The New War Against Sugar
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Alcohol. Coffee. Sugar? The latest target in the never-ending quest to be-come a healthy nation is the stuff that often sits on your kitchen counter right next to the flour and that other culprit, coffee. Unlike other vices, sugar isn''t an easy habit to kick. It''s found in just about everything you eat, even baby formula and that apple you grab between meals. The culprit in question is fructose, a simple sugar found in carbonated beverages and processed foods such as TV dinners, most lunch meats, and all canned foods. Avoiding sugar is like avoiding reality TV. So, what to do?
Can''t Get Enough of It
People have been looking for something to sweeten their food almost since the beginning of civilized society. When John Adams was president, the av-erage person used about 18 pounds of sugar each year. Today, it''s nearly 200 pounds per person. Clearly, we have a long history of wanting our food to be sweet. To be fair, it can be a challenge to find something completely free of sugar these days. Even beers and wines have residual sugars. All this extra sugar has to go somewhere. More than 30% of Americans are now considered obese. Coincidence? Not according to recent scientific and health studies. They also indicate a strong correlation between sugar intake and diabetes.
Not all sugar is bad. Glucose, the sugar found in carbohydrates, is the form of sugar we need for energy. Sucrose, or table sugar, was once the most common form of sugar. Today, it''s fructose. All sugars are processed by your liver. The problem is when there''s too much sugar. That extra sugar ends up on your thighs and other parts of your body in the form of fat. There you have it, the reason for our growing obesity epidemic in a nutshell. It''s easy to dismiss such claims, but the fact is that collectively we weigh more now than we did even 15 years ago. Airlines have designed seats with more spacious seats and buses have widened their seats to comfortably accommodate larger commuters. Talk about a not-so-subtle hint.
What You Can Do
Going cold turkey isn''t realistic. Even a diet of water and grains has its drawbacks. Take a look at the ingredients the next time you go shopping. The higher up sugar is on the list (usually in the form of high fructose corn syrup), the more of it there is in that particular food. If you make a serious effort to avoid bad sugar for a few weeks, you''ll notice a difference. No patches or support group meetings necessary. Your body goes back to pro-cessing sugar the way it should and you can fit into your bikini in time for summer. Forget about sugar substitutes. The jury is still out on most syn-thetic sugars, but there are healthier alternatives such as honey, agave nectar, and rice syrup.
Sugar is not going anywhere. Unlike Ugg boots, bell bottoms and an appre-ciation of the Spice Girls, it''s always going to be in your life. The reasons to make an effort to avoid fructose sugar are compelling, from the increased number of diabetes cases to our collective growing waistline. It all comes down to moderation and finding a happy medium. You can still have your cake and eat it too, just not as often.
Staci Wilcox is a health-conscious freelance blogger. Committed to learning more about good health and nutrition, Staci is investigating online classes that are part of a master of health informatics program.