind deceptive names:
- Ethyl Maltol
- High Fructose Corn Syrup
- Corn Syrup
- Corn Syrup Solids
- Glucose Syrup
- Diastatic Malt
- Brown Rice Syrup
- Agave Nectar
- Barley Malt
The list goes on and on. See an ingredient you aren’t certain about? We recommend taking a quick search to look it up – more often than not, if you can’t understand it, it’s not good for you.
Swap This for That
Soda —> Sparkling Water
Pasta—> Spaghetti Squash or Zucchini Noodles
Oatmeal —> Coconut Yogurt
Bagel & Cream Cheese —> Bacon & Eggs
Fruit Juice —> Fruit & Veggie Smoothie
Toast —> Sweet potatoes Slices
Want to learn more about how your nutrition can improve? Schedule a nutrition consultation.