Thank you, Mary Poppins! Whenever I hear someone say the word "sugar" - in nearly any context, mind you - the song "Just a Spoonful of Sugar" pops into my head. I used to watch Mary Poppins every Thanksgiving when I was a kid. And every year around that time I would develop some horrid case of strep throat. I distinctly remember my mother pouring teaspoon after teaspoon of gooey orange liquid medicine into my mouth. I wouldn't say that the orange goo tasted like a fine red wine, but it wasn't the worst thing in the world either. It was sweet. Naturally, I assumed that the sugar had already been added - of maybe my mom did it when I wasn't looking. God knows we had enough sugar in our house at the time. I thought I was really lucky. "Mary Poppins waaaaaas right!" I thought. "Sugar is so awesome!" I think I started using the word "awesome" around the third grade - so those thoughts would be pretty close to accurate. Fast forward eight rounds of antibiotic-laden orange goo later...Had I known then what I know now, I would have 86'd all sugar as it was probably the prime culprit in my constant sore throats.
Childhood memories aside, sugar is big business. Americans consume right around 100 pounds per person every year. I recently went on WGN to talk about just how much *hidden* sugar is in healthier-sounding foods. It's pretty shocking to see how much sugar is in everyday foods - and I'm not just talking about cookies, candy or soda. While no amount of sugar intake is good, theAmerican Heart Association sets limits anyway.
Maximum Suggested Sugar Intake
Children = 3 tsp or 12.6 grams
Women = 6 tsp or 25.2 grams
Men = 9 tsp or 37 .8 grams
...all of which rank lower than the total amount of sugar in a 12 ounce soda (39 grams).
But sugar is fat free, and it gives me energy!
Sugar may not contain fat, but it will quickly gets converted to fat in our bodies. Our liver is our body's gas tank of energy. When we fill it up, excess gets pushed to reserve tanks called fat cells. Familiar with those? This is why diets that are almost exclusively fat free are not good. Those diets actually promote fat storage. And sugar might give you a burst of energy, but it sure doesn't give you sustained energy. That can of soda or sugary coffee drink might give you a quick pick me up, but you'll likely crash later.
Sugar also suppresses the immune system, makes us a little crankier, messes up the good bacteria in our bellies, creates addictive food behaviors, as well as incredible withdrawal symptoms when we try to cut it out.
It's important to pay attention to how much sugar you're taking in. It wouldn't hurt to do a three or four day food journal to track just what you're putting in your mouth. Snacks, meals, condiments and incidentals, like a handful of candy off of a co-workers desk, can all quickly add refined sugar calories into our diets.
Traci is a nationally recognized health and fitness expert who has been featured on The TODAY Show and Dr. Oz. Traci is available for corporate speaking events and wellness coaching, as well as private training. Contact Traci here.