Editor’s note: Congrats to our very own Laurie Beebe for being recognized by talk radio host Rush Limbaugh! This article by Laurie recently caught his attention, and he distributed a link to it in his daily email update.
When did sugar start getting such a bad rap? Unlike many herbs and supplements which are touted for being “safe and healthy because they are natural”, people forget that sugar comes from the sugar cane plant, or from sugar beets, and is a natural food itself. In a survey where people were asked “How many calories are in a teaspoon of sugar?” the answers went as high as 200 calories or more. How many calories does sugar really have? A mere 16 calories per teaspoon.
So how did it get a reputation for being fattening, causing diabetes, and contributing to the obesity epidemic? Well, many people do not use sugar–or many other foods for that matter–in moderation. In fact, a teaspoon of sugar on your morning cereal or grapefruit, another in your coffee, and a third in your iced tea at lunchtime will add up to less than 50 calories. How can that be a hazard to your health?
Now imagine you have a donut for breakfast–no, make it two. That can bring in over 300 calories. Most people think the high calorie content is due to the sugar because donuts taste sweet. But what makes donuts fattening is the fat: they’re fried. An ice cream sundae for an evening snack might contribute another 500 calories or so–but not all from sugar: There is fat in the ice cream and in the whipped cream along with the sugar, and fat provides more than double the calories of sugar, gram for gram. (To give you a perspective, a teaspoon of butter has 45 calories, compared to sugar’s 16).
Here are some examples of how people take in unreasonable amounts of sugar: A friend told me a story yesterday about a young lady who could not lose weight no matter how much she tried dieting and exercise; upon further questioning my friend found out the girl was drinking 12 cans of soda each day. When the overweight girl agreed to stop the sodas on a trial basis for 30 days, she lost 20 pounds! No one can say she was consuming soda in moderation when she gained her excess weight.
Another young lady came to see me because she was trying to lose weight, eating very reasonable meals: What, she wondered, could be behind the extra weight she couldn’t get off? The answer: She drinks sweetened drinks several times a day (soda, fruit punch, sweetened tea), and puts 12 to 15 packs of sugar in her brewed tea! By changing to unsweetened beverages (or artificially sweetened in moderation) she saves 600 calories a day, allowing her to easily lose one pound a week without dieting!
These are examples of people consuming sugar in amounts that contribute to obesity. Someone with diabetes would have trouble controlling their blood sugars if they were using the equivalent of 50-75 packets/teaspoons of sugar a day, like the young ladies in these stories were. Someone trying to lose weight to help control their blood pressure, cholesterol, or triglyceride level would have a difficult time doing so if they were consuming multiple servings (read: one teaspoon) of sugar at each meal and between meals.
Yes, sugar in large amounts, especially on a daily basis, may contribute to weight gain, high blood sugar levels in people who have diabetes, and high triglyceride levels in certain people. But sugar in moderation can be enjoyed by everyone.
Here are some guidelines for moderation:
1) Limit sweetened beverages to a total of one 8-12 ounce serving daily (this includes sodas, punches, sweetened teas, frozen drinks, canned coffee drinks, “power” drinks, “electrolyte replacement” drinks, and sweetened fruit drinks).
2) Limit added sugar in coffee or tea and on cereals or fruits to 1-2 teaspoons per meal.
3) Most recipes for baked goods call for more sugar than needed: If you like to bake at home, you can reduce the amount of sugar called for by about 1/4 to 1/3 without any detectable difference (use 1-1/2 cups instead of 2 cups).
4) Limit candy, donuts, candy bars, cakes, and pies to once a day (remember, they are supposed to be treats!).
Enjoy your sweet treats without overdoing it and you won’t have to worry whether sugar is bad for your health!
How many sugary drinks are you consuming every day? Try reducing your intake of sugar and sweets for 30 days and let me know about your results!
Image credit: Maria Kaloudi, SXC
Laurie Beebe is a registered dietitian with over 25 years of experience. She assists people from all walks of life in changing their diet for better health. Certified in Adult Weight Management, Laurie has transitioned into life coaching to better implement changes in people’s environments. No matter how much people know about what they ‘should’ be doing differently, they don’t alter their habits without making adjustments in their surroundings and their awareness. Coaching helps lead people to permanent changes by helping them set their own goals and design their own action plans. Please visit Laurie’s website for more free nutrition tips, a free monthly newsletter, or more information on coaching, at www.mycoachlaurie.com.