Sugar consumption has skyrocketed over the last century. US per capita consumption now stands at 180 pounds a year, fueling all manner of chronic illness in adults and children alike.
Sugar is big business. And like all big businesses, the industry will resort to just about anything to keep the money flowing. Remember how the Corn Refiners Association tried for years to get the FDA to reclassify high fructose corn syrup as “corn sugar” – a thinly veiled attempt to rid themselves of HFCS’s shady image? Or makers of aspartame grasping for the less chemical, more “natural” sounding name “Amino Sweet”?
All of these organizations are literally battling for your business, throwing lawsuits back and forth, burying facts from studies to promote their products and just being all around dirty, rotten scoundrels.
So we get aisles full of sodas, sugary drinks, ice cream and cookies in every grocery store. Sweeteners – usually in the form of cheap HFCS – are hidden in virtually every processed food to enhance the flavor. Countless TV commercials beckon us to indulge in the sweet happiness they are advertising, and like moths to the flame, we can’t seem to stop ourselves.
Sugar is the gateway drug.
Sugar stimulates pleasure centers in the brain. It’s also the brain’s primary fuel. Leave it to industry spinmeisters to contort that into the idea that sugar is an essential nutrient, no different than a vitamin or mineral. Here’s how The Sugar Association sells it (via ANH):
Sugar is more than a “fun” food ingredient, it’s an essential one as well. Because it’s all-natural, you can consume it with confidence. As Nature’s preferred sweetener, sugar is present not only in nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables, but is also a key component in foods as diverse as whole grain breads and cereals, yogurts and tomato sauces.
Thus, do they deftly duck the difference between naturally occurring sugars and the added sugars they want to sell. Those, we don’t need. We get sugar enough for our bodies’ needs from the naturally occurring sugars and carbs in the food we eat.
Here are 5 ways you can free yourself from the sugary snare:
- Try making your own food; it’s rewarding, healthy and fun! Fill your pantry and fridge with seasonal whole fruits, legumes, vegetables and herbs, not boxes and cans. There are fantastic recipes for more delicious recipes than you could possibly imagine all over the internet.
- Speaking of cans, soft drinks are probably the #1 sugary enemy, so if you’re a soda addict, try switching to plain mineral water. If that just doesn’t do it for you, try infusing it with some fresh fruit – or add a splash of 100% fruit juice (but just a splash, as juice is just as much concentrated sugar as soda pop). Or get yourself a Sodastream but make your own simple syrups! The ones on the market are loaded with sucralose, and homemade syrups are easy to make. You’ll find some great recipes here.
- Sugar is hidden everywhere. Avoid packaged foods, dressings and sauces. Be particularly suspicious when you see the term “spices” in the ingredients. Don’t buy the box! Buy a cookbook. Just about anything you make will be tastier, because the sugar they add to the boxed products masks the true flavor of the food anyway. Most dressings and sauces can be made in a snap, all it takes is a few ingredients and a little creativity. There is a great basic vinaigrette here.
- If you feel you must indulge a sweet tooth, go for dark chocolate, which has less sugar and more antioxidants. If you area cookie monster and like to make your own treats, reduce the sugar in each recipe. For instance, if you reduce the sugars from 3/4 cup to 1/3 cup in this great recipe for chocolate chip cookies, the cookies will still be delicious and the chocolate chips will taste even more chocolaty.
- Use fruit like a condiment, keeping it to less than a handful per serving and no more than two servings a day. Toss a few dried cranberries on a salad, or enjoy a half an apple with peanut butter for a snack.
Have some favorite tips of your own? Share them in the comments!
Image by Bart, via Flickr