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Sugar shock! Is it really toxic?

April 9th, 2012 | no comments

130 pounds. That’s a person. That’s also the amount of sugar the average American eats per year! I know, shocking right? What’s even more shocking is that studies are now uncovering some disturbing findings about the sweet stuff, including it’s role in heart disease and cancer.

Sugar’s role in heart disease

Biologists at the University of California, Davis are in the middle of a groundbreaking, five-year study which has already shown strong evidence linking excess high fructose corn syrup consumption to an increase in risk factors for heart disease and stroke. The study suggests that when a person consumes too much sweet stuff, the liver gets overloaded with fructose and converts some of it into fat. Some of that fat ends up in the bloodstream and helps generate a dangerous kind of cholesterol called small dense LDL. These particles are known to lodge in blood vessels, form plaque and are associated with heart attacks.

Sugar’s role in cancer?

Lewis Cantley, a Harvard professor and the head of the Beth Israel Deaconess Cancer Center, says when we eat or drink sugar, it causes a sudden spike in the hormone insulin, which can serve as a catalyst to fuel certain types of cancers. Nearly a third of some common cancers — including breast and colon cancers — have something called insulin receptors on their surface. Insulin binds to these receptors and signals the tumor to start consuming glucose.

According to Cantley, every cell in our body needs glucose to survive. But the trouble is, these cancer cells also use it to grow.

What should you do?

Should you completely swear off of sugar for good? NO! First, understand that there is a difference between added sugar and natural sugar. Natural sugars are found in natural foods like fruit and milk. It’s the added stuff that you want to look at limiting. To spot an added sugar, simply look at the food label. If any of the following words are listed, then you know the food is made with added sugars:

  • Brown sugar
  • Corn sweetener
  • Corn syrup
  • Dextrose
  • Fruit juice concentrates
  • Fructose
  • Glucose
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Honey
  • Invert sugar
  • Lactose
  • Malt syrup
  • Maltose
  • Molasses
  • Raw sugar
  • Sucrose
  • Sugar
  • Syrup

Now all you have to do is count! The American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugars to:

  • 150 calories (38 grams) of added sugars a day for men
  • 100 calories (25 grams) of added sugars a day for women

To show you what you’re up against, here is the sugar content of some commonly consumed foods and beverages:

  • 12 ounces of Coke or Pepsi- 41 grams
  • 2 Oreo cookies- 7 grams
  • 10 jelly beans- 20 grams
  • 32 ounces of Gatorade- 56 grams
  • 1/2 cup marinara sauce- 11 grams
  • 1 ounce Wheat Thins- 4 grams
  • 2/3 cup granola cereal- 13 grams

We were taught as children that too much sugar isn’t good for us. Heck, I can remember swallowing straws of Pixie Sticks and shoveling jelly beans in my mouth like an addict—as my mother stood there wagging her finger, swearing that my teeth would rot out of my mouth before I turned 10! Did we listen? Hell no! Am I paying attention now? Hell yes!

The bottom line: Awareness is key. Read food labels for added sugars and then look for the grams of sugar on the label. Slowly  work a little on replacing those foods with lots of added sugars, with natural foods— foods from the earth! Personally, since I’ve been counting my grams of sugar, I’m finding that it forces me to eat more fruits, vegetables, nuts and other wholesome foods. The coolest part, I don’t have to give up my nightly chocolate indulgence…it still fits!



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