Why Sugar is So Bittersweet

Over the past week or so at Carozza Fitness, there has been a lot of talk about a story 60 Minutes recently aired about sugar and how it very well may be toxic to our health.  If you have not yet seen it, I do recommend you check it out (http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18560_162-57407294/is-sugar-toxic/).  In more ways than one, it provides some good food for thought.

The reaction to this piece among our members has been interesting.  Overall, the common sentiment has been, and I quote:  “a little bit of sugar won’t kill you,” and I concur – it won’t.  My issue, however, is that most people don’t grasp just how little constitutes a “little bit.”  We all have different definitions, most of which fluctuate depending on the day.

Furthermore, and perhaps more importantly, the general American public is clueless about some of the biggest sources of the sweet stuff in our diets.  No doubt we’re familiar with the obvious offenders – soda, donuts and anything classified as “dessert” – but what about those non-suspecting foods that are basking in the glow of the healthy halo provided by their brand?

Take, for example, Kashi Go Lean Crunch cereal.  For many of you, this may be your idea of a healthy breakfast.  Well, one cup contains 13 grams of sugar (and I would bet close to double that serving size actually ends up in your bowl) and then the cup of skim milk you add to it delivers an additional 12 grams  So, right there, we’re at 25 grams of sugar, and you haven’t even walked out the door.

Obviously, this is just one for instance.  Sugar is in disguise in nearly every category of food (particularly in low-fat or fat free items, as sugar is added to improve taste once the fat is removed), and this is precisely why we’re so hooked on the stuff – it’s literally hitting us – morning, noon and night – in a steady stream.  As a result, it’s no longer enough to simply avoid cookies and pies.  We must eat whole foods and be savvy shoppers when we buy packaged goods. 

So, please, make it a standard practice to read ingredient lists.  Know, though, that detecting sugar isn’t always easy – there are nearly 50 terms for the stuff that could possibly be used on ingredient lists.  One little tool is to know that words ending in “ose” (i.e. fructose, sucrose, dextrose, etc.) all translate to sugar.  More obvious examples include cane sugar, honey and the now vilified high fructose corn syrup or HFCS.

And, one last thought:  To those of you who respond to this or any health advice with a “this is a free county, no one is going to tell me what I can and cannot eat” reproach, know that you are right, that you – and only you – are in the driver’s seat when it comes to your health.  You choose what to put into your mouth and if you do so without heeding the warnings presented to you, you’re taking a risk.  It’s why we teach children to look both ways before crossing the street – because you can’t always depend on someone else to stop.

Categories: General

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