“I’ll take a 3 Musketeer, Sky Bar, Welch’s Fudge, Hershey, and Cracker Jacks.” That’s how I spent my paper route money. Packing away all that chocolate and sweets was not the best financial investment and often led to cavities and a few extra pounds, but the sugar fix seemed to “outweigh” any of the negatives.
I continued my sugar-heavy diet into my early adulthood happily loading up my coffee and cereal with sugar, scarfing down a double fudge cake for my birthday or taking a bicycle ride break for that refreshing root beer float. But as I got older and my immortal attitude faded I decided to reduce my excessive sweets intake to prevent those cavities and added pounds. Gradually, ice cream and cookies became an occasional special treat rather than a staple. But just when I thought I had this sugar thing under control new warnings from scientists, nutritionists, healthcare professionals, and especially my wife raised a red flag about the amount of added sugar (AS), not just in the obvious players like cookies and cakes, but in most foods. So, I started to pay attention to nutritional labels and WTF–bread, ketchup, orange juice, pasta, pizza, and peanut butter have added sugar. That shoots my supposed semi-healthy diet back to the “needs work” level.
I started to read nutritional labels and it confirmed that foods that I thought were sugar free are loaded with AS. It’s kind of like discovering that those brownies you ate at that party were laced. I’m disappointed in the food industry who covertly loaded up everything with added sugar but, ultimately, we are responsible for what we eat, and I should have paid more attention to those numbers on ALL food labels and what they mean.
It was time to become an informed consumer and learn more about what seems to be an ingredient in everything. So, I googled: Added Sugar, Foods with Added Sugar and Bad Effects of Sugar? These are some of the major facts from my search:
- Candy, baked goods, and sweetened dairy are the main sources of added sugar. But foods you don’t suspect, like breads, soups, protein bars, cereals, and most of our favorite drinks can have sugar
- The brain is affected with sugar creating addiction and cravings for more and more sugar.
- Studies have linked a high sugar intake to a greater risk of depression in adults.
- Candy can rot your teeth (knew this one)
- Sugar is linked to Increased inflammation resulting in joint pain and increasing your risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.
- It may make your skin age faster.
- Can lead to type 2 diabetes.
- Can lead to heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes.
- Eating less sugar can help lower blood pressure.
- Damages your pancreas and insulin levels often resulting in type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
- If you have diabetes, too much sugar can lead to kidney damage.
- Can lead to weight gain (knew this one)
- It can make men impotent
- Recommended sugar intake for Men: 9 teaspoons/36 grams daily
- Recommended sugar intake for Women: 6 teaspoons/25 grams daily
The biggest surprises in my unscientific, but informative research is: the prevalence of sugar in everything we eat, the low amount of the recommended daily added sugar allowance, and the serious health risks of a heavy sugar diet. Eating a couple of pieces of my favorite carrot cake would include 82 grams of added sugar, over double the daily recommendation of 37 grams–FUBAR. With all these negatives, it’s time to start paying attention to everything we eat, read nutritional package labels, and use the tools available to become informed consumers.
One of those tools is the FDAs Food Tracker calculator, so you can determine nutritional values including the amount of added sugar in your foods. Just enter a food name in the calculator and click on the nutrient info: https://www.supertracker.usda.gov/foodtracker.aspx After a few clicks on the calculator I realized “I’m full of sugar”.
I’ve decided to cut back, even more, on added sugar, being mindful of the recommended added sugar daily dose limits. Will I totally give up sugar—no way! I think that total abstinence is like holding your breath and when you finally breath in or come off your 0-sugar diet it’s a huge inhale of air or sugar. The fact is that large amounts of sugar is in most foods, so I will stop putting sugar in my coffee, look for lower sugar content substitutes, read product nutrition labels, and only eat my sugar laden favorites when no one is looking.
I don’t think sugar should be an all or nothing choice, but we should all be informed consumers so we, and not the food industry, are deciding how much added sugar we eat. Take charge of your diet by using the calculator above as a guide to choose healthier foods and budget for your occasional sugar feast, read those food labels, and lobby the food industry to create healthy foods that don’t taste like cardboard like a slice of double fudge chocolate cake with 0 grams of added sugar.