Sugar High

24 Jan

3 Kinds of Sugar

We have all said it.  Walking into any children’s post birthday extravaganza elicits a comment from a parent that goes something like this: “Nothing like a sugar high!” when noticing that the pint sized party guests bouncing off the walls.  Why do we say this so casually?  Some experts put the refined sugar consumption of the average American at a whopping 150 pounds a year!  Can we really afford to be casual about sugar consumption when numbers like that are out there?  I think not.

Being “high” or “buzzed” is never referred to in a positive light, and usually refers to illegal drugs or over consumption.  But when referring to refined sugar, talking about a sugar high or sugar buzz seems to be part of the vernacular these days that seems very unthreatening.  But then consider the obesity rate in this country is hovering at 60%, suddenly sugar over consumption, which contributes to obesity, seems a little more dangerous.  As parents and consumers, however, we sometimes treat the refined sugar in our diet casually.  It might even be accurate to say that we ignore it.  Maybe we need to pay a little more attention to it.

Sugar is hidden in our food in places that we don’t think to look.  Refined sugar, many experts contend, is chemically not needed by our body or something that our ancestors had in their diet.  (Natural sugar is important in moderation, but refined and processed is not).  Our ancestors got their sugar naturally from things like fruit and honey.  Refined sugar, once processed and “discovered”, was first considered a luxury, certainly not a necessity.  Our society has taken this luxury to new heights so that it is no longer considered a luxury.  It has turned into a dangerous hidden additive in our processed food.  How do we figure out where the sugar is?  Well, its time to start looking at the food labeling.  Recognize sugar by its many names.

Some names for processed sugar:

  • Brown sugar
  • powdered or confectioners sugar
  • white sugar
  • High fructose corn syrup or HFCS
  • Turbinado sugar
  • corn syrup
  • refined sugar
  • honey
  • syrup

In labeling, if an ingredient ends in “ose” it is a sugar.  Ingredients are listed on processed foods in order of weight.  So if your first three ingredients listed are, for example, HFCS, fructose, and sugar, that means that by weight, there are 3 forms of refined sugar in that product that may outweigh the other ingredients listed.  Thats a lot of sugar hidden in that food.

Sugar can be listed in grams on the labeling.  You can easily convert grams to teaspoons of sugar by knowing that approximately 5 grams of sugar is equal to 1 teaspoon of sugar.  Now lets look at some food nutritional labeling.

Cereal bar: 11 grams sugar/serving size: 1 bar.  This is equal to more than 2 t. of sugar.

Reduced fat granola bar: 7 grams sugar/serving size: 1 bar. This is 1 1/2 t. of sugar.

Snack crackers: 1 gram sugar/serving size: 10 crackers.  5 servings would equal 1 teaspoon of sugar.

Vanilla wafer cookies: 11 grams sugar/serving size: 8 cookies. This is over 2 teaspoons of sugar.

Cola: 39 grams sugar/serving size: 12 ounce can. 8 teaspoons of sugar per can.

Raisin Bran: 19 grams sugar/serving size: 1 cup.  A cereal bowl can easily hold a 2 cup serving.  This amounts to nearly 4 teaspoons of sugar.  Add milk with 11 grams of sugar per 1 cup (8 ounces), and that is 60 grams of sugar in a 2 cup serving of a “healthy” breakfast.  That is over 12 teaspoons of sugar.

Shocking, isn’t it?  It adds up quickly, all of this hidden sugar!  Considering that a recommended daily sugar intake is 40g for every 2000 calories consumed, it is very easy to hit this limit quickly, especially with “hidden” sugar.  Eating that bowl of raisin bran first thing in the morning exceeds this recommendation. Who would have thought that you could exceed your sugar intake before 8 a.m. with a bowl of breakfast cereal!

Wellness is a delicate balance.  It takes effort to balance food properly and get the right amount of daily nutrients with our intake.  A little education and awareness can arm us with the tools that we need to achieve good nutrition.  It is well worth it!  Small simple changes can make a big difference in improving daily nutrition.  Take a baby step and start looking at sugar.  Awareness is a critical first step toward making a positive change.  Go ahead!  You can do it!

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