May 9, 2008

Another Nutrition Minute with Sharon Gruber

by Sharon Gruber, Nutrition Consultant.

A nutrition teacher of mine once cautioned our class that sugar is a white, powdery substance. She couldn't have been more on the money. I definitely have a sweet tooth, and many patients I see in the medical clinic at Bread for the City also need to overcome their love for sugar in order to help get healthier.

Fighting an urge for a certain food, or in some cases, an addiction to a certain food, is much harder than it's made out to be. With many non-food addictions, it's tough, but it is possible to totally avoid being around whatever it is that has you hooked. That's definitely not the case with food, and it's an especially difficult task with sugar.

It seems like sugar is in everything. Even foods that aren't sweet have a touch of sugar added just to fuel that urge for more. And to make matters worse, the sugar of choice by most food manufacturers these days is high-fructose corn syrup. HFCS is so highly processed and concentrated that it actually is sweeter than sugar. And the food manufacturers love pouring it in, since it also is cheaper. Today it accounts for 42 percent of sweeteners consumed in the US.
According to "Sugar Load: Are You High?", an article in April 22's Express Fit, from 1970 to 2000, the number of calories women ages 20-39 consumed each day jumped from 1,652 to 2,028. Coincides nicely with 1967's introduction of HFCS...

The first step in loosening sugar's hold on us it to cut back on soft drinks, source number one of HFCS. It is estimated that our love for drinking all things sweet accounts for one-quarter of the added sugars we put in our bodies.

Here are some sugar-busting tips:

  • Dilute what you drink with water or ice.

  • Try to switch from soda/pop to sparkling water (seltzer) with a splash of lemon or lime.

  • Be sure to leave the house with a bottle full of water in hand. If you already have a drink with you, chances are you won't waste your money, and your body, on drinking all those calories.

  • Each week cut out 1/4 teaspoon of sugar (or 1/4 packet of sugar alternative) from your coffee or tea.

  • Read ingredients to avoid added sugar, corn syrup, or HFCS. Other words for sugar/sweeteners are maltose, dextrose, brown sugar, corn sweetener, fructose, fruit juice concentrates, glucose, honey, invert sugar, lactose, malt syrup, molasses, raw sugar, sucrose, raw cane juice, and syrup.

Diet soda/juice isn't a solution I'm in favor of because like HFCS, all those sugar substitutes (Equal, Sweet 'n' Low) are also sweeter than sugar. They keep our taste buds wanting more and more sweet.

It isn't easy to break the sugar cycle even if you know that you should do it for your health. My personal experience is that a little knowledge can make you a bit upset at those food companies. And who wants to buy from a company that's not treating them right?

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