It is a seemingly innocuous substance that has a hold on a lot of us. This drug fuels a powerful addiction that is at the root of several horrible conditions the end result of which is oftentimes disease and even death. We are talking of course about sugar.
Eating too much sugar is associated with tooth decay and chronic obesity. Too many sweets may also increase your risk of Crohn’s and heart disease, up uric acid levels associated with gout, promote diabetes, jack up your appetite, and impact the immune system by depressing the activity of white blood cells (these are the body’s first line of defense against viruses, parasites, bacteria, pollutants, and even cancer).
There have even been studies where kids with an ADD diagnosis after being weaned off sugar, have turned out not to be hyperactive anymore. According to a study performed by Yale University School of Medicine this is because sugar increases adrenaline, the stimulating hormone secreted by the adrenal glands.
Each American eats an average of 156 lbs of refined sugar every year (two hundred years ago the average was only 2 lbs a year!). To put that in perspective, this is the equivalent to 31 five-pounds bag for each of us. The average person is walking around with a chronically crippled immune system, always on the edge of sickness.
There was a time when sugar was controlled and distributed by the cook of the family, we knew what was sweetened and what was not. Since then the convenience of purchasing prepared food has replaced home cooking, and food manufacturers (big evil corporations without our health in mind) do most of the menu planning. Today, sugar infiltrates everything from crackers and soup to canned fruits and cereals. In fact it is the most common ingredient in our food. This omnipresent substance masquerades as sucrose, glucose, sorbitol, maltose, dextrose, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, white and brown sugars, and countless others.
We need to either get off this thing completely or curb its consumption considerably! Some tips that should help us on the path to sugar-free eating:
- Identify the problem. Do you eat sugar everyday? Several times a day? If so, it’s time to cut back.
- Wean yourself off sugar, slowly but continuously.
- Learn the different names for sugar. Read labels, identify foods with sugar in them and avoid buying them.
- Shop in the periphery of the grocery store. Most processed foods to which sugar has been added are in the middle aisles. Produce, meats and dairy foods line the outer aisles.
- If substituting for sugar use natural sweeteners like agave nectar, honey, maple syrup but watch your portions as they are still sweeteners and cause the same chemical response in your body and depress the immune system.
- Discover the sweetness of nature. Substitute fresh and dried fruits for sugary treats. Try herbal teas–many are naturally sweet. Drink unsweetened fruit juice mixed with seltzer instead of soft drinks.
- Learn how to cook and bake without sugar.
- Avoid low-fat products or at least read the labels carefully. To make up for the substracted fat, manufacturers add sugar so that the products still taste good. However, you may still be eating the same amount of calories and a hefty dose of sugar.