When asked how a person can improve their health, after recommending increasing water intake, I always answer, “Cut the sugar!” I don’t know of one other ingredient that wreaks more havoc on our health today than sugar.
As a kid, I sprinkled a little sugar on oatmeal with cinnamon, added a little to iced tea or lemonade, and enjoyed a soft drink once in a great while. Mom added sugar to desert recipes but that was about it. It’s not that way any more for most Americans and our waistlines and health show it.
The recent movie, Fed Up, narrated by executive producer, Katie Couric, documents the increased consumption and impact of sugar on our lives over the last several decades.
- The average American consumes 130 pounds of sugar every year—almost three times that of 100 years ago! Check out this shocking infographic to see what that looks like.
Type 2 Diabetes was virtually non-existent among children in 1980. That’s why it used to be called “adult onset diabetes.” In 2012, there were over 57,000 childhood cases in America and it’s increasing every year.
The American Heart Association recommends no more than 6-8 grams of sugar a day (1 teaspoon equals 4 grams). A 20-ounce soft drink alone contains 17 teaspoons—68 grams! A serving of breakfast cereal and a glass of juice can put you over the daily recommended allotment.
According to fedupmovie.com, it’s estimated that 93 million Americans suffer from obesity—9 million are children between 6-19 years old.
It greatly weakens our immune systems. Take note of the rampant colds and flu among children the week after Halloween!
Cut The Sugar!
Here are several ways you as a parent can take immediate action to curb the intake of sugar in your family:
- Stop drinking soft drinks, energy drinks, and sweetened milk. This one step alone will make the biggest immediate difference in sugar intake for most Americans. One study of beverage patterns and trends among school-aged children in the US, between1989-2008, showed one soda a day increased a child’s chance of obesity by 60%.
Get rid of the sugar bowl. It’s not unusual to have a sugar bowl either on the table or kitchen countertop. If so, put it away. Stop adding refined sugar to cereal, coffee, tea, etc. Find better substitutes for refined sugar to use sparingly in baking such as honey, applesauce, or Stevia.
Eat more whole foods. Michael Pollan advocates making meals at home from whole foods as the best diet. I’d agree. Cut back on fast food and processed foods. Eat fruit whole instead of fruit juice. The fiber in the whole fruit regulates the absorption of the natural sugars. Fruit juice creates sugar spikes similar to soft drinks.
Read the ingredient label. When purchasing packaged foods, check the ingredient label. Ingredients are listed in order of greatest amount first. If sugar is listed among the top five, I won’t consider eating it. The food industry is good about camouflaging sugar under different names such as high-fructose corn syrup, fructose, dextrose, turbinado, sorbitol, or some other variation so beware.
Avoid high-fructose corn syrup at all costs. During the low-fat trend of the 1980’s, food makers had to add more sugar to offset the low-fat taste. Sugar is expensive. High-fructose corn syrup isn’t—which is why it’s found in so many food products today. Dr. Mark Hyman explains why it’s so dangerous. You’ll find it in soft drinks, sauces and salad dressings, breads (even the so-called healthy ones), breakfast cereals and bars, and processed snack foods. Again, read the ingredient label.
A little sugar may not hurt anyone. But a lot of sugar ingested over a long period of time will and does. And that’s what the average American is doing—eating 130 pounds of sugar or more every year. Curbing sugar intake alone would dramatically alter our current health crisis.
These are simple steps when compared to the suffering brought about by poor health and skyrocketing health care costs. It’s worth the discussion in your home. Watch Fed Up together as a family. It’s available on Netflix or you can purchase it as I did.
Do your family a favor—cut the sugar!
Question: Where have you cut back on the sugar in your family? Share your answer in the comments below.