We just made it out of Divali (buss up shot, barfi and kurma galore!) and now, Halloween is almost here. Since the holiday is synonymous with candy, the spookiest day of the year can actually turn out to be the most sugary of all, too. Sure, there are certainly tricks behind the treats, but there are ways to better manage your relationship with sugar.
According to nutritionfacts.org, today, by the time the average child in a developed country turns 8 years old, they have had more sugar in their lives than the average person did in their entire lifetime just one century ago! Excess sugar consumption has been linked to inflammation, the development and progression of autoimmune diseases and behavioural disorders. And with the onset of childhood obesity, arterial plaque and fatty streak build ups in kids’ arteries starting as early as at the age of 10, it seems important that we learn and implement strategies for balancing our sugar intake.
Making a change is easier said than done, though—especially considering the fact that the research shows that sugar is more addictive than cocaine.
Sugar is a sneaky ingredient, hiding in many products that we consume on a daily basis. If you don’t know how to read a nutrition label correctly or identify added sugars, you’re almost always sure to surpass your daily allowance. Our brains and bodies need glucose for basic physiological function, but it’s the overconsumption of sugar that’s damaging.
How much added sugar is just enough?
For males, 36 grams or 9 teaspoons.
For females, 24 grams or 6 teaspoons.
For children, 16 grams or 4 teaspoons.
It is not imperative that we eat exactly this amount of sugar every day, these numbers are just a representation of what we should aim for.
Sugar is digested in the small intestine and is then taken to the liver to be converted into glucose. It can either provide immediate energy or be stored as glycogen in muscles or in your liver until storage space reaches its capacity. Any excess will turn into fat molecules and be deposited for storage in our cells—that’s why our hips grow wider and our stomachs get larger. Other times, when we can’t see the excess fatty acid accumulation, it only develops internally around our liver and organs.
Good news, though: We have solutions and substitutions!
It’s true that all natural sweeteners will eventually be converted to the simplest form of sugar, but agave, honey and brown sugar are great alternatives. Choose which is best for you by paying attention to your mood and noticing strong immune functions.
Avoid anything that contains corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, refined white sugar and artificial sweeteners that are loaded with chemicals like aspartame, sucralose, saccharin, acesulfame. Studies show that these are linked to heart disease, diabetes, cancer cell growth and depression since sugars have the ability to warp our DNA on both a cellular and microbial level.
For every 10 gummy worms you eat, you’re consuming 44 grams of sugar—that’s 11 packets!
The solution that worked for me—a former sugar addict—was to become a master at reading labels. With that skill, you can look for the sugar content and weigh out your options based on your daily intake allowance. Set a “sugar budget” for yourself and try not to exceed it. If I consume too much sugar one day, I’ll make sure my intake the day after is very low or completely sugar-free.
Local chocolates with natural ingredients, organic popcorn and homemade treats made with unrefined sweeteners ensure that you are getting more nutrients for your sugar intake.
In general, we need to shift our perception on sugar. Instead of considering it a staple ingredient in our everyday diets, perhaps, we should look back at ancient times when sugar was just a treat, consumed in small doses every now and then.
No good will come from overindulging in candy and falling victim to your sweet tooth—unless you enjoy having regular sugar imbalances and visiting the dentist and doctor monthly.
7 Sources of Sneaky Sugar in Your Diet
The average consumer will almost always say, “But I don’t add sugars to anything—so where are they hiding?” Well, it’s not only in soft drinks, candies and desserts, but also in other store-bought items that you’d never expect since they’re marketed as “healthy”.
- Canned soups
~23 grams per cup (But it’s not even sweet!)
- Pasta sauce
~2 teaspoons per meal
- Fruit Juices
~23 grams per cup (Don’t be fooled by “fruit”!)
~23 grams per container (Be weary of the flavoured kinds with fruit fillings!)
- Condiments like BBQ sauce and ketchup
~1 teaspoon per tablespoon
- Gummy worms
~ 44g grams every 10 worms (That’s 11 packets of sugar!)
- Energy drinks
~ 83g grams per can (Even worse—that’s 22 sugar packets of sugar!!!)
Nutritionist (BSc) & Qualified Personal Trainer
CEO & Founder Green Balance TT
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Edits done by Leah Desouza and Teresa Sabga