There is a growing line up of scientific research demonstrating the dangers of the excessive amount of sugar in the average American diet. Yet, these studies are also bringing to light the fact that health–wise, all sugars are not created equally.
The worst of the myriad forms of sugar in the marketplace is fructose, derived from natural sources, such as fruits and vegetables. Consumed in moderation, directly from the source (i.e. eating fresh fruit) it not at all unhealthy. Consumed in high quantities and processed into many of the foods on the supermarket shelf, it can be deadly.
High quantities of fructose has been found to contribute to elevated blood pressure, triglycerides and LDL cholesterol, as well as cause cardiovascular disease, liver disease, cancer and arthritis. The worst offender is high fructose corm syrup (HFCS), a derivative of corn.
Today, the average adolescent gets 73 grams of processed fructose a day, just from sweetened drinks alone; a far cry from the 15 grams humans consumed a century ago, before processed foods existed.
Currently, the average American consumes 142 pounds of sugar per year!
Our bodies need glucose, a form of sugar found in carbohydrates, to operate. Virtually every cell in our bodies relies on glucose for energy. We burn up most of it, just by functioning. By contrast, fructose is metabolized by the liver, and is turned into free fatty acids, a damaging form of cholesterol, and triglycerides, which are stored as fat.
When you eat 120 calories of glucose, less than one calorie is stored as fat. The same amount of fructose results in 40 calories being stored as fat.
In addition to adverse metabolic effects, high fructose corn syrup has been found to contain traces of mercury, arsenic, lead, chloride, and heavy metals.
While it may be unrealistic to think that Americans will give up sugar in all forms, there are some alternatives that are better for you than others. Organic cane sugar and raw honey in moderation are the best choices. The herb stevia is considered healthy, but it is still a new entrant to the market, and not much is known about it. Agave syrup, thought to be healthy is made of a very highly processed sap that is almost all fructose.
The health risks related to artificial sweeteners are even greater than those caused by processed fructose.
Our bodies were meant to run on a natural diet, rich in whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables. Anytime we introduce artificial ingredients, there is a risk to our health. If you want to have sweet treats, it is best to make them yourself, from the purest ingredients you can find.
Technology has given us many easy, tasty foods, but the risks to eating them in quantity out weighs the benefits. Modifying your sugar intake, especially from processed fructose, could help you live a longer, healthier life. Who doesn’t want that?
photo: Glasshouse Images