At least once a day someone asks me about sugars and why they’re so bad and harmful to your health. So, here’s a brief discussion on why. I’m a victim of sugars just like the many of you, but what separates me from some of you is when I consume my sugars. Timing is very important in eating, especially with sugars. Forbes Magazine recently published an article about how many sugars Americans are actually consuming each year from 2010 till 2012. These numbers are just staggering.
The average American consumes 3 pounds of sugar each week and 3,550 pounds of sugar in a lifetime. In 1822, the average American consumed 1 can of soda every 5 days (that’s about 45grams of sugar, the amount found in one 12oz soda); in 2012 the average American consumed 17 cans of soda in 5 days (765grams of sugar).
The American Heart Association recommends that we shouldn’t have more than 9.5 teaspoons per day of sugars. The average adult consumes 22 teaspoons per day. What do you think the average child consumes in sugar a day?? Brace yourself for this – 32 teaspoons a day! To understand the magnitude of this amount, go home and put 32 teaspoons in a glass. Parents need to hold themselves accountable for their child’s sugar consumption.
Did you know that one 12oz soda contains just as much sugar as 2 pop tarts and a Twinkie combined?? The average American consumes over 53 gallons of soft drinks a year. The added sugar we consume accounts for roughly 500 calories a day. So, you wonder why at times why you can’t drop that unwanted body fat?
Refined sugars are sugars that undergo a process known as sugar refining. During this process, the raw sugars are refined, or enhanced. The sucrose is extracted while other unwanted materials are discarded. Although refined sugars are believed by many to be the basic table sugar that we may add to coffee or tea, there are actually a number of different types.
Refined sugars have been linked to many health issues such as Obesity, Hypertension, High Blood Pressure, Hypoglycemia, Depression, Headaches, Fatigue, Nervous Tension, Aching Limbs, Diabetes, Acne, Skin Irritation, Stiffening of Arteries and Violent Behavior.
How Much Sugar Should We Consume?
American Heart Association (AHA) recommends how much sugar per day we should consume, the recommended daily sugar intake, which is healthy and not harmful for the body for men and women. How much sugar per day should we consume?
• Recommended Daily Sugar Intake for Men: 36 grams or 9 teaspoons
• Recommended Daily Sugar Intake for Women: 20 grams or 5 teaspoons
• Recommended Daily Sugar Intake for Children: 12 grams or 3 teaspoons
What Sugary Foods To Stay Away From
The worst foods to eat when watching your sugar intake are:
• White bread (includes any bread with white flour in it)
• Pasta, unless whole grain
• White rice
• White flour, and products made with it such as cake, cookies, crackers, pretzels, doughnuts, bagels, and muffins
• Potatoes and potato chips
• Corn and corn chips
• Sugar and products with added sugar, e.g. canned fruits in syrup
• Jams and jellies containing added sugars
• Ripe bananas (green OK)
• Salad dressings and sauces with added sugar, such as Teriyaki sauce
• Fruit drinks containing added sugar
• Sugar-sweetened soft drinks
• Sugar-cured meats (e.g. ham is often cured with salt and sugar)
What Sugary Foods Are Okay?
Acceptable food for a low sugar diet:
• All other vegetables and fruits (see low-carb fruit and vegetable lists)
• Whole grains, such as brown rice and oatmeal
• Whole grain flour
• Products made with 100% whole grain flour (note that “wheat flour” is NOT whole grain – it has to say WHOLE grain), as long as they have no added sugars
• Sweet potatoes
• Lean meats (remove skin from poultry, trim lean cuts of beef, pork, and lamb) Nothing sugar-cured. (Low saturated fat meat list)
• Fish and seafood (not breaded)
• Nuts and nut butters
• Flax Seeds
• Olive, Macadamia and canola oils
• Low fat milk and other dairy products such as unsweetened almond milk, soy or rice milk
A Few Ways To Minimize Your Daily Sugar Intake
1) Don’t try and do a complete 180o turn and quit cold turkey. Doing this could set you up a disaster. For example, if you are normally a soda drinker and you drink let’s say 3 sodas a day, don’t go from 3 sodas to zero sodas a day all of a sudden; your body will crave that sugar and it will be a hard battle to defeat. Start by going from 3 sodas to drinking 2 sodas a day. Do this for about a week, then move down to one soda a week. Eventually, you will get to a point to where you will not crave a soda. This applies to other sweets such as candy bars, pastries etc..
2) Start consuming more water. Try and drink between 60%-70% of your total lean body weight each day in ounces. If you don’t know how to get this number, you can use your regular body weight and drink between 55%-60% of that weight in ounces.
3) Cut down on processed and packaged foods. Salad dressings, spaghetti sauces, soups and even pizza crusts contain sugar. If you make your own soup, you will unlikely be adding a cup of sugar to the stew pot; however, this is exactly what manufacturers do. Try to purchase groceries with the least amount of ingredients as possible.
4) Indulge your sweet tooth naturally. Fruits, honey, maple syrup and molasses all contain natural sugars. Although these foods are no health superstars, they are a better option when the sweet tooth strikes and you are craving some sugary action. An apple will give you a sweet burst of flavor along with beneficial vitamins and fiber.
5) Watch your breakfast. Deep-fried dough topped with icing and candy sprinkles isn’t anywhere near healthy, but doughnuts are a tried-and-true American breakfast favorite. Just say no. Other items commonly consumed as breakfast include giant muffins (muffins = cake), frappuccinos and smoothies – these are basically milkshakes. Starting your morning off with a sugar overload like this will offset your energy and unbalance your system for the rest of the day.
6) Recognize the “sugar aliases”. Sugar isn’t just white death in a package called “sugar”. It has other guises more cunning. Some of the aliases are digested more slowly than sugar but do your research before assuming any are worth keeping in your diet because they’re all still sugar. When checking the food labels of your pantry, look for these sugar aliases:
• brown sugar
• fructose and crystalline fructose; high-fructose corn syrup
• invert sugar
• rice/corn/maple/malt/golden/palm syrup
• corn sweetener
• raw sugar.
7) Lessen the sugar intake by skipping any product that contains sugar (or one of the above aliases) in the first three ingredients. Absolutely avoid products that list sugar more than once in the ingredients list. Be wary of anything claiming to be a “natural” or “organic” substitute for sugar; such sweeteners still contain calories and don’t bring nutrients to your diet that is needed. If a product claims to be “reduced-sugar”, remind yourself, “So what, it still contains sugar”, and avoid it. Even half of the sugar that was once added is still too much and the items that are substituted won’t be healthy for you either.
When Is The Best Time To Consume Sugars?
Before and After Exercise is the best time to consume sugars, but not the only time. Whether you’re engaging in aerobic or anaerobic activity, foods rich in complex carbohydrates, such as whole-grain pasta, rice, bread, fruits, and vegetables are the best sources of energy and they all contain sugars. During anaerobic exercise, or short-term, high-intensity activities such as weight-lifting or intensive sit-up and pushup workouts, carbohydrates in the form of glycogen (a complex sugar) are the primary fuel source for your muscles. Such repetitive, vigorous activity can use up most of the carbs stored in your muscles. Now, just because I say you can eat sugars, I don’t mean all sugars. Do realize if you eat simple sugars like candy bars before a workout, you are risking a drop in blood sugar levels which can cause dizziness during your workout. If that is your only available source of food, try and eat it closer to your workout (20-30 minutes before) along with a source of protein.
As you can see from the information above, there are many harmful effects from over-indulging in sugars. We, as a society, need to be more aware of what we put into our bodies, as well as what we are feeding our children.
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Stay strong, positive, and healthy.