Now I know dear readers you are smart. I am not going to tell you why eating a snickers or drinking a McDonald's shake is a bad idea. You know why, at least you have a general idea why, "because it contains sugar." Right. But it goes beyond what you may think. Most candy bars you can find on the shelves of grocery stores, convenient stores and gas stations are filled with pseudo food ingredients like high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavorings, partially hydrogenated oils like soy or corn both of which are genetically modified, and several different types of "unnamed" sugars. Most candy bars have a sugar content of 27 grams per serving all the way to 168 grams in a McDonald's 32 ounce chocolate shake. And if you say you never drink the 32 ounce shake, I say thank you but even its smaller counterpart, the 16 ounce contains 84 grams. Or if you say "I don't eat fast food", again, I thank you but our beloved Starbucks packs 76 grams of sugar in its venti white chocolate mocha. So even the more refined among us could be creating a sugar dependency.
If you have not been reading food labels, now is the time to begin. But even so, it is not enough. Until we have laws demanding to know exactly what is in the food like products most of American is buying and eating, it is a game of food roulette. We truly do not know what is non whole foods. The ingredients that are transparent can be quite disconcerting but then there is the whole other business of "general" labeling which allows a company to label ingredients like "sugar", "corn syrup" and "artificial flavor" among others without telling us what these really are.
In the case of artificial flavoring, it can mean anything from gluten containing ingredients to chemical dyes, and most are derived from petroleum. Yep that is right, petroleum in our food. I can write a whole paper on the danger of artificial flavorings but we will save that for a rainy day. And the McDonald's shake we were talking about above, they tell you barely nothing about what is in it. The ingredients are low fat vanilla ice cream,maraschino cherries, whip cream and "shake syrup" so god only knows what is in that. But back to the task at hand, sugar. First we have to understand what sugar really is before we can leave it behind with any conviction.
Sugar or sucrose is made up of half glucose and half fructose. The fructose is what makes it sweet and creates that " I need more" craving in most of us. But it is also the part that causes metabolic disease, obesity and diabetes. And most people think sugar is just a carbohydrate but according to Dr. Robert Lustig, "sugar is both a carbohydrate and a fat because fructose is metabolized in the liver as a fat and glucose is metabolized in the liver as a carbohydrate." So it is a double wammy. Your liver has to work twice as hard to metabolize the sugar. Now if you are an athlete and running in a marathon and need some fast energy, a Gatorade or a protein bar is exactly what your body needs. But in these circumstances, the energy will get burned right away. Most of us are not biking 30 miles daily. We are just jonesing for a salted caramel hot chocolate because it tastes damn good.
According to Dr. Lustig, fructose has increased our sugar rate to 6.5 ounces a day or 130 pounds a year, which is five times as much as it was one a hundred years ago. And the average American is consuming 20-25 % of all of our calories from some variation of sugar, most likely fructose.
Right now you may be thinking fructose is the sugar evil and if I stay away from it, all will be right in candy land. Not so. In the second part of this article, we will talk about why sugar is sugar, and when stripped from its counter part fiber, even natural sugars can create dis-ease.
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And keep your eyes peeled on Friday for the second part of this article!