The Not-So-Sweet Side of Sugar

Have you ever stopped to think about just how pervasive sugar is? Forget about desserts, candy, and sodas; we have come to expect sugar in what we all accept as the sweet stuff. But 12 grams per serving in Newman’s Own Tomato Basil Pasta Sauce? It’s scary when you start reading packaging on processed foods, with sugar seeming to be almost sneaky in how it ends up in so many things. Fructose, dextrose, corn syrup, agave, even fruit juice concentrate. It’s all the same thing: SUGAR. Food writer Brooke McLay recently compiled a fascinating list of alarming facts about sugar and the role it plays in how we eat, and we thought we’d highlight a few here.

Sugar Has No Nutrition

How about starting with this. There is no reason why your body needs sugar. It has no nutritional value whatsoever, amounting to purely empty calories. So why do we consume so much of it? Not only because it tastes good, but it actually interacts with our bodies in ways that almost resemble a drug. This leads us to our next point…

Sugar Is An Addictive Drug

McLay cites a study from just a few years ago where cocaine-addicted mice preferred sugar water as a reward over cocaine. This is a little odd, considering THEY WERE ADDICTED TO COCAINE! Like other drugs, people who consume a high amount of sugar experience “sugar crashes” once their sugar high wears off, as well as an array of withdrawal symptoms that can range from headaches to irritability to even depression.

Sugar Is Killing Us

Never mind the fact that consuming sugar-laden products do not satisfy hunger, keep your body your body starved of real nutrition while causing you to crave more things containing sugar, these include a wide array of processed food products which also happen to contain additives, preservatives, and artificial colors and flavors that contain dangerous chemicals. Cancer cells regularly contain high levels of sugar molecules and a study last year concluded that sugar aids the growth of malignant cells, which means sugar is out to kill us. Aside from cancer, sugar can suppress the immune system, which means you could be getting sick more often, and has been linked to everything from obesity and Type ll diabetes to gout and Alzheimer’s disease.

We Are Eating Too Much of It

Take a look at the nutritional breakdown on the packaging of your favorite foods, and keep the following in mind. Four grams of sugar equal roughly one teaspoon. The USDA and American Heart Association recommend no more than six teaspoons a day for a healthy adult female. That’s 24 grams, which translates into two NutriGrain Cereal Bars, or a single package of Yoplait Vanilla Yogurt (actually, the yogurt contains 26 grams!). We treat sugar like a reward for ourselves and our kids, and we have more holidays that are centered around consuming it (Halloween, Easter, Christmas, etc.).

So what’s the answer, to give up sugar completely? Maybe not, but once you start to realize just how much the chips are stacked against the consumer when managing their sugar intake, it’s one of those things that people need to focus on along with chemicals, artificial additives, and GMOs.

What’s your take on the omnipresence of sugar in the modern diet? Leave a comment below.