Sugar gets a pretty bad rap these days and in my opinion, rightfully so. What used to be a special occasion treat is now hidden in about every processed food we eat. I recently read that the average American consumes about 130 pounds of sugar a YEAR. How is that even possible? Considering most processed foods contain some form of sugar and most Americans eat plenty of processed foods, I guess that staggering number is quite possible. What is even worse is that much of what we call sugar or think of is sugar is not even sugar at all! Many processed foods today are actually sweetened with High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), a derivative of corn. Considering most corn grown in our country is genetically modified, it means most processed foods are being sweetened with genetically modified corn.
I have admitted before that I am particular about how I fuel my body. I prefer to fuel my body with clean whole foods (organic when possible) and avoid genetically modified foods. That means for me, most prepared sweetened food and beverages are not an option for my plate.
So, organic and GMO arguments aside, what is wrong with plain sugar or even organic sugar? How could organic sugar be a health hazard? Isn’t sugar just a natural byproduct of either the sugar beet or the sugar cane plant?
Simply put, our bodies are simply not designed to process the amount of sugar that we are consuming in today’s over-processed, under-active world. America is without question a sugar addicted nation! Not only is the addiction interfering with our ability to obtain the benefits of real fitness, it is literally killing us by way of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiac disease and kidney and renal disease.
How can sugar be killing us be when it is nothing more than a carbohydrate and carbohydrates are considered a useful source of energy? Sugar is technically one possible carbohydrate resource for energy. The problem in relying on it as a primary energy resource (as most people unknowingly are doing through the excessive consumption of processed foods) lies in the fact that the amount of sugar an average American consumes far exceeds his or her energy demands on a given day.
What happens when we consume too much sugar for our energy needs? The sugar is released into the bloodstream where it is detected by the pancreas. The pancreas then releases insulin to process the excess sugar. Insulin helps direct the excess sugar to storage depots in the liver, muscles and fat cells. When large amounts of sugar are consumed at once, the body can sometimes get ‘confused’ and release too much insulin. The excess insulin tells the body that it needs more sugar when it in fact does not. The cravings often result in the consumption of even more sugar that now again must be stored, releasing yet more insulin. There begins the cycle of addiction.
Horse Lover Tip: Excess sugar is not only an issue for our personal health, but also a health and life threatening issue for our horses. Sugar or carbohydrate overload in horses can trigger laminitis, a potentially life threatening condition.
Poor ole fat got the bad rap in the 80’s and 90’s when it was actually sugar creating much of the muffin tops, spare tires and saddle bags (in horses and humans)!