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The Deception Of Sugar

no sugar added juice
Labels can be deceiving, a "No Sugar Added" label doesn't necessarily mean it's low in sugar. (Photo: U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class Abby L. Finkel)

How the low-fat fad led to a high-sugar American diet.

We all know about sugar, usually when we think about it we look back at a delicious cake we once had for our birthday or that unforgettable dessert we had after that big dinner on vacation. Sugar brings up good memories most of the time. We also all know that sugar is not very good for you.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends 6 teaspoons a day for women and 9 teaspoons a day for men.  Where it starts to get ugly is the fact that the average American consumes the equivalent of 3 pounds of sugar a week. That’s a bit of a discrepancy, no? That equals to about 5 to 8 times the recommended amount by the AHA. Who’s to blame for this? Well, that’s where it can get complicated.

Around the ’90s, America started to get more health-conscious and the driving force to the new phenomenon was the introduction of low-fat diets. It made sense to the everyday American, “fat” is a bad word, we don’t want to be fat, so naturally cutting down on fat equals healthy!

The problem was that “low-fat” varients of food tasted flat out badIt also lowered the caloric content a lot which made the food not even very worth it for those using food as fuel and counting calories. So there it was, good ole sugar – if added to these low-fat foods it made them taste much better and, even better, manufacturers could still print that their food was low fat because it was! That’s all people looked for as well as the amount of fat in the food. So I don’t need to explain how we got to this sugar epidemic of sorts.

I challenge you the next time you go to the supermarket to shop for food to check every single nutritional label of products you are about to eat. The disturbing truth will reveal itself. Sugar is packed in almost everythingEven foods that promote themselves as healthy or things you would never guess had a ton of sugar such as:

  • Condiments (especially BBQ sauce)
  • Low-fat yogurt
  • Orange/Apple Juice
  • Pasta Sauce
  • Gatorade/Powerade
  • Protein Bars
  • Breakfast cereal (the ones that promote themselves as healthy!)
  • Smoothie Drinks

It can get really overwhelming when you start to look at the facts and try to cut down on sugar. Sugar is not easy to quit either, it can almost be viewed as a drug. Try to stop sugar cold turkey and come night time you will most likely start to feel at least a little peculiar because of the lack of sugar. Thankfully we do have sugar detox plans that can wane you off the substance, but it really goes to show how powerful a substance is when you have to plan on detoxing off of it.

Why do we love sugar so much? The most likely reason is that sugar literally makes us feel goodWhen we indulge in a sugary treat the first response our brain has is to give us a dopamine dump! That is literally the pleasure chemical.

Think about when you are about to eat that ice cream or donut, what’s the best part? The first bite! That first bite completely heightens our mood and makes us feel warm inside because of the response our brain has to it. Unfortunately, after that initial dopamine dump, it all gets pretty ugly. Our cells in our body immediately turn to that sugar for energy, creating a “sugar rush” and burn through that sugar for energy very quickly and you know what those cells want? More Sugar! So it continues, waiting for sugar to burn more energy thus giving you that terrible crashing feeling.

I’m not writing this to tell you to quit sugar forever, it is, in my opinion, a nearly impossible task to live up to the rest of your life. What I am promoting is sugar awareness, companies want to hide the fact that they are loading sugar in their products so they will tag things with flashy health-related words or print things like “no added sugar” onto their products. Start the habit of reading food labels in your life and you can dramatically improve your health with just a little awareness.

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