Are you eating too much sugar?
Are you consuming too much sugar?
The answer most likely is yes. The average American consumes about 150 pounds of sugar per year. That amounts to 3 pounds every week, or 500 extra calories per day. According to Forbes Magazine, back in 1822 the average American consumed 45 grams of sugar every 5 days which is the sugar equivalent of 12 ounces of soda. Today, we consume 765 grams of sugar in 5 days which is equal to 17 soda cans! This comes from consumption of refined sugars, and does not include fruit and grains. Over the past 30 years, sugar has been added to nearly all processed foods, creating huge sources of hidden sugar consumption which is fueling the obesity epidemic and related health hazards.
So what is the problem with eating sugar?
Sugar contains no vitamins, no minerals, no enzymes and no fiber. Simply put it is empty calories. Sugar is very addictive and leads to a variety of health issues including obesity, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, autoimmune diseases, inflammation, depression, fatigue, cancer and Alzheimer’s. In addition, high consumption of sugar often leads to yeast overgrowth and nutritional deficiencies. For a great summary of the hazards of consuming too much sugar, see the film Fed Up.
Is High Fructose Corn Syrup a better alternative than sugar?
Most processed foods contain High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) which is actually worse than sugar. HFCS is metabolized faster than sugar and readily converted into fat. HFCS is associated with elevated blood triglycerides and metabolic syndrome as well as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. You should avoid products with HFCS as well as other hidden sugars.
How does sugar lead to obesity?
When sugar is not used by the body, it will be converted into fat. High sugar consumption increases your blood glucose which releases the fat storing hormone, insulin. Its job is to remove blood glucose as fast as possible. When your liver and muscle glycogen stocks are full, insulin converts glucose into fat.
Consuming sugar throughout the day prevents you from using your own fat stores for energy. If on a regular basis, you are consuming sugar, fruits, starches, and sport drinks throughout the day, and not burning it right away, the excess fat storage from unused sugar will lead to obesity.
How do carbohydrates affect blood sugar?
There are three types of carbs – sugar, starches and fiber. Sugar and starches raise blood sugar. Fiber does not. Fruits are typically high in sugar. Potatoes, rice, corn, wheat, peas and beans are high in starches. Carrots and beets contain sugar, starches and fiber. Most of the foods we consume from plant sources provide carbohydrates in some form or another. Even green vegetables, although they are high in fiber and water content, contain small amounts sugar.
All starches eventually break down into glucose which is a sugar. Fiber does not break down into sugar. Eating a diet high in starches therefore, may lead to the same health problems that eating a diet high in sugar. Of course, eating whole grains, like brown rice or quinoa, is preferable to eating starches that are low in fiber like pasta and potatoes. But those too, eventually break down into sugars. Eating a diet based on starches in unhealthy and leads to difficulties with blood sugar regulation. Moderation is key.
What about the sugar in fruit?
Fruit is healthy because it contains lots of vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, fiber and other phytonutrients. But too much of a good thing is also not good for you. Dr. Mercola recommends that most adults consume a total of 25 grams of fructose per day and 15 grams for those with diabetes, insulin resistance, cancer or high blood pressure. I tell my clients to eat 1-4 pieces of fruit per day and to concentrate on low glycemic fruit. Those of you who are really active or are not concerned with weight management can consume 4 pieces per day. Consume fruit juice rarely if at all as it packs in several servings of sugar without fiber.
What about crunchy green vegetables and leafy vegetables?
Although vegetables contain a small amount of sugar you can eat as much as you want. They are high in fiber, water, vitamins, minerals and other important phytonutrients. These should be the staples of your diet no matter how active or sedentary you are.
So what if you are an athlete?
Eating something sugary before a long workout will most likely be burned during the exercise. You have about 45 minutes of glycogen stored in your liver and muscles. Therefore you only need additional fuel for those long workouts.
Sugar that is consumed while you are not active will be converted into fat. The key is to reduce sugar consumption to tap into your own fat storage either for weight management of fueling your regular workouts. Long workouts typically require fuel in the form of carbohydrates. However, recent research has shown that the same principle that is applied to weight management – tapping into fat use for fuel – can be used for long workouts, providing you train your body to use fat as a fuel.
Why is sugar addictive?
Sugar is a mood-boosting substance. It releases the happy hormone, serotonin, into the blood stream. This instant lift is the reason we turn back for more when we need a reward, feel sad, or want to celebrate. That boost of sugar then drops rapidly (sugar crash) after the insulin has been released, and creates an even bigger craving, which may lead into binge eating and addictions. Furthermore, a study from Yale University found that fructose in particular turns off the mechanism to let your brain know you are full.
So what should you do?
The best option is to remove sugars from the diet. The most effective way to go about this is to use a detox program. Detoxing from sugar takes about 5-7 days. Another option is to use supplements which help reduce sugar cravings. The most effective combination is using both. Completing the detox program first and following up with supplements later is also effective. I use a variety supplements with my clients as needed.
The detox/cleanse program I recommend is 14 days long. I offer this in a group support sessions or as a kit you can have delivered to your home. Either way, this 14 day program is an efficient way to help you stop the vicious sugar cycle. The benefits you get form this are huge – aside from losing 5-10 lbs, you feel much better. To learn more about the next detox group session click here. To order a detox kit to be shipped to you click here.