The many reasons why you are going to want to eat less sugar

Did you know that sugar consumption and elevated blood sugar levels can help contribute to diabetes, heart disease, obesity, fatty liver, Alzheimers and dementia?

Would that make you think twice about having that bottle of Coke, that Mango smoothie or that Chobani yogurt? 

During one of the many blizzards a few weeks ago I found myself working at my computer, looking at the snow coming down, listening to the snow plow going back and forth and thinking I want something. Sweet. My first thought was chai but then I realized I had a tin of these completely addictive Taza chocolate covered cashews that someone gave us. I don’t even like Taza chocolate, but they did something right with these cashews.

There were three reasons for the craving.

  1. I did not eat enough for lunch.
  2. I was bored. 
  3. There were chocolate covered cashews in the house.

The crazy thing is the more I ate them the faster I popped them into my mouth. And I am not that person that eats a pint of Ben and Gerry's ice cream while watching Game of Thrones. For the record I did not eat the whole tin…yet.

My chocolate covered cashews binge got me thinking about Sugar. Sugar is something that most of us love in various forms, but it is also an addictive drug not unlike cocaine and caffeine. It is actually 8 times more addictive than cocaine. It prompts similar endorphin responses in the brain. Eating even small amounts of it creates a desire for more and suddenly quitting causes withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, mood swings, cravings and fatigue. 

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The average American consumes more than 100 pounds of sugar and sweeteners a year. That translates to 30 tsp a day. It’s more than three times the USDA recommended amount which is very liberal in the first place and 4 times the WHO recommendation. Amazingly if you look at the ingredients list on a food item it doesn’t list the recommended % daily value for sugar as it does for fat and protein, because the sugar lobby fought it when nutrition labels were being created. The WHO recommends no more than 25 grams or 6 tsp of sugar a day.

So how much sugar are you eating?

Even some so-called healthy foods contain a lot of sugar. An apricot Cliff Bar has 23 grams of sugar, or 6 teaspoons. A Chobani Peach yogurt has 16 grams of sugar. Compare that to a chocolate-glazed cake donut from Dunkin’ Donuts, which has 14 grams of sugar, or 3 teaspoons. (Not to say that a donut is better for you. It's not.) A 16-ounce Starbucks Frappuccino actually contains 44 grams of sugar, or 10 teaspoons—that’s like eating three donuts!

Overconsumption of refined sweets and added sugars found in everyday foods has led to an explosion of hypoglycemia and type 2 diabetes. So much so that they predict that 40% of Americans will suffer from Diabetes in their lifetime. Sugar consumption can damage your heart by causing changes in the muscle protein and the pumping mechanism of your heart which can increase your risk of heart failure. It can damage your liver the way alcohol does, even if you are not overweight. Even more scary to me is the link between sugar consumption, and elevated blood sugars with memory deficiencies and cognitive decline. In other words dementia.

So the moral of the story is cut back on sugar. No more than 6 tsp a day. It’s not just about gaining weight. It can have a very serious effect on your health — now and in the future.