The current research shows that sugar and processed foods are doing a lot of damage — obesity, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, stroke, arthritis, dementia, and depression. The low-fat mantra (which we now know was bad), did a tremendous disservice to our health and well-being. Instead of getting thinner and healthier, we got fatter and sicker. We have been brainwashed into thinking that sugar is nothing more than harmless empty calories and that a calorie is a calorie. Not so.
The food industry, government, lobby groups, and even health organizations like the American Heart Association, have created a monster that is difficult to tame. People are foregoing healthy, nutrient-dense foods like nuts, eggs and avocados, and instead buying highly-processed, sugar-laden foods in the name of eating low-fat. Even worse, they are feeding it to their children and, for the first time, we will have a generation that is predicted to have a shorter average lifespan than their parents.
If we are to keep our bodies healthy as we age, we must signficantly reduce our consumption of this highly-addictive, seemingly-innocent “food.”
Watch a Documentary or Two
There’s nothing like watching a well-done, reputable documentary on the perils of sugar to jump start your nutritional rewiring endeavor. I highly recommend the following:
Fed Up: Narrated by Katie Couric, this film examines America’s obesity epidemic, health crisis, and the food industry’s role. IMDB rating – 7.7
Sugar Coated: This documentary dives into how the food industry sugar-coated science, sweetened the food supply, and the politics of the “new tobacco”. IMDB rating – 7.5
The Truth About Sugar: This BBC documentary explores why sugar is the big bad wolf of the diet world and explores ways to quit this nasty addiction. IMDB rating – NA
That Sugar Film: Damon Gameau embarks on an experiment to document the effects of a high sugar diet on a healthy body. IMDB rating – 7.4
Recognize It’s Hard the First Week
Change can be hard and sugar is highly addictive. Studies with mice have shown that sugar is more addictive than cocaine. The first several days will be the hardest, but you will begin to reap the benefits by the end of the week with improved energy, normalized blood sugar, reduced mood swings, and weight loss.
Understand What Sugar Is
Sugar is more than the white granular stuff that comes in a bag. Sugar comes in many forms, including refined sugar, high fructose corn syrup, cane syrup, agave nectar, rice syrup, corn sweetener, evaporated cane juice, fruit concentrate, sucrose, brown sugar, molasses, date sugar, beet sugar, confectioner sugar, and malt syrup. The New York Times published a full list of close to 100 sugars to look out for. Who knew?
Clear Out Your Pantry
Go through your cabinets, refrigerator and freezer, and look at the ingredients on each product. Throw out (yes, throw out) anything with sugar in it. You’ll discover that sugar is insidious, finding its way into everything from ketchup to salad dressing to yogurt to baby formula. But don’t panic when your trash bin is full, there are alternatives.
Buy Real Food
Head to the store and buy real food, rediscovering vegetables, nuts, fruits, healthy meats and fish, poultry and eggs, and healthy grains like quinoa, black rice and buckwheat. Dr. Mark Hyman’s website provides a plethora of resources, podcasts, books and recipes. His latest book, Food: What the Heck Should I Eat?, is also a great resource as you sort through what to buy, cook and eat.
The end goal is to wean ourselves off sweetness as much as possible. On a very limited basis, the sugars that are considered acceptable include pureed fruit, molasses, organic palm sugar, date sugar, coconut sugar, and organic maple syrup. That said, any processed food that contains even a “healthier” sugar in the first through fourth ingredient list, should be avoided.
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