Whole Foods and Your Health, Part 6: Sugar

       A. Additives
             1. MSG
             2. Preservatives
                 a. BHA and BHT
                 b. Aluminum
                 c. Nitrates and Nitrites
            3. Food Coloring
            4. Sweeteners
                 a. High Fructose Corn Syrup
                 b. Sugar

In the late 1800’s, the average American consumed five pounds of sugar in one year. Now an average American eats twenty-two teaspoons of sugar every day, for a total of 73 pounds a year.  For a large list of why you should avoid excess sugar, read 141 Reasons Sugar Ruins Your Health by Nancy Appleton. [Note: I have NOT fact-checked all of her reasons. However, from my own research, I know many of them to be true. Do your own research.]

1. Sugar suppresses the immune system. White blood cells absorb sugar and Vitamin C in the same way. What’s the importance of that? Well, think about what Vitamin C is used for. Vitamin C plays a key role in maintaining good health; white blood cells need Vitamin C to effectively fight disease. When we over-consume sugar, our white blood cells have taken in all of the “food” they can hold, leaving very little to no room for the Vitamin C they need to combat bacteria and viruses. You are, essentially, starving your white blood cells. (You are also starving yourself.) You are feeding your cells food that they will eat but do not need and cannot use. Eating 100 grams of sugar (about 20 teaspoons, give or take) can suppress your immune system by up to 40%. These effects start about thirty minutes after the consumption of sugar and can last up to four hours. The other factor that many people don’t realize about sugar and the immune system is that your gut plays a huge role in your overall well-being. Immunesystemetc.com states:

Approximately half of the body’s total enzyme production is used for digestion. Oddly enough, the body places a greater priority on digestion than on overall health. If your diet is lacking in food-source enzymes, your body appropriates them from other sites in order to attend to the digestive process. As a result, your immune system dispenses with some enzymes, preventing those enzymes from doing the work of protection. The body can be weakened to the point that it can no longer protect against outside invaders.

Are you often ill? How much sugar (and other junk!) do you eat?

2. Sugar raises the blood glucose level suddenly. We’ve all heard (or said) it: “I need some sugar (or soda or candy).” Why? It quickly gives us energy. But then the awful happens, and we’re dragging ourselves around wanting more sugar. It’s a sugar high, and it is followed by a sugar low. When the body is overloaded with sugar, it signals to the pancreas that insulin is needed. The insulin is released and pulls the excess sugar out of your blood stream. Now that the sugar has been taken (and fast!) your blood glucose levels are lowered, leaving you experiencing that “crash.” Eating too much sugar places a lot of stress of your body.

3. Sugar (in excess) leads to obesity. Our bodies need a certain amount of food to survive. If the body doesn’t receive enough food, it draws on it’s reserves to live. When it gets too much food, it stores the extra in the form of fat.

According to CSPI (Center for Science in the Public Interest):

USDA advises people who eat a 2,000-calorie healthful diet to try to limit themselves to about 10 teaspoons of added sugars per day. In fact, the average American does not eat a healthful diet, but consumes 20 teaspoons of added sugars per day.

A teenage male who eats a healthful diet could eat about 18 teaspoons of added sugars, according to USDA. Most teenage males do not eat a healthful diet, because they consume an average of 34 teaspoons of sugar per day.

While restaurant foods are not required to provide nutrition labeling, CSPI found that a Cinnabon provides 123 percent of USDA’s recommended target, a large McDonald’s Shake 120 percent, a large Mr. Misty Slush at Dairy Queen 280 percent, and Burger King’s Cini-minis with icing 95 percent. One of the biggest problems with high-sugar foods is that they replace more healthful foods. According to USDA data, people who eat diets high in sugar get less calcium, fiber, folate, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, magnesium, iron, and other nutrients. They also consume fewer fruits and vegetables.

For a small list of foods that contain added sugar, see page 16 of The Food Guide Pyramid, a booklet based on research done by the USDA. Consuming too much sugar may very well lead us down a  path of obesity, diabetes, stroke, and heart disease. Is that a risk we’re willing to take?

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