What exactly does it mean to be healthy? For many of us, “good health” is just a vague notion — until something goes wrong and we’re forced to take a closer look.
In this series of biweekly columns we’ll discuss what factors — other than genetics — contribute to our mental and physical well being, including fitness, nutrition and even how we think about our lives. The goal is for all of us to start taking control of our own health!
When was the last time you felt great? Maybe it’s right now. But maybe you’ve been feeling sluggish and run down and you can’t quite figure out why.
What if I told you there was one thing you could eliminate or cut way back on that would help you lose weight and feel better, and even help stave off sickness and disease? Would you give it a try?
Can you guess what I’m referring to? Here are a few hints:
- This ingredient is hidden in many foods.
- It goes by at least 20 different names.
- It affects our weight, moods, appetite, complexion and energy levels.
- It’s been linked to obesity, diabetes, heart disease and increased risk of cancer.
What ingredient do all these items share?
Give yourself a pat on the back if you guessed sugar! That’s right, all of the above processed foods have added sugar to make them taste better to consumers and to reap big profits for the food manufacturers — who don’t give a darn about your health.
What’s so bad about sugar anyway, as long as we don’t eat too many calories? Well, there’s nothing wrong with having a sweet every now and then. The problem is that our bodies are just not meant to process the huge amount of sugar the average American now eats on a daily basis: 22.7 teaspoons a day! (The recommended daily amount is not more than 6 teaspoons for women, 9 for men.)
Have you seen the commercial for high fructose corn syrup where the guy is out walking in a cornfield? He explains that H.F.C.S. is really no different than any other sugar; to our body, he assures us, sugar is sugar. What the commercial fails to mention is that H.F.C.S. is in everything! It’s inexpensive and it’s potent… and some believe it’s downright toxic.
New evidence suggests that H.F.C.S. is actually metabolized by our liver, which makes it considerably more dangerous and harmful to our bodies…. and yes, makes us fat, lazy and unhealthy.
Sugar has absolutely no nutritional value: no protein, vitamins, minerals or fiber.
What’s worse is many of us are addicted to it. The empty calories give us an initial rush but just as quickly zap us of energy. Naturally we want that burst of energy again so our bodies crave more sugar… and this continues, creating an endless cycle of energy ups and downs, mood swings, loss of energy and overall fatigue.
Studies linking excess sugar consumption to disease and sickness (21.1 million Americans diagnosed with type 2 diabetes) should scare us enough to at least cut way back. But lots of people still smoke cigarettes even though we’ve all known for years how harmful they are!
If you’ve been struggling with your weight, giving up sugar is the perfect place to start. Begin reading the labels of every thing you put into your body. First check the grams of sugar, then the ingredient list. If sugar by any name is listed, put it back on the shelf!
Okay, so what do we replace sugar with? First of all, it’s best to wean yourself off gradually as there will be feelings of withdrawal. Think about (or better, make a list) of everything you normally eat that has added sugar. You might be surprised that many breads, granola bars, cereal and yogurts are loaded with the stuff!
Then make a plan on how you’re going to replace the sugary foods with whole foods that will lead you to better health:
The idea is to educate ourselves. Looking closely at what you’re eating is the first step to changing. Get rid of the sugar and notice how much better you feel and look. Click here for a weekly meal plan and ideas on what to eat for optimal health.
My next column will focus on fitness. If you have specific nutrition or exercise questions you’d like me to address, please send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.