As Sneaky Sugar Invades the Food Supply, We’re Eating More With Not-So-Sweet Consequences
By David Martin, President and CEO of VeinInnovations
Over the years, I’ve written many Thought Leadership articles addressing nutrition. I’ve discussed superfoods (and the marketing behind them.) I’ve covered fat, good and bad, and I’ve touched on sugar consumption. In the past, I’ve written that moderation is key and it is. So is knowing the enemy.
Sugar has been insidiously invading our food supply for years. If you’re not eating a diet of fruits, vegetables, and grain-fed meat, it’s almost impossible to stay away from the stuff. So plentiful is sugar, that worldwide consumption is about 500 calories a day. The average American eats about three pounds of sugar a week. The “recommended amount” is six teaspoons per day.
At holidays and celebratory occasions we commune over indulgent foods. When we suffer a setback at work or go through a breakup, we fall back on treats for comfort. We treat sugar as a special occasion food, but consume vast quantities of it on a daily basis. The stuff is nearly impossible to get away from.
If you drink one regular Coca-Cola a day, you’ve already consumed 50 percent more sugar than you should in a single day. (One Coke contains 9.3 teaspoons of sugar.) You expect your Coke to contain a large amount of sugar. But do you expect sugar to show up in yogurt, canned soup, low-fat products, frozen pizza and mayo? The list of processed foods containing sugar goes on… and on.
Why did sugar encroach into foods we’d never think to look for it in? Because we can’t get enough of it. Our brains love sugar and consuming it lights up our reward centers. We’re addicted to it – truly. The video below quickly explains how our brains react when we consume sugar and why it’s so enjoyable.
The companies that make processed foods study what makes us tick, from a flavor perspective. Market research is, in large part, the dedicated science of learning what tempts our tongues and makes our brain ask for more. (Sugar, Salt, Fat by Michael Moss is an excellent break down of the industry.) The bad news is that processed food relies on ingredients that taste good, but aren’t good for us, to keep us coming back for more. Sugar in all its many forms does a lot of the heavy lifting.
Unfortunately, sugar consumption is at least partly to blame for a host of health problems. Studies have linked sugar consumption to heart disease and obesity and all the ills that go along with those two killers (including diabetes.) Study after study finds new links between sugar and our health, finding relationships between overeating, depression, dementia, and problems with forming new memories. Sugar also contributes to kidney and liver damage. For a food that’s so ubiquitous and over consumed, one would think the threats would be more widely known. And that action would be taken by a reduction of sugar in foods.
We can’t expect our food system to change overnight. We can’t expect labels to shout ‘Sugar!’ on the side of the box. And we shouldn’t expect ourselves to cut out processed foods entirely. (Not in one quick campaign, anyway. Cleaning up our pantries and our diets is a process and it can take a long time.) Get to know the names sugar takes – it gets sneaked into food under many different names – and take extra time at the grocery store to notice the amount of sugar in the foods you’re buying. It’s time to be critical of the nutrition facts, and to buy and consume accordingly.
- Invert Sugar
- Evaporated Cane Juice
- Crystalline Fructose
- Raw Sugar
- Malt Syrup
- Cane Crystals