Our No. 1 Enemy: Added Sugar

When it comes to healthy sweeteners, choose the fruit, the whole fruit and nothing but the fruit.

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.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

David Finkbeiner January 17, 2013 at 04:33 PM
We have the sugar conversation/debate daily in my home. My wife does not always agree with my fanatical label reading but with a child and attempting to have them just eat sometimes i do find myself making concessions. Like syrup on her Van's Gluten Free waffles. I still cannot locate anything she will touch besides aunt jamima. So now she sits there and labors over a bowl of Gorilla Munch with no milk and no fun. It is tough.
Kellie Walenciak January 17, 2013 at 04:59 PM
Hi, David. Thank you for commenting. I regret that I wasn't in-the-know of a 60 Minutes 15-minute segment that aired on sugar toxicity. I surely would have included it in this post. It is more digestible than Lustig's 90-minute preso. Your wife may find it interesting. Here it is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=-vbnSfI_koQ I also invite you to visit my blog and join our FB page for updates (if you have a FB account). I recently had a guest blogger who wrote of her journey to living life unprocessed. I think it appeals not just to converts like us but to those who may not be so eager to give up the dietary habits they enjoy today. Blog: http://breaking4.blogspot.com/2013/01/guest-blog-living-life-unprocessed.html FB page: http://www.facebook.com/BreakingFourBlog She'll get there, David. If someone had told me five years ago I'd be living a vegan life and running marathons, I would never have believed him/her. Change does happen -- for some all at once and for others over time and with small steps.
David Finkbeiner January 18, 2013 at 01:26 AM
Thanks Kellie.
Anonymous January 23, 2013 at 04:06 AM
Kellie, I am so obese woman and I am so sick of it. I have tried dieting many times and I am usually good for 30 days and then something happens to really upset me or I get bad headaches and then I get off the wagon and binge and then stop trying. It seems that whenever I diet things start to go badly in other areas. I do know that the sugars are addicting and I can feel when I bread or overweat on carbs, that I get sort of a sugar high and I get into a fog mentally. I used to be so thin and a runner in high school, but have been overweight ever since I was 25. Now I am in my mid 40's and having an emotional crisis that I feel I cannot even talk about. I have no extra money to spend on a fitness club or trainer (plus need to be home with kids), yet I really think I need a good friend to give me support. Nobody else in my home has a weight problem and I do think that they all just look at me with disgust. I REALLY want to help myself so that I can in turn help others in my situation...yet here I am still overweight. If you are interested in helping me, I would love to talk to you. I also wish to be a vegan and exercise ( not sure about the marathon part since my knees have been hurting lately). I really want to slay this dragon of my weight. Thankyou for reading.
Kellie Walenciak January 23, 2013 at 04:31 AM
Anonymous -- Thank you for trusting me enough to share your personal story. I think it took great courage to write so honestly. The first thing I want to say is that you are not alone. The people around you care. I care. Believe that. And two, where you are today is not a predictor of where you'll be tomorrow. You have the ability to change. I will help you. Please e-mail me at breakingfour@gmail.com so we can continue a more candid discussion privately. We'll get to where you want to be together. Trust that. XO


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »