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Where Sugar Hides and How To Eat Less

Americans consume an average of about 22 teaspoons a day of added sugar, according to the National Cancer Institute. That type doesn’t occur naturally—the way fructose does in fruit—and its calories might lack extra nutrients. A sensible daily limit of added sugar is more like 6 teaspoons for women and 9 for men, the American Heart Association says.

Sugar can plead not guilty to some accusations. Many studies have debunked the idea that it causes hyperactivity in kids, for example. But it does nourish the bacteria that cause cavities, and the AHA says that added sugar is associated with increased risks of high blood pressure and high triglyceride levels. A study published last year in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention suggested that drinking an average of five sugar-laden soft drinks a week increased the risk of pancreatic cancer.* And it’s probably not coincidental that the nation’s obesity epidemic has progressed in step with increased sugar consumption.

The foods above, bought recently near our headquarters, are just a few in which sugar can hide. The cubes represent all sugar, added and natural, because labels don’t list those separately. Our symbolic cube equals 1 teaspoon. The amount in real cubes might be less.

What you can do

Study nutrition facts and ingredients. Other names that signal sugar include dextrose, fruit-juice concentrate, glucose, malt syrup, maltose, molasses, sucrose, beet sugar, high-fructose corn syrup (the Corn Refiners Association has asked the Food and Drug Administration to change that to corn sugar), and evaporated cane juice. Other steps:

  • Try alternatives. Artificially sweetened foods are one option, but there are others. Mott’s No Sugar Added applesauce has the equivalent of about 3 teaspoons less sugar per serving than the version pictured; Rao’s Homemade Tomato Basil Marinara Sauce has almost 2 teaspoons less than the Newman’s Own. Some lower-sugar options are surprising. A chocolate-glazed Dunkin’ Donut has about half the sugar of a small Dunkin’ Donuts Mocha Swirl Latte.
  • Add less sugar to foods such as cereal and substitute cinnamon.
  • Choose treats that contain some nutrients. Opt for fruit, say, or low-fat chocolate milk.
  • Replace candy with dry-roasted nuts or baked tortilla chips.
  • Watch what you drink. Sodas are the leading source of added sugar in the American diet, but many bottled teas and juice drinks are also loaded with sugar. Spike water with strong tea or fruit juice. Make smoothies from fresh or frozen fruit, plain nonfat yogurt, and ice.

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Akilah M. El, N.D. is a Naturopathic Doctor and board-certified Master Herbalist with a private practice in Atlanta Georgia and Berlin Germany. Join Dr Akilah El on Facebook and Twitter 

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The New “All Natural” Packaged Food

By Kristen M

Packaged, so-called “all-natural” foods. They’re coming at you — fast and strong. As this recent article in the Chicago Tribune points out, all the big players in processed food manufacturing are jumping on the bandwagon of “all-natural” and “healthy” foods:

The companies that introduced products such as Doritos, Miracle Whip, Butterfinger and the venti caramel Frappuccino now maintain that the future lies in the health and wellness category. A wave of products expected to hit grocery stores in the next year will raise the ante for shoppers’ attention and compete for their trust. What constitutes “healthy” will ultimately be decided by consumers at the cash register.

Apparently the big wigs are starting to notice that health-conscious consumers are chipping away at their market share. So, they’re making changes. They’re making processed foods “healthier” in the hopes of appealing to this growing segment of the population with the allure of products that “align with organic principles” without actually carrying the heavy price tag of organics.

While I’m glad that the average American is starting to demand healthier food options, I’m actually laughing at the food industry’s response (in a sad, “I-pity-you” sort of way):

In a recent interview, Nestle CEO Paul Bulcke expressed concern about the demonization of food in America.

“We are thinking increasingly in wrong dimensions where we see food as bad, and in French they have an expression, ‘le poison c’est la dose,’ and you would say, ‘the poison is the quantity,’” he said, simultaneously acknowledging that Nestle has “a role to play” in responsible eating.

And while the formula for profitable health food has yet to be discovered, Bulcke maintains that it can be done. Basically, he said, the process is about making “food pleasurable with more goodies and less baddies.” And if that can be accomplished, he said, healthy eating will also be a profitable business. (source)

Of course, as businessmen, it’s all about profit — about discovering the formula for profitable health food. It’s about figuring out a way for the packaged food industry to cash in on this growing trend towards more natural foods.

NEWSFLASH, Mr. Bulcke: IT’S NOT POSSIBLE. By definition, a packaged food that is cheap enough to be manufactured in bulk, durable enough to be shipped across the country or around the world, and stable enough to last for weeks, months, or even years on shelves IS NOT “NATURAL.”

Real Food decomposes. As Michael Pollan has pointed out on numerous occassions, there’s a reason why the Twinkie on his shelf is still as fluffy and soft today as it was more than 2 years ago when he first pulled it out of its packaging. It’s not food! If the bacteria and other microbial life on this planet won’t eat it, neither should we.

Mr. Bulcke says people like me “see food as bad.” Nope. People like me see FAKE FOOD as bad — the kind he manufactures and sells.

Ultimately the Chicago Tribune article points out that the definition of “healthy” is up for grabs. Is it reducing salt? Lowering fat? Reducing ingredients? Avoiding artificial-ingredients so we can slap an “all-natural” label on something?

And therein lies the flaw behind all packaged and processed food production — this belief that with a judicious application of food science, we can actually manufacture fake foods to make them healthier than the real thing.

While I’m ecstatic that the movement towards Real Food has gone mainstream enough to warrant an industry response like this, I’m also saddened that the big food manufacturers don’t really have any hope of getting the underlying message. We want Real Food! Not edible food-like substances created in laboratories instead of kitchens.

So, what will your response be to the billions of dollars worth of “all-natural” and “healthy” packaged foods being introduced by PepsiCo, Kraft, Starbucks, and Nestle be this coming year? Will you be thankful that you can finally get a “healthier” version of your favorite junk foods? Will you avoid the packaged foods like the plague?