Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Sweet Sin

This article is also available on Nutrition in Motion's blog NIM Dish
Sweet Sin
Sarah Reid, RHNC
North Americans eat a staggering amount of sugar. While that fact alone shouldn’t surprise you, the amount itself might – just over 1/3 cup of the sweet stuff gets into our systems each day, and that’s not just what’s being stirred into your morning coffee. 46% is found in drinks, like pop, which can have over 3 tbsp of sweetener in a 355mL can, and many fruit juices containing anything from agave to High Fructose Corn Syrup. In the food world, sugar is added to almost everything as a flavour enhancer. Even though they’re anything but sweet, canned soups, soy sauce and even pre-made burger patties are laced with sugar in one of it’s many forms. It’s not made well known to the public, though, as salt in these items is far easier to modify – by adding sugar! How often do we see “lower sodium” on their labels rather than “reduced sugar”? Looking at the highly promoted “reduced sodium” variety of a popular brand’s condensed tomato soup, it has 2 grams more per 1-cup serving – 14 grams overall. Alcohol is another culprit that may lurk in the shadows. Not only does alcohol contain sugar as part of it’s fermentation process, studies show that the compounds in the drink cause hunger signals at a faster and more concentrated rate than either pop or juice, and inhibit fat – to – energy conversion in the body as well.
Even if you’re looking for sugar on the label, you’re unlikely to find much if your eyes are scanning for “white” or “granulated”.  Here are just some of sugar’s pseudonyms used in processed foods regularly lining our shelves:
Agave nectar
Barley malt
Maple syrup
High fructose corn syrup
Beet sugar
Brown sugar
Cane sugar
Confectioner's sugar
Crystallized cane juice
Evaporated cane juice
Invert sugar
Raw sugar
Fruit juice concentrate

See how hard it can be to eschew the substance completely?
We have become addicted to the simple taste of sweetness without any pronounced flavour, and it is showing in our health and on our hips. Though almost completely nutrient deficient, sugar – any sugar – is an incredible source of two things: calories and simple carbohydrates. The amount of sugar – 600 teaspoons or 12 ½ cups – the average person eats in just 30 days contains 9000 calories! That means that to burn that extra energy, a 150-lb woman would have to power walk, with a loaded grocery cart or stroller, for 30 hours. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have 30 extra hours on hand to dedicate to aerobic exercise. Even if I was to attend meetings or school for over 70 hours, I wouldn’t be able to burn off a month of sugar.
While our society cannot completely avoid sugar and it’s twins, the battle of the “sugar bulge” starts with cutting out the obvious sources of the sweetener. Slash handfuls of candy, corn-syrupy fruit juice and soda, watch the lattes and stop adding spoonfuls to anything and everything. If you’re worried about crashing to a sugarless horror, start slow – a teaspoon or can of pop a day – and when you do choose to sweeten, pick ingredients with a bit more to them than calories. Maple syrup and molasses both contain minerals such as iron, and honey is an antibiotic agent that’s twice as sweet as sucrose and more flavourful. Eventually, the ability to appreciate food for it’s taste and not it’s hidden additives will take over, and you’ll wonder what you ever did before.

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I started my "working life" as a holistic and allopathic nutritional consultant with a love of cooking. Teaching the value of wholesome meal choices to families became close to my heart after I battled a long history of struggles with weight and health, and the passion for teaching led me into where I am now. My blog, which focuses on "bringing good taste to healthier food" through creative use of whole grains, fresh produce and acknowledging the importance of the occasional treat, also features a wealth of "specialty diet" friendly recipes for gluten-, egg-, dairy- and sugar- tree nut-free items that everyone can enjoy without alienating those who need them.

Overall, I want to bring back the desire for good quality, homemade, (mostly) healthy food into the hearts and kitchens of families so that the next generation will be less box-reliant than mine. I firmly believe that any “homemade” food, even when labelled as "naughty", is a more wholesome treat than pre-packaged, cookie-cutter junk. With the knowledge of good food (and how to cook good food) as a base, a healthy lifestyle can follow, and then anything is possible!

Today, my love for teaching is branching out even further - I'm in Montessori training to solidify my love for the system and working with children and families!