Did you know that the average Canadian consumes approximately 26 teaspoons (110 grams) of sugar a day and that 53 grams of that are added sugars)? That equates to 88 lbs of sugar consumed each year. Teenagers consume even more – around 138 lbs per year. A typical bag of sugar weighs about 4.4 lbs, which means that the average Canadian is consuming 20 bags of sugar every year. That’s a LOT of sugar.
The problem with consuming all these added sugars is that they supply us with energy in the form of calories – and very little else, leaving us at risk for multiple nutrient deficiencies. High sugar intake also causes our blood sugar levels to rise, which results in a spike of insulin to draw the sugar out of the blood and into our cells. Eventually, we can become insulin resistant, increasing our chances of diabetes and other metabolic disorders.
Plus, you know the saying, ‘what goes up must come down?’. Well when it comes to sugar, this rule could not be more true. The rise in blood sugar that comes after we eat high-sugar, processed foods will inevitably be followed by a crash, where blood sugar levels drop, which leads to a desire for more sugary foods in order to raise our blood sugar levels back up. Becoming dependant on sugar to raise your blood sugar levels quickly is never a good thing.
This vicious cycle has an incredibly negative effect on our mood, our energy levels, our cravings, our metabolism, our skin, our hormones, our immune system, our weight, and especially our belly fat. For a full list of the harmful effects of sugar backed by scientific research studies, check out this list. Scary, isn’t it? Now, you may already know that sugar is bad for you, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easy to give up your sugar habit and here’s why:
First, research shows that sugar and sweet rewards can be as addictive for people as addictive drugs like cocaine. Recent headlines in major newspapers have described sugar as “more addictive than tobacco, more dangerous than alcohol, and more fattening that fat.” This is not to say that we cannot resist it, but that our brains may be hard-wired to really, really, love sugar.
Second, food manufacturers use multiple forms of sugar– each with a different name – on food labels. What makes things more complicated is that there are over 50 different names for sugar, so you really need to be a bit of a sugar detective to be able to avoid sugar. To make things easier, I have created this awesome list that you can use as a reference guide for all the names that sugar can hide under.
Third, we may not even be aware that we are consuming sugar because it hides everywhere! According to the documentary ‘Fed Up’, of the 600,000 food items sold in U.S. grocery stores, 80% have added sugar and usually we’re not even aware it is there. What’s even scarier is that low fat products are generally the worst offenders because with the fat removed, food just doesn’t taste as good, so extra sugar needs to be added back in to make the food palatable. Here is a helpful list of Sneaky Sugar Saboteurs that you might not be aware of.
Finally, going cold turkey may lead to withdrawal symptoms (at least it does in rats) so you may feel like hell when you try to wean yourself off of sugar. Common symptoms in humans include headaches, anxiety, shakiness, and mood swings, so you may want to call a good buddy over to come help you detox and wipe off the sweat (or maybe I have just watched too many drug withdrawal scenes on TV). Luckily, they do seem to fade after a couple of days.
So how much sugar should we consume? Well, the new recommendations from the World Health Organization (WHO) are that at most 10% but ideally only 5% of our daily calorie intake should consist of added, or ‘free’ sugars. This equates to approximately five to six teaspoons (about 25g) for women and seven to eight teaspoons (about 35g) for men (keep in mind that 4 grams of sugar = approximately 1 teaspoon). Now, that may not seem that bad until you take a look at this chart, and then you may find yourself having a mild heart attack. Can you say…”Sh…..ugar!”
|Sugar (g) per serving
|Sugar (tsp) per serving
|Chobani Fruit Yogurt
|Strawberries (1 cup)
|Cadbury Crispy Crunch
|Haagen Dazs Ice Cream
|Nature Valley Granola Bars
|Tim Horton’s Hot Chocolate
|Starbucks Grande Latte
|Starbucks Grande Caramel Macchiato
|Quaker Flavoured Instant Oatmeal
|Dried Mango (1/3 cup)
|Chocolate Milk (1 cup)
|Chapman’s Maple Pecan Frozen Yogurt ( 1 cup)
|Monster Energy Drink
|Sunmaid Raisins (12-ounce pack)