21 Jul 2012

The Sugar Blues

21 Jul 2012

This week we had another lunch session with clean living coach Coco O’Donnell. We discussed sugar. How bad is it, really?

When I was a teenager I had severe acne, and only started having fewer breakouts around age 20. Although my breakouts weren’t as severe, I still had a lot of dark spots from the acne I had as a teenager. A few years ago I went to a dermatologist to see about lightening the dark spots. The doctor told me that before addressing the scars we needed to first treat my acne to avoid future breakouts. I was not happy, and I remember leaving his office feeling like I wasted my time. I did not care about the acne, I just wanted to get rid of the scars. I’d accepted my condition a long time ago. I thought that and no matter how old I got or what products I used, I would always have zits. Needless to say I did not fill the prescription for the topical ointment he prescribed. I’d had enough Clearasil and Neutrogena products for one lifetime.

Recently I started noticing a change in my appearance. Not only have I have lost over 20 pounds in the last few months from changing the way I eat, but my skin has also started clearing up. I still have the dark spots, but I breakout much less frequently, if at all. Once again I realized the value of closely monitoring the things I eat. I cut out my three cookie afternoon snack, increased my water intake, and started having fruit, yogurt, and honey for dessert at night. I mentioned this to Coco in the meeting and she was not surprised. She said that high levels of sugar can be toxic therefore causing me to continually breakout. She recommends using unprocessed natural sweeteners like maple syrup, molasses, green stevia leaves, and raw honey.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the average American consumes 156 pounds of added sugar per year. Sugar is so ubiquitous in our diets that most of us have no idea how much we’re consuming.  The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) puts the amount at 27.5 teaspoons of sugar a day per capita, which translates to 440 calories, nearly one quarter of a typical 2000 calorie a day diet.

Sugar is at the center of many current studies. Over-consumption has been linked to heart disease, increased cholesterol, poor memory formation, learning disorders, and depression. These linkages point to a problem that is only beginning to be better understood. A key word in all the sugar related studies is “added.” While a healthy diet would contain a significant amount of naturally occurring sugar (in fruits and grains, for example), the problem is that we’re chronically consuming much more added sugar in processed foods.  Research has also shown that chronic consumption of added sugar dulls the brain’s mechanism for telling you to stop eating. So we’re in a vicious cycle. But no matter what state we’re in right now it’s never too late to change. Finding the cause of the problem is the first step to understanding how to remedy the situation. Coco provided us with a short list of solutions that can help wean us off sugar:

– Drink more water and fewer sugary drinks

– Eat foods sweetened with natural sweeteners

– Avoid fructose sweeteners like the plague

– Always balance fats, proteins, and carbs


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