I cannot believe it has been one year since the start of the pandemic. Just in a couple of weeks, maybe less, news was spreading fast that grocery stores could soon run out of food. I did not take them seriously, honestly, I am not the type to panic over stuff like that. I finally decided to see what all the panic was about and took a trip to the local Stop and Shop one town over from me. The first section I see when I enter this store is the produce section. To my surprise it was fully stocked! I made my way up and down the isles and that is when I stopped in my tracks. The shelves that were basically empty, were the shelves that had boxes of cake and cookie mix, flour, sugar, and dried pasta. Nothing but all processed foods made with white flour and sugar.
Do you know many pounds of added sugar and sweeteners the average American consumes each year? Would you believe over 185 pounds? Yes,185! That is 35 of those hefty 5-lb bags…or about one of those bags every ten days. With the pandemic and so many in lock down, I would bet this amount increased significantly. This does not even include natural sugars in wholefoods like fruit. I know from experience that some of you are thinking, “Wow –that’s a lot, but certainly I don’t do that. You must be talking about someone else.”
To hit this average consumption rate, you need to eat 1 cup (that is 48 teaspoons) of sugar (or similar sweetener like corn syrup) each day. The reality is that the average American accomplishes this simply in the beverages we choose (without regard to our love of cookies, candy, cakes, muffins, and pastries). A 20-oz bottle of Coke packs a whopping 16+ teaspoons. But did you know that supposedly healthier, flavored iced tea has the exact same amount of sugar per ounce as a soda? A grande-sized Cafe Mocha at Starbucks has 10+ tsp. A bottle of Snapple Lemonade has 14 tsp. Vitamin Water has 8+ tsp. How does your daily drink math stack up?
Now what about our food? If you add a blueberry muffin to your drink in the Dunkin’ Donuts drive-through, that’s another 13+ tsp of sugar. A package of Reese’s Peanut Butter cups? Another 5 tsp. A small cup of Breyer’s Black Cherry yogurt? Another 10 tsp. Granola bars? Another 4 tsp.
Food manufacturers load up the sugar in their products on purpose. It is not an accident. And they do it for one reason: it makes them a lot of money. They understand our addiction to this powerful stimulant sell’s products. They count on our being easily duped by flashy advertising. They assume we eat mindlessly. Sugar-laden foods taste great, so we keep buying them. Sugar deadens our taste buds, so the more we eat, the more we want. Then it takes a major toll on our health.
Even rats prefer sugar over cocaine.In a study, rats could choose water sweetened with saccharin, an intense calorie-free sweetener and intravenous cocaine, most rats choose the sweetened water. Why? Sugar sets off a reward signal in the brain even stronger than that of cocaine. Do not blame your self for having a sweet tooth or feel you do not have the will power to kick this habit. This white “stuff” shows up in many of our packaged foods and not by accident. Tricking our minds to want more.
The average daily intake may be 48 tsp, but you might be wondering just how bad that can be. Well, hold on to your hat: the American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 tsp/day of added sugar for women and 9 tsp for men. Yes, our current habit is a full 5 to 8 times what is recommended by a national medical organization that has historically been quite conservative about guidelines. And the reality is that you need exactly 0 tsp. per day for energy (yes, even if you are an avid athlete). Great for a treat here and there but completely unnecessary for our health.
Sugar and other refined sweeteners have been tied to a devastating array of chronic ailments and diseases. It is not just about weight gain. There’s also high blood pressure, high cholesterol and triglycerides, hyperactivity, diabetes, osteoporosis, atherosclerosis (clogged arteries),heart disease, mood swings, migraines, arthritis, poor eyesight, depression, and impaired immune response. Our diet is often the reason we end up on medications. Refined sweeteners are highly acidic and inflammatory .Inflammation, among other things, makes our artery walls “sticky” so that otherwise innocent things like calcium, cholesterol, and fats are prone to building up and creating arterial plaque. Plaque causes blockages. Blockages cause a lot of heart attacks.
Our bodies simply have not evolved to be able to process these relatively modern, refined sweeteners. White sugar has only been around for a little over 300 years; that is a fraction of a blip in human evolution. And what about the Three Musketeers bar? Invented a miniscule 77 years ago? I believe that the number one most important thing you can do to improve your diet and your health is to eat less sugar. You really can wean yourself off it, slowly and surely. I have helped people to do this successfully and to heal from related illness.
Because of our uncontrolled consumption of sugar and other refined carbohydrates, over half of Americans today are hypoglycemic. We crave sweets uncontrollably. We experience unexplained mood swings, anger, tiredness, and major binges. But it does not have to be that way! You can reclaim your health. Start reading labels. Learn how much sugar is in your (and your family’s) daily diet. Then start making small, step-by-step changes to bring it down on purpose. If you need it, get some help. You can do it! Your health depends on it.