By Dr. Jennifer Harrison
Who didn’t grow up being given candy or a cookie as a “treat”? The majority of us have this belief that sweets are a positive thing associated with being rewarded and feeling good. While it’s true that every cell in our body needs sugar/glucose to operate properly, the reality is that there can be too much of a good thing. According to the Canadian Sugar Institute (Yes, there really is such a place), Canadians consume on average 51-53 grams of added sugar per person per day which works out to be 12.75 – 13.25 teaspoons. Added sugar refers to the sugar beyond that which is naturally found in whole foods like fruits and vegetables. This includes the sugar, corn syrup, maple syrup and honey that we add to our food or are in the processed foods we eat. In the US, it’s even worse with the average American ingesting 88 grams or 22 teaspoons of added sugar per day. With the American Heart and Stroke Association recommending that women shouldn’t really be eating more than 24 grams/6 teaspoons of sugar and men, 36 grams/9 teaspoons daily, both Canadians and Americans are way over the mark. This is what is contributing to the overweight and obesity epidemics in both children and adults, plus diabetes and heart problems. In fact, in March, 2015, even the World Health Organization released a statement with sugar guidelines stating that our sugar intake should not be more than 25 grams per day.
If you start reading the labels on the food and beverages you eat and drink, you will be very surprised at how easy it is to go over the 25 grams per day limit, even while eating a healthy diet. For example, Silk Almond Milk Original has 7 grams of sugar per cup but Vanilla flavored is 16 grams per cup and Dark Chocolate flavored is 17 grams per cup. Clif Builder Protein Bar, mint chocolate flavor, although it has 20 grams of protein, also has 22 grams of sugar per bar. Don’t be fooled into thinking sport drinks like Gatorade are healthy. For example, the nutrition label on the Thirst Quencher states that it has 21 grams of sugar per 12 fluid oz/355mL. However, here is another lesson in really reading the labels and doing the math. A single bottle of Thirst Quencher is 32 fluid oz/946 mL so in reality, a single bottle of Gatorade Thirst Quencher has about 56 grams of sugar which is over twice the recommended maximum daily sugar intake!
The bottom line is that while every cell in our body needs sugar/glucose in order to survive and create energy, too much sugar can lead to obesity, diabetes, heart problems, decreased immune functioning and even general body inflammation including muscle and joint pain. Read your food and beverage labels, eat as much natural food, in other words, unprocessed food as possible. Do the math and try to keep your daily sugar intake below 25 grams per day. You will notice the difference!
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