Granola bars are replacing M&Ms in vending machines in schools around the country. Although positive trends like this are cutting back on sugar consumption, sugar is still central to our celebrations and rituals: birthdays, weddings, summer barbecues, or just a plain old trip to the frozen yogurt shop to “reward” yourself for losing those 5 pounds.
The good news is that a recent USA Today study shows that sugar consumption in the US has been in sharp decline in recent years. Americans are increasingly concerned with managing weight and forming healthy habits. This trend toward healthier eating is also extending to children, as parents are offering fewer opportunities to consume sugary sweets. The article goes on to say that “the change appears [to be] irreversible because the decline is only accelerating.” With the average American adult consuming 22 teaspoons of sugar a day and 32 teaspoons for children, the decline in sugar use is great progress.
Natural sugar is a necessary part of a healthy diet, but it’s no secret that excessive, refined sugar is destructive to our well-being. Many of the not-so-sweet results of sugar are serious diseases like diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and even some kinds of cancer. But sugar can cause a whole slew of visible ailments, as well, such as tooth decay, belly fat, and may even cause acne. It also causes skin to age, according to DrOz.com because “higher blood sugar levels can destroy the skin’s collagen and elastin.” Even though beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, health defects are usually seen as universally unattractive. Face symmetry and fertility are the main universal qualifiers for determining beauty. Although you can never have full control over your looks, health shines through as a commentary on how you take care of yourself.
With all the ugly side effects of sugar, how did it get so out of control in the Western world? “As American as apple pie,” aptly illustrates our national affinity for sugary goodness. Our annual sugar intake went from about 18 pounds a year in 1800 to 90 pounds in 1900. And by 2009 it had doubled to 180 pounds per year. That’s about half a pound per day.
Another challenge is that it is not always obvious where the refined sweetness lurks. From “health” foods like frozen dinners, and seemingly harmless snacks like yogurt, it sometimes takes an extra glance at the nutrition label to watch your intake. Even if you think your diet is fairly healthy, hidden sugar could be sabotaging your health, and that’s an ugly payoff.
So perhaps it’s time to learn to say “bye-bye Miss American pie” to our sugar habit. Unfortunately, the effects can be seen in unexpected ways. And that is a bitter price to pay for a sweet escape.
Here are a 5 tips to guard against the sugar overload we experience every day in this country:
1. Wondering how we got to this crazy sugar-loaded society? Get educated by checking out the book Sugar: A Bittersweet History, then take action by adopting sugar-eliminating strategies in 21 Day Sugar Detox.
2. No worries in reading the nutrition label of Food for Life products. They deliver the natural goodness of tortillas, pita bread, sandwich bread, and much more without the additives, including sweeteners, and refined sugar.
3. Perhaps you don’t have to say “goodbye” to apple pie forever. See how others are cooking scrumptious sugar-free recipes on blogs like Sugar-Free Mom.
4. Download an app on your Smartphone to help you track your sugar intake. Check out My Fitness Pal app.
5. If you have a hankering for dessert, you can make your own at home with less sugar by using novelty baking appliances and other kitchen gadgets. To get you started, think of buying some popsicle molds and making some fruit juice popsicles.