The Uphill Skater: Living a Healthy Lifestyle
Ha, Ha, just kidding, but not really. Sugar is a very serious subject and getting more so all of the time. Sugar is also very complicated—not just a complicated set molecules—but a complicated health and dietary problem, as well. I cannot go into all of the medical ups and downs of sugar and its effect on the body.
I am not qualified to do that. However, I will try my best to answer that age-old question, “What’s in it for me?” That is to say, how are we as just regular people trying our best to eat healthy going to sort out all of the contradictory facts, fictions and outright lies about the sweet things we put in our bodies?
Sugar has become the new villain de jour in the desperate search to discover the roots of the obesity epidemic that is becoming such a health issue. Some doctors and food scientists believe that is a genuine truth. In fact, I read an article that stated sugar is the new tobacco. This article stated that sugar can do as much harm and be equally addicting as both tobacco and alcohol. Other studies have debunked this theory saying that anything in huge amounts can be harmful and even toxic, not just sugar.
Another thing I learned from reading is it is not just the sugar itself that tastes so good. In fact, even someone with a massive sweet tooth would not simply eat spoonfuls of sugar. Sugar tastes good in combination with other things. The bad news is sugar tastes best in combination with things that are equally bad for you.
I am reading the New York Times bestseller The End of Overeating by David A. Kessler, MD, a former FDA commissioner who has taken on the American food industry by maintaining that we are offered food choices that are bad for us but taste good as a deliberate exploitation. His book has been called many things, including “disturbing, thought-provoking and important.”
Dr. Kessler says that the most palatable combination of all to human taste buds is sugar and fat. Think really yummy cake frosting. Studies are quoted on everything from college students to rats to cockroaches and it seems, that the most desired food substance has proven to be just that right combination of fat, salt and sugar.
Another danger that is repeated in virtually all nutritional studies is the hidden sugar factor. Sugar has only 16 calories per teaspoon. Not so bad, right? That equates to nearly 800 calories in one cup of sugar! It adds up fast. Hidden sugar is defined not only as a multiple of the “suggested amount” factor, but as actual statements or misstatements that are perfectly legal on food labels. Did you know that there over 19 different terms that are accepted for use in describing sugar and sugar-like products? There are numerous ways to make sugar like cane, beet, agave, honey, Stevia and so on, with even more ways these things can be named. Corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, sucralose and on and on. That does not even begin to cover artificial sweeteners.
Fortunately, there are many foods that have a sweet flavor because of naturally occurring sugar. Fruits are probably the most classic example, and fruit sugar in moderation is actually good for you and can act as an appetite inhibitor. In fact, sugars occur naturally in every food we eat with the exception of meat.
As with almost everything today there is debate. In fact, there is a school of thought that claims the theory that sugar is toxic is “silly.” Anyway, what seems to be universally agreed upon is the amount of sugar we should have in a day—24 grams or six teaspoons. That doesn’t seem like that much. I certainly do not eat six teaspoons of sugar in a day for goodness sake. Well, think again, folks. Read the label as I always say.
A can of cola has 39 grams. Half a cup of frozen yogurt has 17 grams and a Weight Watcher’s frozen chocolate fudge bar has 14. One glass of orange juice from concentrate has 24 grams of sugar. Hidden sugar is indeed a big surprise. It does not take long to add up to the daily 24 and you might still say, “Sugar, I did not eat any sugar!”
So, what should a person do? Well, the answer is simple, although the implementation is not quite as simple as we may wish. Just do your best to avoid packaged foods and pre-made items. Try to eat fresh and simple. Fruits, vegetables, fresh fish, portioned servings of meat and chicken, and avoiding deep-fried foods is common knowledge and a no-brainer. In addition, avoiding alcohol and snack foods to excess. The more I read and research, the more I read the same things. Usually it is all common sense, too!
Tune in next time for some exercise tips. There are many ways to keep moving around and they are mostly all good for you.