A series of headlines grabbed my attention the other day:
“Sugar Industry Manipulated Heart Studies, Review Finds”
“How the Sugar Industry Shifted Blame to Fat”
“Sugar industry secretly paid for favorable Harvard research”
These articles were all spawned by a recent research paper. The gist is that the sugar industry in the 1960s manipulated and even paid for favorable research on sugar and its relationship to heart disease, and also pointed the “heart-failure” finger at fats. According to the authors of the research paper, “Together with other recent analyses of sugar industry documents, our findings suggest the industry sponsored a research program in the 1960s and 1970s that successfully cast doubt about the hazards of sucrose while promoting fat as the dietary culprit in coronary heart disease.” One of the most damming quotes comes from one of the co-authors of the research paper, describing the tactics of the sugar industry: “These tactics are strikingly similar to what we saw in the tobacco industry in the same era,” said Stanton Glantz of the University of California San Francisco’s Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education.
These articles caught my attention because about four months ago I decided to cut back on my sugar intake, and particularly on foods that have added sugar in them. Being someone who would routinely drink 2-5 Cokes (a 12 oz coke contains 39 grams of sugar!) a day, a Gatorade (over 50 grams of sugar per 32 oz bottle), and eat some candy and maybe an ice cream as a reward at the end of the day, it is safe to say that I was ingesting well over 150 grams of sugar per day, which is well over the 37 gram recommended limit. I didn’t start my sugar cut-back because of the daily recommended limit, but it has been a good benchmark to aim for.
When I was analyzing my diet, the easiest place to start the sugar cut-back was in my beverage choices. I quit drinking soda of any kind, cold-turkey, and even had to give up what I previously thought were healthy alternatives: Gatorade and Vitamin Water, which both contain great amounts of added sugar. I have found better alternatives with very little to no added sugar, including coconut water, regular old water, sparkling water, and of course coffee (including a delightful fatty coffee in the morning – yes, you read that correctly!). I also gave up eating candy (I have been mostly good on this one, but I confess I grabbed some Peanut M&Ms at the check-out the other day). Rather than trying to replace snacks with healthier alternatives, I have mostly simply limited my snacking, trying to focus in on having solid meals and drinking water when I get hungry in between meal times.
Giving up/cutting back on sugar in this manner has actually been pretty easy. The thing I didn’t think would be so hard is actually the thing I’ve found harder: That is, to shop for low sugar or sugar-free foods. I used to carelessly browse the grocery store, grabbing anything I liked, typically using price as a differentiating factor between similar food items. But now, I painstakingly read each food label in search of the word “sugar” and let me tell you, SUGAR is added in everything these days! It’s put into barbeque sauces, spaghetti sauce, and much to my chagrin, ketchup! Not to mention the list of foods which are marketed as healthy or low fat but which are in fact loaded with sugar, such as yogurts, granola bars, and pre-made smoothies.
I have felt an improvement in my health since my great sugar cut-back four months ago. I’ve completely cut out sugary drinks of any kind, sugary sauces (barbeque sauce, pasta sauces, ketchup) and those delightful pre-made smoothie drinks in the cold beverages section. Though I must confess, I have not fully cut ice cream from my diet (but hey, I’m consuming at least 100 grams less sugar per day than I was before I made these changes). In fact, I am well below the recommended added sugar intake (averaging less than 30 grams of added sugar a day, and many days I go without any added sugar at all), and since my sugar cut-back, I am a little lighter, have better muscle definition, more energy and I have been better hydrated. Cutting out sugar has given me no option but to buy higher quality and often organic foods, and has encouraged me to .
So I hope you join me on cutting back on your sugar intake and being on the look out for added sugar in your food!
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