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September 20 2016

A Brief Breakdown of Sugar

 Let me preface this article with an emphasis on the word ‘brief.’ The complexities of sugar, oil and salt on your body are both different depending on the individual, and beyond my minimal degree of professional knowledge. On that note, please do know that what I say is based on personal research and experience. I do not have a degree in any form of nutritional studies, merely a nerdy level of curiosity for health, diet and plant-based nutrition.




Sugar is one of the biggest — and smallest — additions to modern day foods. Honestly, finding packaged food in supermarkets that don’t contain at least some kind of sugar, somehow, somewhere, is a struggle.

Sugar-Variety-Main

But what’s the big deal? Why do we care if our morning cereal is loaded with sugar?

It’s nice to think that food is food, but, sadly, it’s not that simple, and for two main reasons:

First, we are more often than not completely misinformed about the true contents of foods and condiments sold in mainstream supermarkets, and secondly, because even if we do know exactly what’s in our food, we commonly aren’t totally informed as to what effect that food has on our bodies.

This is not the consumer’s fault, as each one of us has the right to know ingredients’ effects, but the reality is that many companies block this information from getting to you. They blindside you, and until you decide to do your own research, the truth will remain unknown.

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We don’t truly know and understand what we buy or who makes the products, and without that information, it’s almost impossible to know what we’re eating and what effect it’s having on our health. But even though we don’t know this information now, we can know it soon.

Thus, without any more rambling or deep and disastrous claims that may make you want to clear out your pantry of everything (pause — don’t do that), I’m going to give you the very basics on the very basic, right now.

– Every 4 grams of sugar in a product equals around 1 teaspoon. In a 12-ounce can of Coca-Cola, that means there are nearly 10 teaspoons of sugar.

– There are at least 61 different names given to sugar on food labels, including high-fructose corn syrup, dextrose, rice syrup, and maltose, which makes it nearly impossible to know for sure what you’re eating if you only ever look for the word ‘sugar.’ Pro tip: if you can’t pronounce an ingredient, you probably don’t know it and you shouldn’t eat it.

licensed via bigstockphoto.com

licensed via bigstockphoto.com

Nutrition labels on products will almost always give you the percentage of recommended daily values besides their specific product’s quantity. For example, a 50-gram packet of peanut M&M’s has 13 grams of fat — that’s 20 percent of the fat one should consume on a 2,000 calorie/day diet. Keep in mind, most packets of M&M’s that we eat are much larger than 50 grams. That same package has 250 calories, and then next to sugar, we see that this small packet contains 25 grams of sugar, which is approximately 6-7 teaspoons of sugar. Notice, however, that they don’t give you your percentage of daily recommended intake. No product lists that information because unless we are talking about natural sugars, our daily recommended intake of processed sugar is generally close to zero.

licensed via shutterstock.com

licensed via shutterstock.com

Sugar effects
– First and foremost, yes it can be argued that sugar can have positive benefits on consumers. Natural sugars, such as fruits and vegetables, are not to be feared because of their inherent fiber, which allows you to feel full and to monitor your consumption more closely. Sugar also provides energy to elite athletes or extremely tired people. I won’t deny that there are a few benefits to sugar, but I will argue wholeheartedly that there are far more negatives that outweigh any short-term energy hits you may crave.

– Added sugar contains no essential nutrients. There is absolutely nothing that your body naturally and biologically needs or craves. Cravings are created only through continuous consumption.

– In fact, research suggests that sugar is just as, if not more, addicting than cigarettes and cocaine. It is essentially a drug that is not treated like one, just as cigarettes were framed years ago.

– Overconsuming sugar can clog organs, over-saturating the levels of natural sugar we can biologically process. This can lead to many diseases in the long run, such as fatty liver disease.

– It can cause insulin resistance, which is a bad step toward diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

– Studies show that the effect of sugar on the brain is drastically different to other foods. For example, it releases dopamine in our brain, which allows the food to be associated with feelings of love and comfort (hence, comfort foods). This, in turn, makes these foods more addictive as we search for these intrinsic feelings and emotional plug-holes

– Scientists in the food industry know this, and use it to sell their products; I’m talking about the bliss point. This is essentially the happy medium — too little sugar doesn’t taste good, and too much sugar tastes awful, too. Thus, scientists found the perfect level of sugar that sits just right with the majority of their consumers. Now, they have you addicted, coming back for the next ‘hit.’

I could go on for days, and truthfully, I have within my own research.

Sugar is not something you want, need, nor should consume, and the more you inform yourself, the better.

To help those of you interested in researching further, here’s a few places to start:
That Sugar Film
The Secrets of Sugar
The Harmful Effects of Sugar

**Information sourced from a variety of sources and documentaries, primarily the article here by Authority Nutrition.

Annie Hickey

About Annie Hickey

Hello! My name is Annie, and I’m a Sophomore at USC in Los Angeles! I’m actually Australian, from Sydney, but my family live in Manhattan, New York, so I spend most of my time jumping from coast to coast over here in America! I’m a Creative Writing major at the moment, & I LOVE sports, travel, blogging and health – particularly running & clean, vegan food! (If you know any quirky vegan cafes in LA or NYC, let me know!!!). I love getting in touch with people, so feel free to reach out to me with questions, comments or anything at all! x

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