‘Hello, my name is [insert your name...yes you!] and I am an addict!!.’ Although it’s an addiction less commonly acknowledged, it’s certainly an addiction that is widespread, unwittingly affecting millions without their conscious admission. From weaning infants, to seasoned retirees, and everything in between.
What the @#$%!! I'm gonna say the "S" word. SUGAR!
Well duh, I hear you say as you have recently cut back from two sugars, in your three coffees per day, to one. However, this sweet, yet sinister, somewhat scary substance is almost everywhere...hidden in plain sight.
In recent years, more light has been shed on the subject as there has become more and more scientific correlations between processed sugar and the drastic rise in chronic diseases including heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and cancer. Documentaries such as The Truth About Sugar, and That Sugar Film, have been instrumental in helping paint a clear and honest portrait of how invasive sugar has become across the food spectrum.
Now, let’s start by saying that not all sugars are created equal, and not all sugars are inherently bad. However, added sugars and hidden sugars are the greatest culprits in causing drastic health complications and are something that many of us are not aware. Sugar is by no means only bad for your teeth! Health organisations including the World Health Organisation (WHO), NHS, and other Governmental programs, are now strongly advising we cut back on processed and refined sugar to only 5% of your daily calorie intake. This equates to roughly seven sugar cubes (30g/7-8 tsp). Children should have significantly less – no more than 19g/4-5 tsp a day for children aged 4-6 years old (five sugar cubes), and no more than 24g (six sugar cubes) for children aged 7-10 years old.
So then, what now? If almost 70% of all packaged and processed food contains added sugar, how do you get away from it? Added sugar is in our condiments, yoghurt, cereals, bread, and even "healthy" granola bars! Terms such as 'Low-Fat' might mean higher added sugar to compensate for taste and substance. 'No Added Sugar' can mean no extra sugar in addition to the copious amounts already existing within, or sugar has been substituted with an artificial sweetener, which is equally bad if not worse. Even if getting away from it is not the problem, staying away is the bigger and more pressing issue. Sugar provides an immediate chemical 'high' within the brains 'reward centre'. Dopamine is released as the 'feel good' hormone much like it would during sex and exercise. The brain becomes desensitized to sugar and begins to crave more, leading to overconsumption and a dependance. What's worst is, many of the products are aimed at children, providing high calories but very little nutritional substance.
Where do you begin in taking steps to become aware of hidden sugars and reduce their intake. Step One is Acceptance! Accept that it is a grave problem within our society to the uneducated (not those with a lack of schooling, or who don't read the news/books....but more those who are not aware), and it could be a big problem for you, your family, and your health if left unchecked.