The Health and Wellness Community’s Sugar Addiction

national geographic sugar love

Yesterday I finally got the chance to read National Geographic’ “Sugar Love” article (ironically while on break at my job at a chocolate shop). I am so glad I finally did! It was a great article. I highly recommend you all read it. Click here to read it on their website.

It touched on some really interesting topics. It talked about the dangers of eating too much sugar, the history of sugar’s popularization, and, what I found most interesting, an explanation of how the love for sugar evolved in humans.

After reading the article, I began to browse around instagram and noticed a trend that disturbed me a little bit. So many of the “fitstagramers” and users that promote themselves as heath and fitness gurus (including myself) post many if not predominantly pictures of fruit smoothies, vegan-paleo-gluten-free cookies, large quantities of fruit, homemade granola bars and other foods that may have many important nutrients, but are also high in sugar.

I think it is possible that some of these people who try so hard not to eat the “standard american diet” are just as addicted to sugar as the standard American.

As more knowledge is gained about the dangers of cane sugar and HFCS (high fructose corn syrup), a lot of people are being tricked into thinking that they are eating a healthier diet than they are because the cookies they eat every day are sweetened with honey and date sugar…. which must be healthier, right? Honestly, I don’t think this is true. sugar is sugar, no matter where it comes from. Even if some sources also come with some vitamins and minerals, any sugar eaten in excess, whether from candy or fruit, is going to be bad for you.

Now, I am not saying that these health and fitness enthusiasts on instagram are ONLY eating these high sugar foods. It might very well be that they eat these foods on occasion, and just happen to not post pictures of other food on the internet. However, I think because we are human, and humans like sugar, it can be very easy for us to convince ourselves that “alternative” sweeteners to can sugar are better for our health, when they really aren’t.

As unfortunate as it may sound, even the vegan-paleo-gluten-free desserts should be saved for just that: dessert.  Just because the sugar is organic, doesn’t mean it is good for you.  And eating all fruit, all the time is probably not the healthiest way to eat.

As a community that is dedicated to living healthy lives, we need to stop fooling ourselves. We need to stop our futile search to try to find “healthy” sugars so that we can continue to eat the way we are used to. In order to truly live the healthiest lives possible, we need to simply get used to eating diets that are a little bit less sweet.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you think that cutting out HFCS and can sugar is enough to adequately improve one’s diet, or do more steps need to be taken to reduce intake of all sugars?

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7 thoughts on “The Health and Wellness Community’s Sugar Addiction

  1. I haven’t read the NatGeo article, but I’m surprised no one has written something like this before… at least that I’ve seen. I think most people just don’t understand the difference between healthiER and healthy. Having apple slices with a Happy Meal is better than having the French fries, but it still isn’t a kale salad. (Heck, even most salads are slathered in either super high-fat or super high-sugar dressings.) This applies to granola and all that stuff, even my weakness, Morningstar Farms products… yeah, gluten-based chicken nuggets are better than chicken-based chicken nuggets; but I really should be going for something closer to nature either way.

    The sugar thing specifically, I don’t understand. It’s like a socially-acceptable addiction in the fitness community. People don’t blink an eye when you share a recipe full of honey, agave, or something like Splenda even — but they think it’s crazy to use a teaspoon of cane sugar in a cup of tea. All the supplements out there are super sweet, and I’ve even seen health clubs do competitions where the reward is a cupcake party. People drink this calorie-free sweetened water…. I don’t get it.

    Sorry to ramble on your post, but I am glad I’m not the only one observing this. To answer your specific questions… I think most people would benefit from cutting HFCS just because that would necessitate cutting a lot of processed food that’s full of trans fat and other junk too. If we all went a step further and cut down all sugars, I think that would be beneficial too — but as a runner, I’ll never subscribe to the idea of going carb-free.

    • Thanks for the thoughtful comment! And don’t be sorry about rambling, I love it when people add to the discussion. I love the way you put it: “socially acceptable addiction.” It is so true. No one, even those who give health and fitness advice, want to admit that their “healthy” sweeteners are still bad even if they are arguable less bad than refined cane sugar.

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  3. I have to say that I completely agree with you on this and yet am entirely guilty of adding too much ‘natural’ sugars. Something that has always intrigued me is that while sugar itself is definitely worse for you, is it not a natural ingredient? After all does it not come from a natural source?
    I think I realized how much natural sugar I had added to my diet after becoming paleo doing a whole 30…yet it’s a difficult addiction to shake!

  4. I won’t get into the technicalities but fructose (fruit sugar) is even more fattening than sucrose or glucose etc. Why? Because it is a monosaccharide for one thing and that is as SIMPLE a carb as it gets… Sucrose is at least a little bit more complex a carb in that it disaccharide made up on glucose and fructose units.

    But the real reason? Phosphofructokinase 1, an extremely important enzyme in the glycolytic biochemical pathway. Fructose completely bypasses this enzyme and as a result goes to your hips MUCH quicker than regular sugars. Lab rats fed equal amounts of different sugars ALWAYS plump up much more and much quicker on fructose. Every since the evil of HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP was popularized obesity has skyrocketed as it’s found EVERYWHERE!

    I HATE to see labels say NATURALLY SWEETENED WITH FRUIT SUGAR! WON’T SPIKE YOUR BLOOD GLUCOSE! SAFE FOR DIABETICS! I hate it. It’s also naturally high in calories, naturally fattening. And while it won’t spike blood glucose and strain the pancreas…the weight gain increases insulin desensitivity and makes diabetic control worse. I’ve seen it time and again in clinic, diabetics are lulled into a false sense of security and basically overindulge in fruit sweetened this and that.

    Good article!

  5. PS – I never saw much sense in this Paleo diet. Sure some foods are healthy for you but the Paleo diet lacks many many many foods PROVEN to have major health benefits. Why does it make little sense? Because no matter what it looks like…food is composed of the same units. Macro-nutrient: proteins, carbohydrates, saturated fats, mono-saturated fats, polyunsaturated fats and cholesterol…. and the Micro Nutrients: Vitamins and Minerals. Therefore, one need only eat foods that do not provide too much or too little of these nutrients. That simple.

    Most of these diets are ridiculous made by ‘doctors’ who just want fame and fortune without any sound science behind it. I pity the fools who don’t know any better…

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