The health hazards of hidden sources of sugar
You’ve read the statistics…the studies…the personal stories…and you have arrived at a logical conclusion…
When you consider that the human body requires only about two teaspoons of sugar in the bloodstream at any one time, it’s not really too much of a stretch to realize that our current rates of obesity, diabetes, behavioral problems, mood swings, tooth decay, weakened immune systems, high acidic levels, impaired digestion and countless other afflictions are directly tied into this massive, all-pervasive addiction to the sweet stuff.
In fact, some have noticed a link between smoking and sugar. It has been 50 years since the U.S. Surgeon General issued its first report describing in vivid detail the horrendous damage smoking was capable of inflicting on our bodies.
Since then, the number of smokers in America has been cut in half. This is great news, but many people are still dying from this self-inflicted, debilitating habit, and there is no doubt that the massive publicity campaign against smoking has paid off. But there is still work to be done.
It is estimated that up to 18 million Americans will die by 2050…all because of smoking. What does this have to do with sugar? More than you would think. The story of sugar is similar, and the depressing reality is that sugar could be even worse.
Like smoking, sugar has succeeded due to brilliant marketing. Our children have been targeted by the giant food companies (Big Agra), just like the tobacco companies used to target children with Fred Flintstone. And don’t forget Ronald McDonald.
Remember, even when most people smoked, there was evidence of its devastating health effects. The Surgeon General’s report was the first shot in a campaign that is still going on today.
So, once again, what does this have to do with the dangers of sugar? In a word, everything. The dangers of sugar may very well turn out to be as harmful as cigarette smoking. There is no warning about the hazards to your health on the sugar-laden products.
The government has not moved on Big Agra like it did on the tobacco industry. So you are on your own. It’s up to you to study the facts and protect yourself and your friends and family by treating sugar as the menace that it is.
And you’ve decided to kick the sugar habit
Congratulations! Dramatically reducing or even eliminating sugar consumption is a gigantic step in the right direction on the road to good health. When most people arrive at the awareness of sugar’s harmful effects, they resolve to stop adding sugar to cereal or drinks, avoid processed carbohydrates and high glycemic foods, eat more natural, whole foods, and cease to be fooled by “fat-free’ labels. So far, so good.
But hidden sugars can derail the plan
Making the commitment to reduce your sugar consumption is only the first step.
The actions mentioned above are the second phase.
But in addition to these steps, you need to become an armchair chemist, and learn the ‘other’ names for sugar: cane juice, caramel, corn syrup, dextrose, fruit juice (and concentrate), glucose, high fructose corn syrup, invert sugar, lactose, malt syrup, maltodextrin, maltose, mannitol, molasses, raw sugar, refiner’s syrup, sorbitol, sorghum syrup, sucrose, and yellow sugar.
This list is extensive and impressive, to say the least. To make things easier, let’s take a look at some real-life, food-on-the-shelf examples of the insidious nature of hidden sugars:
- Pasta. It’s true that pasta sauces contain the nutritional equivalent of many servings of vegetables, and the lycopene in the tomato based sauce is especially important to men for prostate protection. But pasta sauce is also loaded with sugar. To be precise, most sauces contain between six and twelve grams of sugar per serving…and most people have more than the recommended serving. This is like eating two large chocolate chip cookies. To prevent this, read pasta labels diligently, or even consider making your own sauce.
- Granola bars. These are marketed as a healthy snack. Regrettably, most granola bars are anything but healthy. Many of them are loaded with sugars and other ingredients that are designed to make you crave more of them. Worse, many of them are encased in chocolate or sugar-laden yogurt. Granola is great, so please don’t “throw out the baby with the bathwater.” Just buy loose granola, which is found in cereal boxes, and eat it directly. This will reduce your sugar consumption significantly.
- Yogurt. Yogurt, like granola bars, is promoted as a health food, and it is an excellent source of protein and calcium. The problem? It is all-too-often sweetened to make it more appetizing to the average consumer, who will buy more of it, thinking that they are eating correctly. They are conveniently ignoring the fact that an eight-ounce cup of low-fat yogurt may contain more than thirty grams of sugar…a full 1/3rd of a woman’s daily requirement. This is equivalent to devouring eight ounces of ice cream! The takeaway here is to read labels and look for low-sugar or naturally flavored yogurt. Another plan is to buy plain yogurt and add your own sweeteners like fruit and cinnamon.
- Packaged oatmeal. This draws a lot of people in since everyone knows that oatmeal lowers cholesterol. And that’s true…oatmeal does indeed lower cholesterol and delivers many other health benefits. But that stuff in the convenient package may contain as much as fifteen grams of sugar in one small package…and most people don’t eat just one. Again, the solution is simple. Buy plain oatmeal, take an extra few minutes to cook it, then add your own sweeteners like fresh fruit and cinnamon. Problem solved!
- Salad dressing. Here is another wolf in sheep’s clothing. For many people, salad dressing is the last thing they would associate with sugar. But read the labels. Some dressings contain seven grams of sugar in just two ounces of dressing. A good rule of thumb is to look at salad dressing as an opportunity to add healthy fats to your meal. Olive oil and red wine vinegar are highly recommended.
- Breakfast cereal. Breakfast cereals are close to being “public enemy number one” in delivering hidden sugar. Here’s why: most of us are well aware that so-called “kids cereals” are loaded with sugar. The problem here is that many of the cereals that are labeled “heart-friendly,” or packed with bran to promote regularity or many other health benefits, are also loaded with hidden sugar. Many brans, corn, and oat cereals have ten, twenty, or even more grams of sugar per cup. The solution? Read labels, and look for fortified cereals that are full of fiber and complex carbs without the sugar.
- Energy drinks and sports drinks. Another trap for the unsuspecting. Energy drinks are promoted to crank up your energy levels before work, or especially before a workout. Sports drinks, on the other hand, are encouraged to replenish your body with electrodes after a grueling workout. The problem? Like everything else mentioned so far, they are not what they appear to be. Energy drinks are loaded with sugar, as much as 25 grams in a small can. Many sports drink contain high fructose corn syrup, so enough about them. For the most part, good nutrition, along with B-complex and Vitamin C supplements combined with water get the job done.
- Packaged fruits. The list of foods that contain hidden sugar just keeps on growing. Canned fruit is loaded with excess sugar. The so-called light syrup isn’t so light after all, and this alone dramatically raises the sugar content of canned fruit. If you must eat can fruit, at least drain the syrup, which will cut the sugar content by more than half. But a better plan is to shun can fruit altogether. Just buy your fruits fresh from the store, and enjoy them before they go bad. Or if not fresh, frozen fruits are an acceptable alternative. Frozen fruits are frozen immediately after harvest, which preserves their high nutritional value. In fact, they may at times be even more nutritionally dense than their fresh counterparts.
- Cole Slaw. It seems like healthy food, right? But for the most part, the Cole slaw you are served in a restaurant is usually packed with sugar, as well as fat. Usually, Cole slaw contains around fifteen grams of sugar. The solution for you slaw lovers is to make your own batch. That way, you can make sure that the sugar content in your personally made batch won’t send you into diabetic shock
- Teas. Most of us don’t chug down gallons of fruit juice like we did a few decades ago. The word is out on how much sugar is loaded into fruit juices, so many health conscious people have switched to specialty teas. But here again, like a recurring nightmare, this may be jumping from the frying pan into the fire. Why? Because many specialty teas have even more sugar in them than fruit juice. For example, sweetened tea with lemon can contain more than thirty grams of sugar in just one 16 ounce bottle, which is more than most fruit juices. Teas are great, but go for unsweetened tea or at least lightly sweetened tea. Better still, make your own, which allows you to totally control the content. Consider sweetening your tea with Stevia, which is a natural no-calorie sweetener which is a much healthier alternative than artificial sweeteners.
- Dried fruit. This has a special allure for hikers and campers, and why not? It comes in a convenient package, lightweight and easy to take along. But once again, hidden sugars have raised their ugly heads. The dehydration process means that there is more sugar per ounce in the product. For example, half an ounce of raisins contains ten more grams of sugar than eight ounces of grapes. Choose wisely.
- Ketchup. One of America’s favorite condiments contains four grams of sugar in a single tablespoon. Limit ketchup consumption, and consider switching to other condiments such as mustard, which contains far less sugar than ketchup.
As you can see, protecting yourself from the health dangers of hidden sugars is indeed a full-time endeavor.
But it is possible. Stay vigilant, read labels, and try to make as many changes as possible to both maintain good health and not sacrifice the tastes and flavors that make eating such a delight.
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