Sugar and Spice, Not so Nice

By: Rick Bellanti – August, 2016

As Def Leppard once said back in the 1980s, Pour Some Sugar on Me.
But that’s about all I would do with sugar now, because I refuse to eat it.
The average American consumes approximately 152 pounds of sugar a year, roughly 22 teaspoonfuls a day (which is about 355 calories) Did you know according to the American Heart Association, the recommended amount of sugar is between six and nine teaspoons of sugar a day? When trying to avoid added sugars, watch for ingredients like raw sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, sucrose, and molasses. Added sugars are the worst ingredient in our diet, it has no nutritional value and can have harmful effects on your metabolism and of course can contribute to weight gain and other diseases.

Sugar is one of the leading contributors to obesity and people that consume more sugar are more likely to be overweight or obese. For a lot of people (me included) sugar and junk foods can become an addiction just like abusing drugs or alcohol. The more cookies, candy and donuts I ate, the more I wanted…, it was my happy place or so I thought. Sugar releases dopamine, the feel good chemical in the brain and there have been studies that suggest dopamine plays a role in impulse control and addiction. So when I’m on a diet and I hear someone say you can have anything you want “in moderation”, I know it just doesn’t work for people like me who are addicted to sweets because the only thing that I know will work is complete abstinence.

Right now there is an epidemic in America known as type 2 diabetes. It currently has afflicted about 27 million people, and another 86 million people have been diagnosed with pre diabetes. I was diagnosed with pre diabetes back in January 2015, I was very unhealthy and eating the wrong types of foods. I was addicted to sugary sport and energy drinks and getting little to no exercise. They say there is no cure for type 2 diabetes but I was able to reverse the diagnosed pre diabetes and I was taken off my medication by staying away from sweets and sugary drinks, following a program consisting of a protein based, nutrient dense diet with moderate exercise.

When reading food labels there’s so much to learn, but today we are talking about sugar and sugar is listed as grams. 4 grams of sugar is equal to one teaspoon of sugar. Now get ready for an amazing fact: One 12oz can of regular soda has 32 grams of sugar… that’s eight teaspoonfuls!

It is important to know that sugar alone does not cause type 2 diabetes but research has shown an association with sugar sweetened drinks and obesity a link to type 2 diabetes. Sodas, energy sport drinks, and juices are loaded with added sugars and even drinking just two servings of these types of drinks a day raises your risk of type 2 diabetes by 26%. Keep in mind most of these store bought energy drinks have two, sometimes three, servings in one container!

Sugars found in natural whole foods like fruits and vegetables provide essential nutrients for proper nutrition and as a bonus vitamin C, vitamin A and fiber, all needed for a healthy diet. Simple refined sugars, found in processed foods (not made by Mother Nature), are just a source of energy and have no nutritional value. Its job is to create a spike in blood sugar and then eventually a crash, which in turn, makes you crave more.

Avoid added sugars and processed foods, stick with fresh fruits and vegetables, and whole grains, drink lots of water and stay active. A healthy eating plan with low sugar consumption will lower your risk of heart disease, diabetes and other health conditions. Your body will thank you for it.

Rick Bellanti is a wellness columnist and is on a journey himself to lose 240lbs, and has lost 153 lbs since the start of 2015. If you have any questions or comments, please post them to his Getting Healthy with Rick Bellanti Facebook page and once a month he will address a few of the topics here