Today I found yet another article on sugar dangers. Let’s blame the sugar! It is making us obese and causes chronic diseases. Blah, blah, blah. Really great article… for children. I grew up some time ago and articles of that sort no longer make me press the panic button. I know sugar is innocent.
I cannot deny the studies. Excessive consumption of sugar is the starting point for a litany of chronic diseases from heart to brain to immune system malfunction. Bathing the mouth in sugar increases the risk of T2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, hypertension, high cholesterol, fatty liver, inflammation, gout, as well as immune system dysfunction. 1 The studies are decisive. The consensus is clear: sugar is bad and should be avoided. It is true. I have not found a single study pointing to health benefits of the white substance.
Could I be health-illiterate?
As a health care practitioner I am extra-bombarded with studies on sugar vices. My email notifications swell with information on sucrose harm. Regardless of the source, whether Am J Clin Nurt or Crit Rev Clin Lab Sci, they all say the same: sugar is implicated in the epidemic of modern chronic diseases. Unless I keep my head in the sand I should know better: I should push the sugar away at least from my own table for good.
But I don’t.
Am I misinformed? Am I suicidal? Do I want to take advantage of free health care for chronically ill? Or did I go to the wrong medical school? What’s wrong with me?
Sugar has never been a health problem
I am going to point at the elephant in the room. Sugar has never been the problem. The problem has always been in our collective childishness. Some people don’t grow up. Let me reframe that. A vast majority of our society remains highly immature. Not surprisingly, our daily infantile decisions keep us collectively in a social, financial and health mess.
Chronic diseases are not random. They follow people who are uninformed, lack basic survival skills, and who score low on self-responsibility. These people are everywhere. They line up daily for fried rice or noodle lunches, buy boxed dinners every night, and entertain their friends with BBQ and beer on the weekends. These are the same people who line up the next day for blood pressure, blood sugar, and gout pills while remaining happily obese. These are your co-workers, your neighbors, FB friends, possibly your spouse, or maybe even you. No, it is not you. But just in case…
… here is a sour test for health maturity. Go over it. It can quickly tell if your ailments are linked to poor lifestyle decisions. Answer them honestly, with one word and avoid any explanations why. Your body does not care why. It only cares whether nutrients come in.
- Do you have the (false) impression that healthy must taste bland?
- Are your meals mostly home-made, store-made, or restaurant-made?
- Is your grocery bag full of processed stuff and colorful boxes or full of fresh produce?
- Do you live off fast food because it is yummy, convenient and cheap?
- Are you capable of saying “no” when offered something tasty but unhealthy?
- Do you buy food based on taste or on health value?
- Do you eat without knowing what the meal is made of?
- Do you believe that everything that’s edible is also nourishing?
- Do you ever read ingredient lists?
- Do you understand the ingredient lists?
- Do you add pop to your eat outs, take out or sit downs?
- Do you eat the same thing day in and day out? Are you addicted?
- Are you going through the grocery store like a zombie, buying the same things over and over again without a second thought?
- Are your dishes mostly made of rice, pasta or some other starchy staple, because you can’t live without them?
- Do you buy ready-made dinners, because there is a heart on the front label or some kind of health endorsement?
- Do you buy, because it says “no sugar added”, “no cholesterol”, or some other keyword on the box?
- Are you buying low fat, vegan, or low salt, because that’s the trend nowadays?
- Do you take a quick bite at the convenience store or a coffee shop, because everyone else does?
- Do you eat food at parties just because it is there, or because you know it is health-building?
- When your kid makes fuss in the store, do you put your kid’s choices in the grocery cart, just to end the screams?
- Do you explain to your kids why you have them eat certain things, or leave them to believe that your job is to satisfy their cravings?
- Would your kid drink a glass of milk if it is not a milkshake?
- Can you list ten different snacks that can be quickly made at home without using sugar or flour?
- Can you pick up ten different store-made snacks and find just one that has no sugar in it?
Do you know what’s in your meal?
The bottom line is, if you rely on prepared by someone else food and if you don’t care what’s in it, expect a load of sugar on a daily basis. Sugar is popular, because it tastes good and it is cheap thus can satisfy both the consumer and the producer. Statistically every single one of us eats about 160lb of sugar a year and most are completely unaware of it.
Unfortunately, trying to simplify things by chasing the word “sugar” out of the food labels won’t work. Clever manufacturers have a sneaky way of hiding the substance under many different names. Forget about keeping up. They will always stay ahead of you. The only way to get rid of excess sugar is to upgrade your cooking skills, improve time management, reorganize priorities and finally embrace real ingredients.
So here you go. Sugar is not the problem. Your sloppy self-care is. The good thing is, that once you upgrade your own self-care standard you can enjoy sugar in coffee and tea and at the same time stop sweating over sensational articles how sugar will kill you. It won’t! It does not sneak in at night and put a gun to your head while forcing itself into your mouth. The only killer in the room is you and your poor food choices. Wake up and take responsibility.
If you want a solid start here are non-nonsense guidelines. Stick to them and you will never have to worry about what misinformation media spreads. Oh, by the way… you should know a thing or two about cholesterol.