I’ve said a few times in my blog about how important it is to consume non-processed and real food. Eighty percent of your diet should come from single ingredient and nutrient dense food. Over-consuming added sugar can really have negative effects on your health. And I don’t just mean a slice of birthday cake or some cookies — mostly we are consuming sugar without even realizing.
An average person consumes 66 pounds of added sugar each year. That’s about 26 teaspoons sugar every day. Naturally that would mean chewing about two pounds of sugarcane. Added sugar is hiding in 74 percent of processed food. And added sugars are just empty calories — that means that they do not contain any nutrients, they’re just extra calories without any health benefits.
Sugar metabolism is the process by which energy contained in the foods that we eat is made available as energy for the body. The body’s cells can use glucose directly for energy, and most cells can also use fatty acids for energy. Glucose and fructose are metabolized differently, and when they are consumed in excess they may have different implications for health.
When we consume glucose, blood glucose levels rise and then fall rapidly, as glucose is absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract into the blood and then taken up into the cells in the body. Excess glucose ends up being stored as glycogen in the muscles, and it can also be stored as lipid in the fat tissue.
Fructose is also taken up into the blood from the gut, but in this case the liver serves as a pre-processing organ that can convert fructose to glucose or fat. The liver can release the glucose and fat into the blood or store it as glycogen or fat depots. If sugars are consumed in excess, this may lead to fatty liver disease and can also increase risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
If the sugar comes with its inherent fiber then up to 30 percent of this sugar will not be absorbed. Instead, it will be metabolized by the microbes in the gut, which may improve microbial diversity and help prevent disease. The fiber will also mean a slower rise in blood glucose, which has shown to have positive health effects.
Natural sugars are basically any sugar that is found naturally in foods such as whole fruits and vegetables that contain fiber. However, juicing is an easy way to over consume sugar — one glass of orange juice can contain five or six whole oranges, so you’re getting all the sugar but without the fiber and other nutrients.
You may think you don’t consume sugar, and you’re careful in your choices when you go shopping. Unfortunately, food companies want to sell their products, and they want to make the “food” delicious and addictive. Sugar has 61 different names, some of which are not at all obvious — for example barley malt, dextrose, dextrin, malt syrup, maltodextrin, maltol, maltose, muscovado, panocha, treacle and saccharose. Of course it’s easier to recognize if the second word is syrup or sugar.
The American Heart Association recommends a daily intake of nine teaspoons sugar for men, six teaspoons for women, and three to 6sixteaspoons for children. Just as an example, one portion of yogurt can contain seven teaspoons of sugar, or one service of bran cereal with raisins has five teaspoons sugar.
I’d like to challenge you and invite you to join my campaign, and at least try to eat single ingredient foods for just one week. You will be surprised how challenging it can be to just eat real food! Please challenge your friends and family too — even if they do not take the challenge with you, you may become an example and inspire them!
Ayda Ersoy is a nutrition and fitness director at The Diet Doc Hawaii. She can be reached at DietDocHawaii.com, Ayda@DietDocHawaii.com or (808) 276-6892