Sugar – How Bad Is It?

June 9, 2011

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Does losing weight and keeping it off mean forgoing sugar forever? How bad is sugar for you, really?


As I have said before, I am not a fan of banning any food completely, even sweet foods. Of course, like other “not so healthy” choices, moderation is the key. Sugar itself isn’t the problem, it’s how much sugar we eat.

Several hundred years ago, even the most wealthy people – royalty – consumed about 6 pounds of sugar a year. Today, in comparison, the average American consumes well over 100 pounds per year!

Most of that sugar isn’t in pure sugar form so many people may not even be aware of how much sugar they are actually consuming. Instead, it’s hidden in sweet drinks, baked goods, even in foods you wouldn’t suspect like ketchup and crackers!

In fact, one way food manufacturers keep “nonfat” foods tasting so good is that they often add more sugar to make up for the lost fat. Such bait and switch tactics may mislead people to think they are eating “healthy” when in reality they aren’t.

Foods labeled “contains no high-fructose corn syrup” are a more recent addition to this marketing game. And while I am not a fan of high-fructose corn syrup, it’s important to remember that foods containing mostly natural cane sugar instead aren’t exactly “healthy” either.

The “organic” label can also be deceiving when it comes to sugar. Sugar is indeed a natural substance as I saw firsthand when I visited a sugar plantation on a recent trip to Jamaica. However, just because sugar is natural doesn’t mean it’s good for you, especially in large quantities.

The fact is sugar, even raw natural cane sugar, contains no nutritional value whatsoever. No vitamins. No minerals. It’s just calories –  empty calories to the tune of 16 calories per teaspoon. While some calories in the form of sugar aren’t bad, those calories could be coming from foods that do have nutritional value instead.

The problem with sugar goes beyond just empty calories. Too much sugar can be downright dangerous. Recent research has linked a diet high in sugar with the development of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, now the leading cause of liver failure.

For those with metabolic syndrome, pre-diabetes, or insulin resistance, a high sugar diet is a recipe for disaster, since it can increase the risk of serious illnesses from heart disease to type 2 diabetes.

There is also some research that suggests sugar can increase cravings and appetite, something that is counterproductive to losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight.

So in short, you don’t have to give up sugar altogether to lose weight or keep it off, but you will need to eat sugar in moderation. Keep an eye out for hidden sugar in the foods you eat, and when you do add sugar to something, do so sparingly. That way you can have your cake (occasionally) and eat it too!

 

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