Life without Sugar?

Most Americans know that they consume more sugar than is healthy, but a recent study reveals that the level of added sugar consumption is more than an issue – it’s an epidemic. It makes one consider – what would a life without added sugar feel like?

“Once upon a time, I was healthy; at least I thought I was.” So begins Eve O. Schaub’s story about how her family chose to go without added sugar for a year. In her story “Our Year of No Sugar: One Family’s Great Adventure,” Schaub recounts her family’s experience when they cut out added sugar from their family diet for one year. What came from the Schaub family’s food adventure was beyond what might be expected; they all had increased energy, only two sick days in the whole year, and most importantly a greater awareness of what “healthy” feels like.

The Schaub’s story is one of many who have found a more healthful lifestyle through removing added sugar from their diet. The scholarship behind the benefits of this choice has recently been expanded with the publication of a national study from JAMA Internal Medicine in February 2014. According to JAMA, the average American gets about 15% of their daily calories from added sugar.

What must be considered is that all sugar is not created equal. Added sugar is any sweetener which is not naturally a part of the food. This is the type of sugar which has been identified as most harmful to our wellbeing.

Some health issues, like Type II Diabetes, have long been associated with the consumption of added sugars, but the JAMA study reveals that these issues extend far beyond what is commonly known. The research has shown that an average American has a 30% increased risk of cardiovascular disease because of the added sugar in their diet.

Certain sources of added sugar many people already strive to avoid – such as grain and dairy desserts, fruit flavored drinks, sugar sweetened beverages, and candy. But what many don’t realize is that foods such as ready to eat cereals and yeast breads also have added sugar.

The increase in sugar intake is a recent phenomenon in America. For Americans living in the Civil War era, the average sugar consumption equaled less than five pounds a year. Today we have become a nation where the average American consumes about 130 pounds of sugar a year; that equals about two pounds of sugar a week.

Based on this trend, we should not be surprised with the health issues that face the average American today. Each day there are higher rates of diabetes and cancer diagnoses. The majority of Americans are overweight or obese. Add to that so many people experience overwhelming issues of anxiety and fatigue. All of these issues connect directly to the amount of sugar being consumed.  Your body was not designed to handle the long term intake of high energy fuel being consumed in the form of added sugar.

Perhaps the Schaub family’s decision to eliminate added sugar for one year seems radical to you.  But consider the advantages they experienced – reduced number of sick days, which means more days to do what you want to do;  increased energy, which means you have more enjoyment in what you are doing;  and decreased risks of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.   Do you think a radical action this year may be worth it?  The Schaub family is proof that there is life beyond sugar.

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