Feature photo by gringer

The average American consumes 2-3 pounds of sugar each week adding up to an astounding 150 pounds of sugar per year. Before the turn of the century, Americans consumed approximately 5 pounds of sugar per year! So, how exactly did Americans start consuming such an alarming amount of sugar?

You can blame the mass production and marketing of white sugar and the addition of various types of sugar in pretty much every processed food you eat. It’s not surprising considering that highly refined sugars in the forms of sucrose (table sugar), dextrose (corn sugar), and high-fructose corn syrup are being processed into so many foods such as bread, breakfast cereal, soda, peanut butter, ketchup, spaghetti sauce and a plethora of extremely processed microwavable meals.

Myriad researchers have found that sugar depresses your immune system. What happens is that sugar raises your insulin level, which inhibits the release of growth hormones, which in turn depresses your immune system. If you want to avoid disease including diabetes (which we covered earlier this year in “The Latino Epidemic: Diabetes”), then you should avoid a heavy consumption of sugar, especially in its refined form. As with all things, moderation is key. It does not appear that a small amount of less refined sugar would be harmful.

The more natural alternatives to white table sugar are: evaporated cane juice, brown sugar, Sucanat, Turbinado and Demerara sugar. In liquid form, they consist of: 100% pure maple syrup, molasses, honey, agave syrup, brown rice syrup, barley malt and the darling of all natural alternatives, Stevia. These are considered natural sweeteners because they retain more of their nutrients as they are less processed.

As stated above, it’s best to consume small amounts as any amount of sugar depresses the immune system. Having said that, Stevia has been found to have zero effect on your blood sugar level and does not have a negative effect as white sugar does. In liquid form, it is 200-300 times sweeter than sugar so a very small amount goes a long way. If you want to be a purist, you could grow your own Stevia plant (labeled as Sweet Leaf at your local nursery) and use it in your coffee and tea.

Currently, there are also many artificial sweeteners available which are typically added to “diet” food and drinks as they are non-caloric. These include: Splenda, Sweet’N Low, Equal/Nutrasweet and Acesulfame-K. The best thing to do is avoid all artificial and chemical sweetener substitutes. They have NO food value, trick the body into thinking it is eating something sweet, and they have by-products of harmful toxic side effects.

Furthermore, these sweeteners were made in a laboratory by a chemist wearing a white lab coat and goggles. Do you really want to consume something made this way? And, that’s not the worst of it. Splenda (Sucralose) was discovered when chemists were making a new insecticide. This sweetener contains chlorine which is thought to be the most dangerous component of sucralose. Chlorine is considered a carcinogen and has been used in poisonous gas, disinfectants, pesticides, and plastics and also causes a build up of formaldehyde in the brain. Sweet-n-Low (Saccharin) is a coal tar derivitive. Enough said!

Equal/Nutrasweet (Aspartame) is very controversial. Researchers have even named the negative side effects associated with this sweetener “Aspartame Disease” which include dizziness, headaches, joint pain, blurred vision, tinnitus, nausea and even some forms of cancer. In short, the list goes on and on.

Acesulfame-K contains the carcinogen methylene chloride. Long-term exposure to methylene chloride can cause headaches, depression, nausea, liver effects, mental confusion, kidney effects, visual disturbances, and cancer in humans. This is frightening information and unfortunate that so many products contain these artificial sweeteners. I encourage you to read labels and if possible, completely avoid products containing artificial sweeteners.

This is a lot of information to ponder. Do not let it paralyze you but rather help and guide you toward living a more natural life. Obviously from the amount of sugar that is consumed on a daily basis by most Americans, we are addicted to it. So, take it one day at a time and try to fulfill your sweet tooth cravings by eating a piece of fruit and if that doesn’t work, indulge in something sweet. However, try to consider it as a luxury or indulgence that only happens occassionally and if possible, choose the goodie that has the most natural sweetener. Here’s to happy and healthy eating that nourishes your body and your soul!

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