Just like the refining process for wheat, when sugar is refined from sugar cane and sugar beet, 99.9% of it’s nutritional value is destroyed (source). Of course, what you are left with is empty nutrition-less calories. But we already know that right? No one eats sugar thinking that it’s healthy. It’s a splurge item, so what’s the big deal?
The Danger of Sugar
The danger of sugar in our society is how much it is used. Yes, we should all be familiar now that sugar causes things like cavities, weight gain, fatigue and more. But when we reach for that piece of cake we are not all that concerned about it at the moment. So what’s the big deal about sugar? Why include it in a real foods series.
The problem is: our refined and processed American fast food diets are chalked full of hidden sugar. You are not just getting sugar when you reach for that piece of cake, you are consuming sugar with every meal and in items you would never expect it to be in, such as whole wheat bread!
On average, Americans consume 156 pounds of sugar a year (source)! That is staggering. I can’t even imagine how we consume that much sugar but then I realize everything has sugar in it: our cereals, breads, hot sauces, ketchup, coffee creamers, and more! Not to even mention the cookies and ice cream we consume!
Compare that too the year 1700. On average they consumed just 7 1/2 pounds of sugar per year. And that included special items like pie and cake.
When I began studying a whole foods diet one of the biggest reasons I decided to start making more food from scratch was because of the sugar content in most foods, the sodium content was the other reason. For example, a store bought loaf of bread (even whole wheat) can have up to 20 grams of sugar and your daily intake of sodium in just two pieces! When I make bread at home, it has neither of these.
High Fructose Corn Syrup
I’m sure you have heard of high fructose corn syrup and the recent ads that it’s the “same as regular sugar”. But HFCS is what you want to really stay away from.
HFCS is the most common additive to soft drinks and other processed foods. When reading a food label you might think that it has no added sugar, but you have to watch for HFCS. Studies on HFCS are still split but many believe that it is in fact worse for your body than consuming regular sugar.
Some argue that your body doesn’t know how to digest the highly processed corn syrup which leads to increased weight gain and health problems. But the bottom line? HFCS is adding many grams of unwanted sugar to your diet every day. Try to stay away from it. Read food labels and put back the ones with HFCS in them. Some has also linked HFCS to causing or increasing the chances of cancer.
My Take on Sugar
Sugar is not “Evil”. Some in the whole foods world try to make sugar out to be the worse thing out there. I disagree. I think you can eat a little bit of sugar and still be eating a healthy diet. The problem lies in where you get the sugar.
On a good real foods diet, you would homemake most of your food. You wouldn’t be getting any added sugar in things like your cereal or bread. So when Mom makes her special pumpkin pie for thanksgiving, you can indulge knowing you have really had little to no sugar that day.
Unfortunately the average diet would already have consumed dozens of grams of sugar and then sat down to that pumpkin pie. Will I still make Cheesecake, pumkpin bread, and cookies this Fall? You bet! But I will use all natural ingredients and make sure that my family isn’t eating a ton of unnecessary sugars in things like our bread.
Here are some great resources on sugar:
- How to Make Your Own (Unrefined) Powdered Sugar
- Cutting Down on Sugar: Why Do We Eat It So Much?
- How Much Sugar Are You Really Consuming?
- Attitudes Toward Sugar
- Too Many Holiday Treats? Give Your Body a Sugar Break
- Cutting Down on Sugar: 21 Ways to Eat Less Sugar