Sugar: Not so nice after all
By: Caroline Shannon-Karasik’s
What’s a major culprit behind a laundry list of illnesses and diseases including digestive upset, high blood pressure and obesity, and packs the addictive power of drugs like heroin and cocaine?
Sugar, says the featured article in the August issue of National Geographic. Yep, that’s right – sugar!
In the National Geographic cover story, writer Rich Cohen outlines the history of sugar and how it made its way more than 10,000 years ago from the island of New Guinea to our present day grocery shelves. He also susses out the dirty details of how it is affecting society today.
“The solution?” Cohen writes. “Stop eating so much sugar. When people cut back, many of the ill effects disappear. The trouble is, in today’s world it’s extremely difficult to avoid sugar, which is one reason for the spike in consumption. Manufacturers use sugar to replace taste in foods bled of fat so that they seem more healthful, such as fat-free baked goods, which often contain large quantities of added sugar.”
Jennifer Fugo, a certified health coach and founder of Gluten Free School (glutenfreeschool.com), said these hidden sources of sugar in items that are viewed as “healthy” is one of the major problems the American diet is facing today. In fact, Fugo’s personal journey into a gluten-free diet after being diagnosed with celiac disease found her realizing a second problem – too much sugar in her diet.
“My day used to start out with gluten-free cookies – five to be exact,” Fugo said. “Somehow that seemed like a good breakfast for a while. Just enough food to keep me going until lunch time that I could easily eat as I rushed out the door. All that sugar and starchy goodness – who knew my ‘breakfast of champions’ and my other sugary snacks throughout the day were detrimental? After all, they’re gluten-free, right?”
Fugo said it is that type of mindset that caused her to realized she, like so many other people, was short-changing herself day-in and day-out, undoing any work she had put into maintaining a healthy diet.
“Sugar is not your friend, folks,” she said. “It’s your bad habit, your quick fix and maybe even a big secret that you binge on throughout the day just to keep going without lopping your co-workers’ heads off. Sugar is an incredibly addictive drug that many of us are hooked on. Whether it was introduced at childhood or snuck in under the radar at one stressful point in your life, sugar has its claws in you and doesn’t plan on letting go without putting up a good fight.”
Fugo said major factors that can get in the way of nixing sugar from a diet are stress, busy schedules and just a simple lack of knowledge about what is making its way into food items.
“All’s not lost, though!” Fugo said. “Just as I found my way back, so can you. Real food’s the way to beat a sugar addiction.”
For Fugo, that meant trashing her self-described “junk food nightmare,” including the gluten-free cookies for breakfast, vegan chocolate truffles for mid-day snacks and vegan, gluten-free, chocolate brownies for a bedtime treat paired with some coconut milk ice cream to boot.
“A serious problem arises when you overeat junk food and sugar because you’re literally feeding the bad guys,” she said. “Your diet helps to dictate a specific environment in your belly that is not friendly to the bacteria you really want there. Thus, the good guys begin to die off, making way for the troublemakers.”
Want to rid your diet of excess sugar? Start reading labels and be aware that sugar goes by many names, including:
- any type of dates
- fresh or frozen fruit
- coconut palm sugar
- yacon syrup
- maple syrup
- agave nectar
- cane sugar
- beet sugar
- high fructose corn syrup
Start by cutting your sugar consumption in obvious areas, then begin to think of the substance as more of a treat rather than an everyday occurrence. Once you’ve been at it for a bit, you’ll begin to notice increased energy, reduced acne, less headaches and stomach pains, and more. A life without sugar? Sweet as pie, my dears.
Caroline Shannon-Karasik is the upcoming author of a gluten-free healthy lifestyle book, set to be released in January 2014. She is the author of the popular gluten-free blog, TheGSpotRevolution.com and is currently training to become a certified health coach. Her writing and recipe development has been featured in several publications, including, VegNews, Kiwi and REDBOOK magazines. Caroline lives with her husband Dan and four adopted cats in Pittsburgh, Penn. Caroline can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.