First it was trans fat, then it was salt. Sugar is now in the spotlight. I’ve been mulling over the article about sugar published in the National Geographic a few months back. Late last week the Fifth Estate show featured this other legal white powder….
I watched it in earnest as I’m sure my fellow nutrition compadres did. I was pleasantly surprised it wasn’t a hard hitting jolt of extreme journalism pushing consumers to be more food phobic than some already are.
So just to introduce the topic of sugar, understand that all forms of added sugar should be lumped together from granulated, icing, brown, honey, syrup and molasses because our gut recognizes it the same no matter the source. When I talk about “natural” sugars, they do not include these, such as that seemingly innocent honey bear in your cupboard, he is certainly not sporting a halo! Let’s be clear from the get go.
The crux of the message from the segment was that added sugar is present to a much greater degree in our food supply and eating way too much could surely have negative health consequences for us from obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s and more. They exclaimed people are eating way too much ~26 teaspoons of this white stuff daily when we ought to only be getting 6 or 9 teaspoons for women and men respectively. That number will put a lump in your throat. Yes soul sister I’m talking to you….
I loved how they featured a family who allowed their diet and physical status to be evaluated on camera from their home, to the grocery store to Dr. Flanders medical evaluation, to Jaclyn Pritchard, the dietitian’s assessment. The family was given meals (without excess sugar added) for a three week timeframe, then reevaluated. The results were certainly positively stunning, showing all family members’ key biomedical indicators improved, including their waist circumference being smaller and losing weight. All in 3 measly weeks, bravo! How’s that for progress?
I talked this over while on a walk over the weekend with my sister the mathematician who’s rather concrete and black and white. We chatted about how to spot added sugar on the food product labels by looking at the ingredient list AND the nutrition facts table. The closer to the front of the list the ingredient is mentioned, the more of it is in the product. Then take a look at the nutrition facts panel and make a judgement call on the product. She asked “why not separate out the added sugar on a different line on the panel?” And I said, why NOT, capital idea! That would certainly help consumers to more clearly identify the added sugar, don’t you think? This exists where fat is listed in the table teasing out the trans fat. Consumers shouldn’t need a degree in nutrition after all to help them make better choices.
Next it’s important to compare different brands and see which has more or less sugar. Along the seemingly miles in the grocery store there really is so much choice. Keep in mind though, that some healthy foods contain natural sugar, such as fruit, milk and vegetables for example. The last thing any nutrition minded person wants is for consumers to start slashing and burning their sugar consumption in all of the wrong places. Cutting out these nutrient rich foods would be like cutting off your nose to spite your face and would short change your masterful machine and nutritional status. Don’t do it to yourself!
Something was niggling in my mind after the segment though. The spotlight was on the food package industry and nothing was mentioned about restaurant food. What gives? Families eat out more and more these days and use a lot more convenience foods. Sadly, this sector isn’t bound by those food labelling laws the packaged food industry is bound by. I say that it’s about time they were!
I have been talking a lot about “awareness is bliss” lately so of course you need to know what ALL of your food contains if you’re making important choices to cut down the sugar in your diet. It’s easy to order food in a restaurant unknowingly while eating blindly as if you can allow the flood gates to open when you don’t know what’s in any of it. We really must know these facts given eating out is part of everyday life and not simply a treat like days of old.
So decide to choose your food from outside of the box, whether the food package or the take out container and have more food in it’s natural form. Ok so call me a broken record, I can take it! You’ll be better off in the long run when you do.
Like Barry White sings, “too much of anything’s not good for you baby….”