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Civilization has certainly progressed through the centuries, but in some ways, it hasn’t gotten any smarter. Case in point: sugar. Is it something we’ve just grown up with and learned to love (make that crave)? Or is it our nemesis, waiting like a stealth bomber to destroy or health? Research says “yes” to both questions. Sugar, it seems is taking a huge toll on our collective health. It has certainly earned its reputation as “PUBLIC ENEMY NO. 1.”

Look around you; visit a school yard; look in the mirror. Most of us are too fat. And, according to many nutritionists, it’s not fat that’s causing us to be obese, it’s sugar. The single largest source of our caloric intake today, research tells us, comes from high fructose corn syrup. Just look how it’s changed our eating habits:

• In 1700, the average person consumed about 4 pounds of sugar per year.
• In 1800, the average person consumed about 18 pounds of sugar per year.
• In 1900, individual consumption had risen to 90 pounds of sugar per year.
• In 2009, more than 50 percent of all Americans consume one-half pound of sugar PER DAY—translating to a whopping 180 pounds of sugar per year!

Even today, in the age of enlightenment, The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that 156 pounds of “added” sugar are consumed by each and every one of us. Imagine it: 31 five-pound bags for each of us.

According to a recent report by The Sugar Association, a trade group of sugar manufacturers, only about 29 pounds of it comes as traditional sugar, i.e. the sugar bowl. The rest comes from food. You know the culprits: soda, candy, cookies, junk food. There’s all kinds of sugar hiding in those places.

And then there are the “healthy places:” yogurt, some nut butters, condiments, canned and boxed groceries, the list goes on and on. Read the labels. High-fructose corn syrup is right up there front and center. Use of this sweetener has increased 3.5% per year in the last decade alone, according to the World Health Organization. That’s twice the rate of refined sugar.

Sugar, it seems is everywhere. It’s “giant-sized” into our soft drinks. It’s a main component of fruit juices and sports drinks. It’s hidden away in all processed foods. It’s processed into baby formulas—in fact infants are consuming as much sugar as in a can of Coke from the first day they start taking formula. No wonder our children are becoming more obese by the century.

Dr. Mercola, an online researcher and medical doctor who writes a popular wellness newsletter has this to say:

“Today, 32 percent of Americans are obese and an additional one-third are overweight. Compare that to 1890, when a survey of white males in their fifties revealed an obesity rate of just 3.4 percent. In 1975, the obesity rate in America had reached 15 percent, and since then it has doubled. Carrying excess weight increases your risk for deadly conditions such as heart disease, kidney disease and diabetes. In 1893, there were fewer than three cases of diabetes per 100,000 people in the United States. Today, diabetes strikes almost 8,000 out of every 100,000 people.”

Scary stuff.

Dr. Mercola goes on to define sugars and sweeteners:

• Dextrose, fructose and glucose are all monosaccharides, known as simple sugars. The primary difference between them is how your body metabolizes them. Glucose and dextrose are essentially the same sugar. However, food manufacturers usually use the term “dextrose” in their ingredient list.

• Table Sugar is half glucose and half fructose.

• High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is 55 percent fructose and 45 percent glucose.

• Ethanol (drinking alcohol) is not a sugar, although beer and wine contain residual sugars and starches, in addition to alcohol.

• Xylitol, glycerol, sorbitol, maltitol, mannitol, and erythritol are neither sugars nor alcohols but are becoming increasingly popular as sweeteners. They are incompletely absorbed from your small intestine, for the most part, so they provide fewer calories than sugar but often cause problems with bloating, diarrhea and flatulence.

• Splenda is NOT a sugar, despite its sugar-like name and deceptive marketing slogan, “made from sugar.” It’s a chlorinated artificial sweetener in line with aspartame and saccharin, with detrimental health effects to match.

• Agave syrup is often 80 percent fructose. The end product does not even remotely resemble the original agave plant.

• Honey is about 53 percent fructose2, but is completely natural in its raw form and has many health benefits when used in moderation, including as many antioxidants as spinach.

• Stevia is a highly sweet herb derived from the leaf of the South American stevia plant, which is completely safe (in its natural form). Lo han (or luohanguo) is another natural sweetener, but derived from a fruit.

Our bodies are fueled by glucose. Every living thing on earth relies on glucose for energy. But in today’s world, we are relying on highly-refined fructose as our sugar of choice, and that is why our waistlines keep growing and diseases like heart disease, cancer and diabetes are becoming the plagues of this century. Our bodies metabolize fructose in different ways from glucose. Just ask your over-worked liver since the entire burden falls on its metabolizing structure.

We also have to contend with politics and the fact that the lobbyists for agri-corporations are jockeying to be world-power players by manipulating our food all in the fear of over population (and greed.) Not that corn syrup fructose isn’t bad enough, now it’s GMO corn fructose. And since all of the fiber has been removed from processed foods, so that we no longer have any nutritive value in them, the very foods most rely on to “make them lose weight” are the very ones containing high fructose. You get the picture.

Here’s what Diabetes-Warrior.net suggests:

Eat ALKALINIZING FOODS–We need to eat foods which will actually heal the body. We need to go back to the garden and eat live foods like leafy greens, foods which are high in chlorophyll. Eat salad for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Eat dark green and yellow vegetables, root vegetables, freshly juiced vegetable juices, foods with high contents of chlorophyll, nuts like almonds or hazelnuts which are more alkaline. Almonds are high in oxygen especially after they have been soaked for 12 hours. Sprouted grains and beans like alfalfa, mung beans, clover and radish, seeds, essential fatty acids from flax oil, borage oil, and virgin olive oil, soy products like tofu, grains from spelt, millet and buckwheat, herbs, spices, seaweed, lots of onions and garlic and distilled water. Fruits like avocados, lemons, limes and grapefruits are low sugar, therefore less likely to be fermented.

You can find all these recommended foods, produce and ingredients right here at GreenAcres. Next time you find your body craving sweets, think salad. In the end, it’ll be sweeter on your system.

To get on the REDUCE SUGAR bandwagon, GreenAcres is offering FREE seminars in our Bradley Fair, KC and OKC stores this month.

Molly Kimball, RD, CSSD, nutrition writer and national speaker will ride the Swerve bus into town to discuss why sugar is PUBLIC ENEMY NO. 1. All are invited to attend this important lecture which tells us:
• Why blood sugar matters
• How sugar is metabolized
• Why sugar plays into weight-management woes and what we can do about it.