Too much sugar is bad for you. NEWSFLASH!!!! We know this right?
But there is another message everywhere.
“Eat more sugar!”
Watch t.v. for more than 20 minutes and you’ll probably see some yummy, sugary treat most likely aimed at children. Cereal, ice cream, soda, juice, chocolate milk, yogurt…just to name a few! Why is that we think it’s ok for children to eat a big bowl of sugar for breakfast? Have you ever stopped to think about the amount of sugar your child consumes or how much you consume for that matter? I thought that I was pretty good at keeping our sugar consumption down. Then I started tracking it. Yikes! Sugar really likes to hide everywhere…sneaky little bugger!
The History of Sugar consumption
Ugh…History. I know…but I promise I won’t lecture! Hang with me!
“In 1822, the average American ate the amount of sugar found in one of today’s 12-ounce sodas every 5 days. Now, we eat that much every 7 hours.” (1)
What? Surely it’s not that much sugar. Oh, but it is!
Take a look at the following chart put together by Stephan Guyenet and Jeremy Landen.( 2)
Um, we have a problem here. We really do love our sweets don’t we? Part of this increase in sugar consumption has to do with availability and price. It makes sense right? As sugar plantations increased in number and size, it became available to more and more people around the globe!
Let’s backtrack a little. Before World War II, people ate about 4 lbs of sugar per person, per month. During the war, that were rationed down to about 2 lbs per person. The government actually told people that they didn’t actually NEED sugar! Wow! Let’s just say that this made the sugar industry VERY nervous! This started the war! Not World War II. Sugar didn’t start that war. I mean the war on our health! Doctors and scientists began researching and producing studies promoting sugar and its benefit to people. On the other side, there were doctors and scientists producing studies showing just how bad sugar is! Interestingly, at this same time (1955) disease began to increase dramatically. I’m talking heart disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer, etc. Guess what happened? Scientists began blaming fat! Sugar = good, fat = bad. Seriously? This began the low fat craze. I guess Bulletproof coffee wasn’t an approved diet choice? Back and forth it went. Sugar is good for you. Nope, sugar is bad for you. At one point, the Sugar Association even tried to convince women who were dieting that sugar could help them lose weight!!! I know from firsthand experience that sugar does nothing to help a woman lose weight! Ugh… the government even backed sugar at one point giving the a-ok for sugar to be a staple part of the American diet!
This brings us into the 1980’s when Americans are eating roughly 10 lbs of sugar a month! Would it be safe to say that disease is also on the rise? Yes, it would!
“Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are the leading causes of death and disability globally, killing more than three in five people worldwide and responsible for more than half of the global burden of disease.” (3 )
What are NCDs? They are diseases such as cancer, diabetes, obesity, mental and neurological disorders, autoimmune diseases, etc. I won’t go into each of these, but I am very interested in how sugar might contribute to the high levels of depression that adolescents are dealing with. I find it crazy that this level has truly skyrocketed recently. I know of so many teens that are dealing with depression. Why such a huge spike in recent years? Well, social media is definitely a contributing factor. But we aren’t talking about that today. Sugar. You know one think I’ve noticed that teens drink a ton of that just wasn’t around when I was a teen? All of those lovely sweetened coffee drinks! In fact, I was at Starbucks this morning getting a coffee, and do you know what I saw? A huge group of teens drinking coffee! This particular Starbucks is right next to a High School. Convenient right? You’d think the main clients would be the teachers, but I think it is really the student! Let’s look at this for a minute. What would you think the most popular coffee drink among teens? Although I wasn’t able to find any studies that show this, I would bet a guess that it’s the sugar laden Frappuccino.
Grande Caramel Frappaccino: 66 grams of sugar!
Grande Double Chocolaty Chip Creme Frappaccino: 52 grams of sugar!
Grande Peppermint Mocha Frappaccino: 62 grams of sugar!
Imagine if you or your teen has one of these every day, Monday through Friday, a month. That’s over 2 lbs of sugar just from drinking coffee! Then you add in every other source of sugar: cereal, soda, ketchup, peanut butter, candy, bread, etc., and you have a BIG problem! This amount of sugar, not to mention the amount of caffeine being consumed, can be a huge contributing factor to so many issues that our teens are dealing with! Also, how are teenagers able to afford all of this coffee? A Starbucks coffee is a treat for me because I definitely cannot afford a daily drink….but I digress.
TYPICAL DAILY SUGAR CONSUMPTION IN CHILDREN
Ok…here’s the scary truth. Let’s look at a typical day of food and drinks for a child.
Breakfast: Honey Nut Cheerios (1.3 cups) 15.6 grams of sugar
Orange Juice (1 cup) 21 grams of sugar
Lunch: Peanut butter and jelly sandwich 25 grams of sugar
Gogurt 12 grams of sugar
Chocolate milk (1 cup) 24 grams of sugar
Dinner: Cheese Pizza (1 slice) 6.1 grams of sugar
Coke ( 1 can or a little more than a cup) 39 grams of sugar
This doesn’t even include any snacks or dessert. This is what a typical SAD (Standard American Diet) day looks like for a child’s food/drink consumption. Let’s total that up shall we?
142.7 grams of sugar!
“Expert panels worldwide have made consistent recommendations on daily sugar intake. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends no more than 6 teaspoons (25 grams) of added sugar per day for women and 9 teaspoons (38 grams) for men. The AHA limits for children vary depending on their age and caloric needs, but range between 3-6 teaspoons (12 – 25 grams) per day.”( 4)
I’ll just leave that right there.
Reasons that you need to lower sugar in your children’s diet immediately!
- Sugar has a negative effect on the brain. Basically sugar intake keeps the neurotransmitters from communicating correctly. This can cause unstable moods. Why is this a big deal? It’s a big deal because it can lead to depression and anxiety. Who wants their children to deal with depression and anxiety? We think about how adults deal with anxiety and depression, but what about our kiddos? http://www.aoafamily.com/blog/how-sugar-affects-a-childs-brain/
- Effects of excessive sugar intake can mimic certain illnesses. Does your child constantly have a runny nose? Or they cough throughout the night? Did you know that your child who has been “diagnosed” with allergies and then given medication, may in fact not even have allergies? According to Dr. Julie L. Wei, children who have snacks or milk before bed, or are drinking chocolate milk through the day. Dr. Wei calls it the “Milk and Cookie Disease”. https://ahealthierwei.com/resources/faq/“Symptoms of Milk & Cookie DiseaseTM include chronic stuffy nose, nasal congestion, chronic runny nose, cough, “sinus infections”, sore throat, recurrent “croup”, allergies and asthma.”
Interesting? I would never have thought this might be the reason for my son coughing during the night. Lesson learned!
- Excessive sugar intake lowers the immune system. Dr. Sears says this, “An overdose of sugar. Eating or drinking 100 grams (8 tbsp.) of sugar, the equivalent of two- and-a-half 12-ounce cans of soda, can reduce the ability of white blood cells to kill germs by 40 percent. The immune-suppressing effect of sugar starts less than thirty minutes after ingestion and may last for five hours” That right there should give you reason for concern. We are in the season of sweets right now. Is it just coincidence that we are also in the season of every sickness imaginable? I think maybe not. (5 )
- Sugar has long term effects on our hormones. As you continue to eat excessive sugar amounts, your body’s cells become sluggish. Insulin, which controls your blood sugar, can no longer function correctly because you’ve worn that poor hormone out! Each time you eat sugar, insulin kicks in to level out your sugar levels. But if you are eating more than you should on a daily basis, which your body is not meant to deal with, you cause your body to be in a state where it’s “soldiers” as I call call insulin, white blood cells, etc., start to lose energy. This can lead to diabetes. Be preventative! Cut down on the sugar!
- Dental decay and cavities. When you eat or drink products containing sugar, that sugar turns into acid that then attacks your teeth and gums! Luckily your saliva helps to neutralize this acid about 20 minutes after consumption. But…if you continue to ingest sugary products then your constantly having to produce saliva in order to fight this acid.
- Weight gain! Ugh…obesity! Eating all of those sugary treats causes the waistline to really start expanding! This takes a toll on every part of our body! Our organs all have to work harder…including the heart. This is no good. But we know this, right? This shouldn’t be news to any of us. A couple of summers ago, I noticed that I had gained a few pounds. You know what else I realized? That I had been drinking Iced Coffee from Dunkin Donuts all summer. Ugh…the sugar. You evil, yummy beast!
Overall, you can see how ingesting sugar just puts our bodies in a state of constant work, can’t you!? Imagine if you were forced to work constantly. Wouldn’t you get tired? Sick? Just completely worn out is what you would be! This is what you’re doing to your body by eating too much sugar! This is what you’re allowing to happen to your children’s bodies if you’re allowing them to eat too much sugar!
We are eating/drinking candy, soda, cookies sweetened coffee beverages, hidden sugar in condiments (ketchup, salad dressing, etc.), peanut butter, desserts, granola bars, Gatorade, protein bars, juice, etc! I could go on and on!
So, the question is, how do we reduce sugar in our diet?
Good question! Here are a few things that I’ve done.
- Try lowering the amount of sugar that you use in your baking. If a recipe calls for 2 cups, lower to 1 ½ cups and then eventually to 1 cup. I did this pretty cold turkey and my family didn’t even really notice! Most sweet recipes are just so incredibly sweet! Now, my family is really sensitive to sugar. We all have an issue when eating any dessert from the store or a bakery.
- Switch out that white sugar! Several years ago, I switched to Sucanat. What is Sucanat? Read my post about it here. Basically it is sugar that has only minimal processing and has retained all of it’s nutritional value. Yes, real, unprocessed sugar does in fact have some nutritional benefit! White sugar…absolute NO nutritional benefit. Don’t get me wrong here though, sugar is sugar. Don’t over consume it! Coconut sugar is also another great substitute. The glycemic index is much lower than regular sugar.
- Use fruit to sweeten recipes instead of sugar. Bananas and dates are two great options for sweetening recipes. Use ripe bananas in cookies, baked oatmeal, smoothies, etc. Dates can be processed with a bit of liquid in a food processor to put in recipes as well!
- Try a sugar detox. Go without any sugar for even just a week! If you can do more, even better! Then…eat some fruit. You will be amazed at how much your taste buds love and enjoy the sweetness of the fruit. This will also give you a starting point for lowering your sugar.
Wow! Was that information overload???? I hope not! I am incredibly passionate about how food and “things” affect our health. I give you this information not in judgement, but in hopes to help you. Sometimes we just don’t realize how things are actually affecting us! We don’t know what we don’t know…until we know it! Sometimes then, we wish that we didn’t know it! Am I right?
Try this. Track the amount of sugar that you and your family are eating. I guarantee that you will be shocked! Lowering the amount of sugar you are eating WILL improve your health physically and mentally.
I am working on a free ebook that will include delicious recipes t0 help you lower the amount of sugar you are consuming. Be on the lookout for it!
Please share your thoughts with me in the comment section below. How can I help? Do you have some great ideas to help all of us overcome our sugar beast? I would love to hear from you!