Opening Hearts: Chapter 5
Nutrition’s Nemesis: Sugar’s Outrageous Growth
If I could select one substance to decrease in our diet it would be sugar. This unhealthy substance feeds the inflammation that damages arterial walls and has a long list of other harmful health consequences including cancer. Yet the average American consumes about 150 pounds of sugar a year. That is up from about five pounds in the late 1800s. Our overconsumption of sugar is very likely one of the major factors in the rise of obesity rates. And forget the notion that chemical sugar substitutes like saccharine, sucralose, or aspartame are a better way to satisfy your sweet tooth; they are not. In fact, these substitutes have been shown to cause even greater cravings for sweet foods within a short time of consuming them. These substitutes are in most low-fat, sugar-free, and diet foods (especially diet soda) supposedly designed to help you lose weight.
Yet a 2005 study by the University of Texas Health Science Center showed that people who drank diet sodas with artificial sweeteners actually gained more weight and were more likely to become obese. The sad fact is that our society is addicted to this sweetly seductive edible and the more we eat it the more we crave it. Also problematic is that our health care system often looks the other way when it comes to this health choice.
A healthier and more practical dietary goal would involve consuming something less than twenty-five pounds or so of sugar per year. An easy way to adhere to that goal is to limit additional sugars from processed foods and drinks (such as cookies, ice cream, fruit drinks, and sodas) to three or fewer servings per week for women and five or fewer servings per week for men.
This is a small fraction of what most people currently consume. One simple way to get closer to that goal is to read labels. Sugar—often in the form of high fructose corn syrup— is now in foods that you’d never expect and in foods it never used to be such as: bread, vitamin supplements, mayonnaise, yogurt, ketchup, mustard, salad dressing, bottled spaghetti sauce, lunch meats, breakfast cereals, peanut butter, protein bars, frozen dinners, and almost all low-fat, processed, and diet foods. Sugars and sugar-substitutes mask the loss of taste in reduced-fat foods making them more palatable.
Weight gain is only one item in the lengthy list of bad health consequences related to ingesting too much sugar and its substitutes so working to reduce your intake is an important step in your overall health.
Next up is Rule 2: Maintain a Healthy Weight