My parents have a sense of humor. For Christmas they got me a five pound chocolate bar—and a tube of toothpaste. I got through about half of it then took it to work to share the love (and the sugar). I felt a bit bad about this because if I don’t want to eat something for health reasons, should I really be pushing it off on someone else?
Pushing is an apt word because that’s what processed food companies do to us. Sugar is big business; the more they can hook you with sweet treats then the more of their products you’ll buy. Food scientists run consumer experiments to determine the “bliss point” at which a food has the optimal level of sweetness to increase appeal.
Sugar in all it’s various forms is in everything, even foods that are advertised as beneficial to health, such as cereals and yogurt. You get conditioned into thinking that is how food should taste and end up expecting everything to taste sweet. This is happening at increasingly younger ages as products are marketed to kids; they grow up without knowing what real food tastes like.
Keep in mind that you don’t actually need sugar. Not too long ago sugar was only available as fruit, for the small window of time that it was in season, and or perhaps honey (if you were willing to brave the bees). Fruit doesn’t cause your blood sugar to spike because the fiber helps to offset the sugar—it’s hard to overindulge with fruit. Contrast this with sweeteners that are distilled down into a very concentrated form, like high fructose corn syrup.
Sugar could be considered as dangerous as a drug, considering the health problems it contributes to, such as obesity and diabetes. I read about a clinical trial in which subjects were given glucose, fructose, or corn syrup. The fructose and corn syrup groups had spikes in LDL (bad cholesterol), triglycerides, and fat-binding proteins—which are all markers for heart disease.
Think about this—sugar responds to naloxone, which is what they give to people when they need to counteract the effects of opiate addiction when these folks are going through withdrawal. The pleasure centers in the brain that are activated with the use of addictive drugs are the same ones that light up when sugar is consumed.
Once you know that, maybe those proposed “soda taxes” don’t seem so crazy after all. Liquid sugar is the worst because you’re not aware of how many calories you’re consuming. You don’t automatically eat less to compensate, as you might if you were eating food and started to feel full. Liquids are a bonus, from a marketing point of view, which is why cup sizes (and the holders in our cars, and our waistlines) continually grow.
It’s not just soft drinks that need to go—virtually everything ready to drink in a bottle: sports drinks, iced teas, lemonades, even fruit juices (almost all have sugar added and those that don’t still have very concentrated sugar). None of these have any place in schools, nor should they be marketed to children. Adults can be responsible for their own poor nutritional decisions but our kids should be protected.
Know how to read your labels. Processed food and drinks use various kinds of sweeteners so that no one particular sweetener has to be listed as the top ingredient. This is a way of masking how much sugar has been added to a product. It may take a little homework to ensure what you’re consuming is healthy, but your body will thank you.