America's Addiction To Sugar
Oh, how we love our sugar. We put it on everything – that sugar bowl that sits on our table filled with that white stuff that begs us to dig in and sweeten everything we eat. Have you ever thought about what that sugar does to your body after you swallow it? Where does it go? What effect does it have on you? I sure have, so I wanted to check it out to see if it had any positive or negative effect on how I felt and on my health in general.
The first big surprise was to discover that I was addicted to it. Sugar releases dopamine in my brain from the "reward center". I guess that's why I always felt good after eating sugar; cookies, a big piece of cake, pie, a soda drink; whatever I was having that had sugar in it. Oh, the comfort it provided!
What was happening in my brain came from my reward center, but there is a down side to that. I would need more and more sugar to get that same satisfaction. Furthermore, sugar tells the body to release insulin. More insulin will cause more cravings for carbohydrates and sugar, hours after eating it.
Have you ever heard of the "sugar high" and the crash that comes later? Wow, when that happens I head for something with sugar in it – my "pick me up" so I can get through the day. No doubt, I was addicted to sugar. Since my body isn't any different than anyone else's, then it made sense to me that Americans are addicted to sugar, as is the rest of the world where sugar is in abundance.
What I found was that Americans consume over 130 lbs. of sugar in a year. In 2004, it was reported that 60% of Americans were overweight or obese. One severe complication was type 2 diabetes, which is caused directly by consumption of sugar and refined carbohydrates.
Sugar also feeds cancer cells and tumors are huge sugar absorbers. Cancer cells grab the glucose and grow. Sugar also produces a continuous acidic condition in the body. Cancer cells survive only in an acidic environment and will die in an alkaline environment (non-acidic). In addition, minerals are taken from the tissue to even the acidic environment and level the imbalance. These results to bones weakening (osteoporosis), and teeth decaying (cavities).
To name a few, listed below are disorders and diseases associated with high sugar consumption:
- Attention Deficit Disorder
- Behavioral problems
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Colon Cancer
- Coronary Heart Disease
- Kidney and Liver Disease
- Over growth of yeast (especially Candida Albicans)
- Violent tendencies.
There are so many other effects of high intake of sugar over the years.
Sugar also overloads the liver, converts to fat and goes directly to the blood stream. This produces plaque in the blood vessels, which is associated with heart attacks. Furthermore, the fatty acids retained in the blood are stored as fat in the most inactive areas of the body: the thighs, belly, breasts and buttocks. When these areas are filled with fat, then the fat is distributed among the active organs: liver, heart, and kidneys. Indeed, there are so many effects the high intake of sugar has in our bodies.
I couldn't figure out where I was getting all this sugar. Why was America addicted to sugar? How are we all consuming such high levels of sugar, which causes us to be fat and unhealthy? The answer is not only in our little sugar bowls on our table; it's in all the food we eat.
There are good sugars, such as in fresh fruits and vegetables, and there are bad sugars, as in processed foods. We need to check out the hidden sugars in the American diet to answer our questions. To start off, the truth is that food manufacturers want you to be addicted to sugar, just as cigarette companies want you to be addicted to nicotine. This is so you will continue to buy their products.
Sugar is in every processed product you buy. The name sugar is sometimes hidden on the labels, but it is there, often in the form of high fructose corn syrup (processed with chemicals and made with genetically modified corn). Fructose starts out as cornstarch and is chemically degraded to glucose. Fractions of the glucose are combined with an enzyme, which then turns to fructose. High fructose corn syrup does not exist naturally – it is all manufactured.
Then, we will find sucrose, which is extracted from sugar cane. Maltose, dextrose, glucose – any word ending in "ose" is sugar. This sugar is the greatest source of our total caloric intake. It's in the products we have bought for years, and it's what we all have in our cabinets and refrigerators. It is in our condiments and what we consider as staple foods.
How about ketchup? 2 to 4 tbsp. of it is 10 to 20 grams of extra sugar! Salad dressings, marinades, cocktail sauce; they're all filled with sugar. It's in cakes, cookies, cereals, snacks, drinks (even fruit juice). Well, you get the picture! Check the labels on the foods you buy. I was shocked at how much sugar I consume in a day. Even if you get rid of the sugar bowl, you would still be overdosing on sugar, carbohydrates and calories.
Before you reach for those little blue and pink packets to sweeten your drink, or before you buy artificial sweeteners to replace sugar, check this out. Artificial sweeteners are also linked to weight gain. They trick the body to release insulin. When the mouth and stomach sense sweetness, the body is expecting sugar. As mentioned, the more insulin, the more cravings you will have for carbohydrates and sugar, hours after you have had that diet soda.
Artificial sweeteners are toxic. These chemicals are filtered through our liver. Our liver is so taxed filtering out these chemicals and storing the toxins in our fat tissues. We still end up not burning fat. So, beware of foods that say "fat free", "sugar free", "low fat", and "diet".
These sweeteners are also related to high blood pressure and high levels of cholesterol and blood sugar. It can also lead to heart disease, strokes and cancer. You can read more about these chemicals in my article entitled, "What Are These Substances We're Putting Into Our Bodies".
We want to get our glucose and carbohydrates from fresh fruits and vegetables. Our bodies need glucose, but we need the right kind from the right sources. We can even get our carbs from grains and plants.
Our main source of sugar comes from the sugar cane. It's refined and has a negative nutritional value. It makes your body use up stored nutrients to process it. It affects your body's ability to process glucose over time.
Cane sugar is sucrose extracted from the sugar cane. It's a type of grass, which yields a sweet liquid when crushed. This juice is then evaporated to create sugar crystals, which is better known as "sugar in the raw form". As molasses is separated from the raw form of sugar, it will become brown sugar or white sugar, which is more heavily refined.
I remember my mother telling me to eat brown sugar or raw sugar, because it was good for me. Sorry, not so. Sugar is sugar, along with all the negative effects associated with cane sugar and artificial sweeteners. But, my mom was fooled, just like we all have been with the advertisements we have seen for years regarding cane sugar.
On the other hand, fresh fruits have a natural sugar with fiber, which slows absorption. Fructose in fresh fruits causes insulin levels to remain constant. Most fruits have a low glucose index and put less stress on the body.
Fruits, vegetables and grains have added vitamins and minerals that our bodies need. When buying canned or processed fruits, vegetables or grains, read the labels to see if sugar is added. It usually is, so be careful. I can my own fruits and vegetables, so I know what's in them. You can also freeze fresh fruits and vegetables. I also go to the health food stores to buy certain items, which have no sugar added or chemicals, but are sweetened with fruit juice.
Raw honey and maple syrup are another source of sugar. Both have additional nutrients, enzymes and antioxidants that sugar does not have. Some studies show raw honey improves the body's ability to process glucose.
Raw honey can reduce symptoms of allergies, if it is from the area where you live. Raw honey also boosts the immune system and contains anti-cancer properties. It relieves arthritis pain and assists in relieving yeast infections and athlete's foot. Have you noticed I recommend raw honey, not processed honey? Processed honey, which is pasteurized, reduces the benefits of raw honey significantly.
Maple syrup, which is 100% pure, has manganese, zinc and natural antioxidants that are good for your immune system. Maple syrup prevents damage to the heart and is a strong liver cleanser.
Chocolate is everyone's favorite. My husband loves it and everyone in our family loads him up with it at Christmas and on his birthday. The problem with our chocolate intake is that we usually get the heavily processed and added sugar kind, instead of the raw and organic kind.
Cacao is a bean and is a fantastic super food due to these beans being extremely nutritious. You can buy cacao in many forms. It can be in a baking form, chips for cookies, and in bars. Again, watch the labels for additives and sugars. When I bake with cacao, I use raw honey as my sweetener.
Xylitol comes from the bark of the birch tree. It has 2.4 calories per gram. Xylitol can cause gastrointestinal distress in some people. Erythrismal is a sugar alcohol that is naturally found in a variety of foods: mushrooms, watermelon and pears.
Stevia is a non-caloric sweetener. It is a natural alternative to sugar and artificial sweeteners. It is also a type of herb known as "sweet leaf", as this plant is grown for its sweet leaves. It grows in subtropical regions. It has 300 times the sweetness of sugar.
Stevia is the sweetener I use now. When I can fruits, I use 1 teaspoon for every cup of sugar called for in my recipe. Amazing isn't it? There is no sugar in it and it's low in carbohydrates. It does not trigger a rise in blood sugar and insulin levels are not affected. It is not toxic like saccharin or artificial sweeteners.
Stevia is not a new product. It has been used for hundreds of years safely. It has no other ingredients as it's 100% pure. I can't tell the difference in the foods I have put it in.
Here are a few simple rules that I follow, now that I am eliminating sugar from my diet:
- Always read the labels, even in the health food stores.
- Avoid artificial sweeteners, sugar or sugar derivatives.
- Avoid all sweetened beverages, including fruit juices that are not freshly juiced and that are not free of sweeteners.
- For baking, use stevia or raw, organic honey.
My husband and I can truthfully say that we have broken our part on "America's Addiction to Sugar". The thing I noticed the most is I don't miss or crave it anymore. Like all addictions, I had symptoms such as headaches and irritability for about a week. But since then, we have both lost weight and felt better.
The time to start is now, if you want to break your addiction on the "America's Addiction to Sugar" problem.