In the 1970s, a world-renowned bodybuilding champion (soon to be world famous actor) coined a term to describe refined sugar—the white death. Most American families consumed their fair share of white sugar in those days—white bread (Wonder Bread ringing any bells?), white rice, all-purpose white flour, and countless brands of cookies, cakes, and candies. It’s been nearly forty-years since Mr. Schwarzenegger warned the American public about the pitfalls of white sugar. And still sugar reigns. Despite the best efforts of healthcare workers, health teachers and medical research professionals our country remains hooked on white sugar. Unless we make big dietary changes, the white death will catch up with us—in the form of diabetes and obesity—which come with their own set of dire medical consequences.
In theory, avoiding sugar doesn’t seem all that difficult, right? We trade out our Oreo and Kool-aid for all-natural (i.e., healthy) granola bars and drink apple juice instead of soda. Good plan. Or is it? Labels are there for a reason. Turn that apple juice around and have a look—chances are that it’s loaded with high percentages of sugar. But apples are naturally sweet, you might say. Indeed. But the sugar tallies on the label are typically refined sugar; in other words, sugar that does not come from the fruit, but is instead added to the juice.
Herein lies the underbelly of the food industry. Fully confident that the American public will focus on the front labels, they plaster them with appealing catch words—“all-natural,” “home-style,” “whole grains”, “immunity-building”, and “contains antioxidants”—for instance, and then put sugar in everything. You’ll find it in pickles, soup, beans, peanut butter, ketchup, cereals, lunch meats, soft drinks, crackers, and salad dressings. You name it; it’s got sugar in it. This explains how the average American consumes about 140 pounds of refined sugar per year (compared to approximately 30 pounds per year in Japan). And what is all of this sugar doing for us? Rotting our teeth and giving us bursts of sugar highs that only lead to sugar crashes and then more cravings for the sweet stuff.
Even if you don’t want to know about the chemistry of sugar consumption (believe me, it’s all bad), you might be interested in the deleterious effects of sugar in regards to diet and losing weight. Sugar = empty, worthless, puny calories. Sucrose and fructose (the 2 most common “refined” sugars) are among the most common causes of obesity. People might argue that life isn’t worth living if you can’t have a treat now and then. True. The problem is, most people cannot stop at one sugary treat once a week or so. Sugar consumption becomes an out of control spiral. One cookie leads to three, which lead to four more.
So what’s an intelligent, health-conscious person supposed to do in light of this information? Rid your body of this poison ASAP. Clean out your cabinets! If you find a label that lists sucrose, fructose, corn syrup, cane syrup, maltose, lactose, galactose, dextrose, corn sugar, glucose, or invert sugar, toss it. Fill the shelves with healthy replacements; fruits, vegetables, and starchy options. Go for whole wheat everything instead of enriched white flour products. Your body uses whole wheat more slowly (it’s a complex carbohydrate) and your energy will therefore last longer. With a stable energy level, you might not go looking for the sugary white stuff. Over time, you will overcome your sugar addiction and see the pounds start to come off. Keep in mind that working out is wonderful but it’s not the key to a healthy life. Rather, 80% of getting healthy is related to what you put in your mouth.
How’s that for food for thought?