Is sugar bad for you?

How many pounds of added sugar and sweeteners do you think the average American consumes each year? Would you believe over 185 pounds? Yes, 185! That’s 35 of those hefty 5-lb bags…or about one of those bags every ten days. And I’m not including the natural sugars in whole foods like fruit. I know from experience that some of you are thinking, “Wow – that’s a lot, but certainly I don’t do that. You must be talking about someone else.”

To hit this average consumption rate, you need to eat 1 cup (that’s 48 teaspoons) of sugar (or similar sweetener like corn syrup) each day. The reality is that the average American accomplishes this simply in the beverages we choose (without regard to our love of cookies, candy, cakes, muffins, and pastries). A 20-oz bottle of Coke packs a whopping 16+ teaspoons. Mountain Dew is a little higher at 19 tsp.. If you are sugar-savvy, this might not surprise you. But did you know that supposedly healthier, flavored iced tea has the exact same amount of sugar per ounce as a soda? A grande-sized Cafe Mocha at Starbucks has 10+ tsp. A bottle of Snapple Lemonade has 14 tsp.. Vitamin Water has 8+ tsp.. How does your daily drink math stack up?

Now what about our food? If you add a blueberry muffin to your drink in the Dunkin’ Donuts drive-through, that’s another 13+ tsp of sugar. A package of Reese’s Peanut Butter cups? Another 5 tsp.. A small cup of Breyer’s Black Cherry yogurt? Another 10 tsp.. Granola bars? 4 tsp.. A fun-size Three Musketeers bar (guaranteed your child gets at least one this year) has about 3 tsp. of sugar. So 5 fun-size bars have 15 tsp.. 10 fun-size bars have 30 tsp. of sugar. How many will you allow your child to gobble up in one night?

Food manufacturers load up the sugar in their products on purpose. It is not an accident. And they do it for one reason: it makes them a lot of money. They are well aware that our addiction to this powerful stimulant sells products. They count on our being easily duped by flashy advertising. They assume we eat mindlessly. Sugar-laden foods taste great, so we keep buying them. Sugar deadens our taste buds, so the more we eat, the more we want. Then it takes a major toll on our health.

The average daily intake may be 48 tsp, but you might be wondering just how bad that can be. Well, hold on to your hat: the American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 tsp/day of added sugar for women and 9 tsp for men. The picture at right is one of my favorite seminar props. You’re looking at the amount of sweetener per bottle. At 16 tsps, that one soda is about 2-3 days worth of sugar by this yardstick. And that’s only in one  drink! Yes, our current habit is a full 5 to 8 times what is recommended by a national medical organization that has historically been quite conservative about guidelines. And the reality is that you need exactly 0 tsp. per day for energy (yes, even if you are an avid athlete). Great for a treat here and there but completely unnecessary for our health.

Surprised to hear a heart-centered organization harping on sugar? Sugar and other refined sweeteners have been tied to a devastating array of chronic ailments and diseases. Think it’s just about weight gain? Not so. There’s also high blood pressure, high cholesterol and triglycerides, hyperactivity, diabetes, osteoporosis, atherosclerosis (clogged arteries), heart disease, mood swings, migraines, arthritis, poor eyesight, depression, and impaired immune response. Our diet is often the reason we end up on medications. Refined sweeteners are highly acidic and inflammatory. Inflammation, among other things, makes our artery walls “sticky” so that otherwise innocent things like calcium, cholesterol, and fats are prone to building up and creating arterial plaque. Plaque causes blockages. Blockages cause a lot of heart attacks.

Our bodies simply have not evolved to be able to process these relatively modern, refined sweeteners. White sugar has only been around for a little over 300 years; that’s a fraction of a blip in human evolution. And what about the Three Musketeers bar? Invented a miniscule 77 years ago? I believe that the number one most important thing you can do to improve your diet and your health is to eat less sugar. You really can wean yourself off of it, slowly and surely. I’ve helped many people to do this successfully and to actually heal from related illness.

Because of our uncontrolled consumption of sugar and other refined carbohydrates, over half of Americans today are hypoglycemic. We crave sweets uncontrollably. We experience unexplained mood swings, anger, tiredness and major binges. But it doesn’t have to be that way! You can reclaim your health. Start reading labels. Learn how much sugar is in your (and your family’s) daily diet. Then start making small, step-by-step changes to bring it down on purpose. If you need it, get some help. You can do it! Your health depends on it.

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