Close your eyes for a few quick moments and think about everything you ate yesterday. Don't forget the creamer in your morning coffee or that handful of snacks mid-day. What did you eat? Can you recall all of it?
If you can remember most everything you ingested, how much of what you ate consisted of something sugary? Let's answer that later.
The consumption of food and drink with an excess amount of sugar has been a national talking-point over the past few years. In 2013, New York City proposed the so-called "Soda Ban" intended to prohibit the sale of many sweetened drinks more than 16 ounces. In 2014, the New York Court of Appeals, the state's highest court, ruled that the New York City Board of Health, in adopting the regulation, exceeded the scope of its regulatory authority. Whatever political affiliation you may have and side of the argument you may be on, I think we can all agree that drinking an excess amount of sweetened drinks can lead to obesity, and in the United States, obesity is a problem in both our youth and our adults. A 2011 study from the New Harvard School of Public Health found that sugar-sweetened beverages are linked to more than 180,000 obesity-related deaths worldwide each year. And, a study from the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) details an increase in added sugars consumed by American adults by more than 30% over the past three decades. A correlation can be made that an increased amount of sugar consumption can lead to a greater risk of obesity, which can lead to adverse health effects such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension and even mental illness such as clinical depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders.
From an intellictual standpoint, we know the effects sugar has on our body. We've heard this drum beat for many years and will continue for many years to come. Pragmatically, we know a mass amount of sugar is not good for our well-being.
But what effect does sugar have on our brain? Would you believe me if I told you that sugar has an effect on your brain similar to illegal drugs?
When sugar hits your tongue, it sends a signal to the pleasure sensors of the brain which then releases dopamine, a well-known neurotransmitter that spikes when we do things that we enjoy. If we get too much dopamine, it can trigger addiction by causing our body to crave more. Fortunately, sugar doesn't produce dopamine spikes as violently as drugs, but it does have a unique effect. And it's one that explains why you can make an amazing meal on Sunday to eat for the rest of the week, and by Wednesday can't stand the sight of it, but can eat the same sugary snack day after day without getting bored.
Every problem has a solution, so what should be done? It's unrealistic to think that just by reading this blog, you all will go cold turkey and give up sweets completely. I won't. I like a hit of artificially-sweetened vanilla creamer in the morning and a few M&M's to close out my day. But steps can be made to decrease the amount of sugar we consume.
In fact, the MIS Chef is very conscious of what she puts into the food she feeds our kids:
"As a Culinary Arts and Baking and Pastry Chef I find that 'sweet things' are a crowd pleaser for all ages, but it's my job to provide delicious treats without the use of high fructose sugars. Natural sweeteners are not only delicious but provide unique and distinctive flavor profiles to various dishes. In my kitchen I utilize Natural sweeteners like honey, agave and fresh fruit. These alternatives can be added to oatmeal, yogurt, cakes, and even savory dishes. A great method to increase the natural sweetness in various fruit is by roasting them. Applying the Maillard method to caramelize the fruit increases the fruit's natural sweetness without having to add loads of additional sugar. Sugar, like most foods, is okay in moderation. While cooking for young, thriving minds the idea of balance is extremely important. If sugary breakfasts, desserts and snacks are a must have in your household try a alternative to syrup with your families pancakes like roasted peaches. The roasted peaches provide the sweetness your family craves but also provide antioxidants and natural sources of energy. Other sugar substitutes like adding apples and honey to oatmeal and fresh berries to yogurts or even to salads bring exciting versatility to meals, while also satisfying the body's craving for a little something sweet."
Is there a war on sugar? That's up to you to decide. Does an excess amount of sugar effect you and your kids? Yes. That's without debate.
Circling back to the question above, how much sugar did you consume yesterday? Was it excessive? Was it just right? These are questions you should consider for the overall health and wellness of you and your family.