Is giving someone chocolate, cinnamon hearts and candy actually another way of saying “I love you?” Sadly for many the answer is yes and with Valentine’s Day this week an excuse to overindulge in sugar. I know it’s not very festive but, in a society that averages 22 teaspoons of sugar a day, I can’t help but think there must be a better way to say I love you.
I’m 100 per cent for using special holidays for special treats but, the unfortunate reality is it seems as though often we don’t need a reason to celebrate. Getting a nice box of chocolates for Valentine’s Day was a sweet gesture when we were not wildly exceeding the recommend daily sugar limit. Now the dangers of that treat are not so sweet.
Today sugar is added to food in excessively scary amounts especially in processed and prepackaged foods that are considered “low fat.” As a result, fat actually makes up a smaller amount of our diet then it did 20 or 30 years ago but as a society we are larger than ever.
When the fat is removed something needs to be added to improve the flavour and not the calories, this is usually sugar which comes in many different forms, including high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS).
Sucrose or table sugar is made up of glucose and fructose, but it is fructose that actually gives the sugar its sweetness. Through the magic of food processing some of the glucose found in a group of corn syrups is converted into fructose and the low price, super sweet HFCS is created.
Unfortunately however, although glucose can be metabolized by cells throughout our body, fructose is primarily processed in the liver and turned into fats called triglycerides. When we are eating sugar in excessive amounts the liver just can’t keep up. These fats accumulate which over time, causes the liver to become fatty and dysfunctional.
As a result sugar has been linked to obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, tooth decay. Some have gone as far to say that many of our modern day diseases can be traced back to our over consumption of sugar.
So how much sugar should we be consuming? 1 tsp is equal to 4.2 g of sugar, women should limit themselves to six teaspoons of sugar and men should have nine. To put this into perspective there is about 1.77 tsp of sugar in 3 tsp of ketchup, 6.16 tsp in an 8 oz container of low-fat fruit yogurt and 7.93 tsp in a 12 oz can of pop.
The reality is, a high amount of sugar is usually a good indication that the “food” is nutrient poor. Which is why reading the labels on the food we are buying is so important. If sugar is listed within the first three ingredients or HFCS is found anywhere on the label it’s best to just leave it on the shelf.
Cutting out sugar is not easy but at the very least we can all take steps to reduce the amount that we are consuming on a daily basis.
I often get asked “what can I do to improve my health” and my number one recommendation is always cut out the sugar. Often this this is followed by “well I don’t eat that much sugar” but that’s the thing about sugar, it really sneaks up on you. It’s hidden in so many foods and more often than not if the food you are eating comes from a package or a bag it has sugar in it.
So this Valentine’s Day skip the sweet treats and really say “I love you” with a homemade card and a healthy homemade meal with organic, fresh ingredients, filled with fibre, minerals, vitamins and antioxidants. Nothing says “I love you” than giving the gift of health.