The infamous Western diet is destroying our health. We consume too much sugar. Gone are the days of indulging in an occasional sweet snack as a reward. Most people consume sugary foods on a daily basis. It tastes so good that one can never have enough. Meanwhile, our health is paying a heavy price for our sugar cravings.
Busy schedules have prompted overreliance on processed foods (anything that is in a can, box, package, or jar). The majority of processed foods contain sugar as an additive. It is estimated that roughly 80% of the processed foods commercially available include sugar, mainly to enhance the flavor.
According to estimates made by the American Heart Association (AHA) the average American adult consumes 22 teaspoons of added sugar per day. This translates to 150 pounds of sugar in a year. Teenagers consume even more, about 34 teaspoons a day. These values exceed the recommended amounts: 6 teaspoons of sugar a day for women and 9 teaspoons of sugar a day for men.
Sugar is derived from natural substances, namely sugar cane or sugar beets. The problem is it is processed which strips it of its nutrients. Sugar (table sugar as we know it) is then transformed to 100% sucrose. There is no nutritional significance in processed sugar, and it is clear by the AHA estimates that we eat too much of it.
Food companies add generous amounts of sugar to their products. Even so-called ‘healthy foods’ are not immune to this (read the ingredient list). One recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey report discovered that 67% of added sugar intake occurred at home.
Sucrose (table sugar) is made up of half glucose and half fructose. Glucose is metabolized by the body’s cells. Fructose, which is sweeter than glucose, gets metabolized mostly by the liver. When bombarded by massive amounts of fructose, the liver will convert most of it into fat. With the liver overworked this forces the pancreas to make more insulin to help handle the influx of sugar.
These are a few of the dangers associated with excess sugar intake:
* It throws your hunger hormones out of whack. Your brain thinks ‘I’m not full,’ which causes you to overeat.
* Fructose contributes to the formation of free radicals that damages the body’s cells.
* It has an addicting effect that continually makes you crave more of it to satisfy your hunger.
* It speeds up aging of the skin by damaging the skin’s collagen and elastin.
* It is linked to weight gain, high cholesterol, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and some cancers.
The fundamental rule of thumb is to reduce dietary intake of processed sugars as much as possible. Enjoy sugary foods in moderation only. Your body will love you for it.
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