Sweets for the Sweet

February 13, 2014 by

The celebration of Valentine's Day has become synonymous with the consumption of candy, namely those little candy hearts with silly sayings on them and chocolate. Lots of chocolate. What makes candy candy is the presence of sugar. Lots of sugar.I heart you modified Sugar has been in the news a lot in recent years. It's now widely accepted that sugar has a major role in the fattening of our nation and that it causes silent inflammation that leads to disease and premature aging. Most people I talk to believe that sugar, like anything else, is okay "in moderation." And, honestly, it is. But here's the question: how do you define "moderation?"

A Little Perspective

Let's put things into historical perspective. In the 1700's, average consumption of added sugars per person in this country was about four pounds per year, less than two tenths of an ounce, which is less than one teaspoon, per day. By 2011, average consumption of sugar and other sweeteners was estimated at anywhere from 120 to 180 pounds per person, per year. That's a staggering 30 to 45-fold increase in sugar consumption in about 300 years!

Think about that. That's about five to eight ounces (half-pound) of sugar every single day. Each ounce is equivalent to about five and ½ teaspoons. So that's 27 ½ to 44 teaspoons of added sugar a day. If that seems like a lot, consider that the average 12 ounce Coke has almost 10 teaspoons of sugar in it. Sugar is showing up in less obvious foods too. Because sugar makes just about everything taste better, it's added to most processed foods. It also has an addictive quality that makes most of us want more and more. So, the more processed food you're eating, the convenience foods or restaurant food, the more sugar you're ingesting. Whether you mean to or not.

Empty Calories

So now we've got tasty, addictive foods that have lots of fattening, inflammatory sugar. Let's also remember that sugar contains calories, and while I never recommend focusing on calories, they do represent energy. Energy the body has to process. Energy that brings no real nutrition in the form of vitamins or minerals. Those are called "empty calories."

Let's talk about moderation. Some people should never have added sugar. But most people can tolerate some, and it's up to you to figure out what really works for you. As a guideline, the American Heart Association recommends a daily limit of about six teaspoons of added sugar for women and about nine teaspoons for men. You can easily see that current consumption far exceeds even these recommendations. It's time to rethink moderation. It's time to recalibrate our consumption.

Help!

Here are a few tips that can help you reduce your consumption:

  • Replace sugary soda with sparkling water. Skip the artificial sweeteners, they're a whole other issue.
  • Stay hydrated. All the time.
  • Eat at home more. Restaurant food is notorious for containing much more sugar than you would ever consider adding to similar dishes at home.
  • If you want something sweet after dinner, consider a naturally sweet herbal tea, like Good Earth's Organic Sweet and Spicy Caffeine-Free. There are many others. If you need extra sweetness, try a very small amount of stevia. If you use too much, it may be bitter.
  • If you've got strong cravings for sugar and you want to get rid of them, try a program like Refresh, Renew, Recharge or USANA's 5-day RESET program. Both of these programs are extremely effective at interrupting the sugar-craving cycle.

I'm not a fan of deprivation. Allow yourself a treat once and a while and give yourself permission to enjoy it thoroughly. It's Valentine's Day, after all, and it's okay to celebrate with a sweet treat. Just remember to enjoy in moderation! Valentine Candy resized