By Dr. Scott Colasanti
If it tastes so good, why is it so bad for us? That is the question one might ask when you learn about the unhealthy consequences of eating too much sugar. I am an advocate of ‘everything in moderation’, but what is going on today with our diet and especially sugar consumption is well beyond moderation and to the level of epidemic proportions.
Statistics show that the average yearly consumption of sugar in North American adults is in the order of 120 to 150 lbs per year! The biggest culprit in the average diet is soft drinks. One 12-ounce can of Coca Cola contains about 11 teaspoons of sugar.
If we eliminate the obvious sources of sugar, that still might not be enough.
We are not just talking about the white stuff we put in our coffee. Sugars are ‘hidden’ in so many foods; even many foods that we may consider to be healthy. For example look at whole wheat bread. If you read the labels, most popular brands contain a considerable amount of sugar. Regardless of this, it is still better to eat whole grains versus white because there is more fiber and nutrients in whole grain. Fiber is very important for many reasons such as helping us metabolize nutrients more efficiently, helping with our bowels etc. On average we clearly do not get enough fiber in our diets. There is a predominance of highly refined and processed foods on the market. In fact, the more white the food, the more refined it probably is and it is generally a good idea to avoid them because they are so calorie-rich and nutrient and fiber-poor.
So back to the question, why is sugar so bad for us?
For one, we are simply not meant to eat that much sugar. Our bodies have to do something with it so our insulin helps us store this excess energy as fat and this leads to problems. We unfortunately see the ill affects of this especially in children where there is truly an epidemic of childhood obesity and diabetes; things that were virtually nonexistent in children not that long ago.
Other ill effects of sugar are far more insidious. For instance, over-consumption of sugar has been linked to several forms of cancer. Sugar reduces the ability of white blood cells to fight bacteria, making us more susceptible to illness. High sugar intake is also linked to heart disease, premature aging, menstrual irregularities, PMS, mood swings, anxiety, and depression.
How can we reduce our sugar intake and be healthier?
It is important to know what you are eating. Read labels. You may be surprised. Do an ‘inventory’ of your diet to see if there are things you should change. Try to eat more unrefined and unprocessed foods. A good rule is to shop the perimeter of the grocery store, thereby avoiding the refined foods. As the title of this blog implies, avoiding ‘white’ foods like sugar, flour, rice, even potatoes will make our diets much healthier. So give it a try, you have nothing to lose (except maybe some excess calories), and much to gain.