I grew up in Istanbul, Turkey, and it was traditional to eat a sweet desert with every dinner. When we visit friends or family, the first thing they do is to serve you a sweet, sugary desert.
I never thought that sugar was bad for you, because it's sweet and delicious!
In Turkey we have a religious celebration called "Ramadan". It's actually an Islamic fast that lasts for a whole month, from sunrise to sunset every day. At the end of the months fasting there is a three-day celebration called "festival of sweets." Yes, it's a sweet holiday - I know, for most people probably their dream holiday! Everyone cooks all types of heavy desserts, and everyone eats a lot. It's normal to gain at least five pounds in these three days.
So why has sugar now become the bad guy?
One big difference is that we used not to eat packaged, processed food. Everything was fresh and with just one single ingredient. And people were much more active in daily life - today's lifestyle has changed our eating and exercise habits, so we need to give much more attention to our health and what we eat.
Do you really know how much sugar is too much? Are you aware how much you should be taking every day? And does sugar really make us sick?
First, let's take a look at what sugar really is.
Sugars are carbohydrates. Dietary carbohydrates also include the complex carbohydrates starch and fiber. During digestion all carbohydrates, except for fiber, break down into sugars.
Carbohydrates are the main source of energy for our bodies, when we eat them they enter the blood stream very quickly.
The problem is that we are eating too much, mostly without even realizing it. Sugars have no nutritional value other than to provide calories. And did you know that 74% of packaged food has hidden added sugar?
The daily recommendation of added sugar according to World Health Organization is 6 teaspoons (24 grams) for an adult women; 9 teaspoons (38 grams) for an adult man; and 2-6 teaspoons (8-24 grams) for children.
Sugar sweetened beverages make up the largest increase of added sugars and fructose, and the biggest single sources of calories in the American diet. One average can of regular soda contains 40g sugar - that's 10 teaspoons.
Growing evidence indicates that high intake of sugar sweetened beverages and added sugar contribute to the development of non-alcoholic fatty liver diseases. And increased consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages leads to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
New studies are describing a "sugar belly", where carrying excess body fat on your belly can lead to metabolic syndrome.
And consuming too high quantities of sugar over an extended period of time can especially stress and damage the pancreas and liver. The pancreas produces insulin to process sugars, but when it's overworked it cannot function properly. And the liver converts excess sugar fructose to fat, which over time can lead to fatty liver disease.
If all this evidence does not shock you, then maybe this will. Scientists have found a link between high doses of added sugar and the aging of our cells and skin wrinkling.
Now that we've learned about all the potential risks, how can we take control of our sugar cravings?
First, I suggest that you read the food label carefully, and choose a lower sugar option for your health. The ingredients with the greatest amount (by weight) are listed first and the ones with the smallest quantities are listed last.
You may also like to try eating whole fruit instead of drinking fruit juice. Why? Because fruit juices are made entirely from the liquid, which normally comes from squeezing the fruit. So you're getting all the sugar of the fruit but you're missing out on the fiber, nutrients and vitamins that you would get by eating the whole fruit. Fiber helps decrease the absorption of sugar and it regulates the body's use of sugars, so it helps decrease hunger too.
It's also easy to over-drink fruit juice - it's much easier to drink too much than to accidentally eat 4 or 5 whole fruits. At least I can't eat this much fruit at one time!
If you like to drink cold, sweet beverages then how about trying this recipe. First, cook your own jam - with any type of fresh fruit, my favorites are cherries - then mix a little raw coconut sugar and 1 teaspoon of your homemade jam into a glass of cold water. It's a delicious and healthy alternative!
You may also like to try keeping a journal, just for a couple of days, where you write how much sugar you are eating each day. Look at the amounts you're eating, and then note how you feel after you've eaten. By changing your sugar intake you may well notice that you have more energy, and you're sleeping better. Do your own study and just became much more aware about your health. You will inspire others.
The good news is that when you start to eat less sugar your body will stop craving it. I suggest you don't try to change everything at once, just slowly add one good habit at a time and you'll notice that the bad habits go away.
Remember, there is always way to do it right.
If you like to learn more I recommend you watch the new release "That Sugar Film".