The beginning of a new calendar year is a time when many of us are more receptive to embracing opportunities and challenges that may be a little out of our comfort zones.
That’s why today I intend to strike while that iron is hot!
When people ask me what’s the thing they need to do or change first in their diet, my answer isn’t giving up dairy or meat … it’s eliminating added sugar (as opposed to naturally-occurring sugars like those found in fruits, vegetables and whole grains) and processed food.
All those boxes staring at us from the shelves in supermarkets that promise everything from weight loss to energy are lying to us -- just read the list of ingredients, one more unhealthful than the other and many we can’t even pronounce much less find on our own in a supermarket (because they don’t exist there, only in factories).
And I have to hand it to the marketers, they’ve become more and more creative masking the word “sugar” by using words that many of us overlook such as: cane juice crystals, cane sugar, caramel, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, carob syrup, dextran, dextrose, fructose, galactose, high fructose corn syrup, honey, juice concentrate, lactose, maltodextrin, maltose, malt syrup, molasses, natural sweeteners, sorbitol, sucrose and treacle.
And these are only a few. (A good rule of thumb is to look for any words ending in -ose.)
Oh and artificial sweeteners aren’t any better. In fact, recent studies suggest they are worse.
In his book Food Rules, author Michael Pollan offers excellent advice on how to make the right choices: "Shop the periphery of a supermarket."
That’s where you’ll find whole-food. Avoid the “dreaded center aisles, where processed foods predominate. Stick to the edges, where the meat, dairy, produce and fish are pretty much as they started out.”
I know what some of you may be thinking, "A little bit of sugar never hurt anyone."
But that’s just it -- we’re no longer talking about "a little bit of sugar." We’re beyond a little bit. Sugar is in everything -- our breads, yogurt, cold cereals, hot cereals, ketchup, peanut butter, apple sauce, fruit drinks, soups, tomato sauces, etc. etc. etc.
It’s also addictive, just like alcohol and nicotine. Food manufacturers know this so they add more to everything to hook you. And when you’re promised low-fat snacks, take a look at the sugar content. It’s been increased to make up for the fat that has been removed. It’s deception at its finest.
Case in point, it’s no secret that I love Starbucks pumpkin spice soy latte. In fact, in the past I have enjoyed a "tall" almost daily. No big deal, right? I work out. I eat healthy. This is my "sweet treat."
Well that sweet treat contains 39 grams of sugar (or about 8 teaspoons) -- and that’s without whipped cream. Let's put that in perspective -- according to the American Heart Association, women should limit added sugars to approximately 6 teaspoons, while men should take in no more than 9 teaspoons a day. I'm over that daily allowance with one 12-ounce drink! (I want to note that the doctors and health advocates that Matt and I follow suggest that 0 added sugar be the ultimate goal.)
I drank my last soy latte on Jan. 1, 2013.
Very recently, I bumped into a gal at Wegmans. She asked me about Coconut Sugar (new to me at the time) and its health benefits. I didn’t have any information on it. When I went home, I sent a note to a well-renowned chef in California to inquire about it. This was her response:
“Just because something is less bad doesn’t make it good. When it comes to sweeteners, use the fruit, the whole fruit and nothing but the fruit.” (Sorry Agave!)
I invite you to watch a YouTube presentation titled, Sugar: The Bitter Truth. In it, Dr. Robert Lustig, UCSF Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology, explores the damage caused by sugary foods. He argues that fructose (too much) and fiber (not enough) appear to be cornerstones of the obesity epidemic through their effects on insulin.
I can assure you it’s time well-spent. Click to watch.
Learn more about healthy living at Breaking Four.