The trouble with sugar: Join the first “Dump Sugar Day”

May 31, 2011

Mind, Body, and Spirit

Today is the first sugar-free event of its kind around the Web, and it’s called Dump Sugar Day.” Started by Shaya Mercer, a health educator who graduated from the Institute of Integrative Nutrition with me, it’s a campaign to cut back on refined and added sugars in our diets. Join in, spread the word, and Like the cause on Facebook!

I know I’m hooked on my dark chocolate, but this kind of treat isn’t so bad in comparison to many others. High fructose corn syrup is the evil additive everyone’s talking about these days – a concentrated source of fructose( fruit sugar) – that shows up primarily in sweetened drinks. The topic of sugar dominated the public forum I attended with Michael Pollan, Dr. Andrew Weil, and UCSF child obesity expert Dr. Robert H. Lustig at the Nutrition & Health Conference a month ago.

For the first time in decades, doctors and scientists are examining fructose in particular as a potential toxin. It’s the stuff that easily adds 200 extra calories to people’s daily intake with no nutritional benefit. The New York Times Magazine ran a great article on this back in April.

Background
Calling anything toxic is a strong word, but doctors like Lustig are regarding sugar as an addictive, disease-forming substance that should be regulated in our foods. They have observed that a high concentration of fructose (fruit sugar specifically) is the culprit behind major lifestyle health issues like heart disease, accelerated aging, and may even spread cancer cells. This link is still being studied (enormous quantities of fructose are given to rats) and poses a political issue (corn in HFCS is subsidized and sweetens most of commercial foods today!) But the connection has to do with how the body metabolizes fructose, which happens mostly in the liver.

  • Why is junk food cheap? Because 16% of corn in the U.S. goes into HFCS.
  • It takes only 6 to 8 weeks for a farmer to grow a year’s worth of corn and soy and the government subsidizes it. Imagine subsidizes veggies instead!
  • The World Health Organization tried to put a limit on sugar consumption, but the U.S. didn’t go for it.  S U R P R I S E!
  • There is no daily recommended intake (DRI) for sugar in USDA recommendations.  Y I K E S!
  • The fiber in food gives the liver a chance to slow down the absorption of sugar. Eat whole fruits and vegetables that are sweet and you’re doing your body good!
  • Choose whole grain products over (pulverized) whole wheat. The more grain in your food, the longer it takes the body to turn it into sugar.
  • Dark chocolate is one of the best (processed sugar) sweets you can eat.
  • Stop drinking convenience drinks in large quantities and don’t give boxed juices to your kids, this is pure fructose with no fiber. Make whole food green smoothies and drink water instead!
  • Introduce a healthy food to your kids at least ten times (if you have the patience!) Research says it takes 11 to 15 times before they adapt to it.
  • Experiment by roasting some sweet vegetables, munching on dried fruit like dates and mangos with nuts, and enjoy a banana to satisfy your sweet tooth and curb sugar cravings. Jot down how you feel at the end of your day.
  • If you want to geek out on sugar digestion, learn the difference between Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load. Yams and carrots may have high GI but are still a great food full of vitamins with low GL. See a detailed chart here

And last, donate if you feel called to help grow DumpSugar.org into a non-profit campaign! The team has put a comprehensive list of health research on this in one place.

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