September 20, 2016
Sugar Bribery Made Fat the Bad Guy!
Oh boy guys! Did you hear about the sugar scandal of the sixties!?
I almost couldn’t believe it when I first read this but it’s all over the news. According to some recently discovered documents, we now know that the sugar industry paid $50,000 to 3 Harvard Scientist (who accepted it, which is also a problem) in the 1960’s to deemphasize the link between sugar and heart disease and instead put all of the blame on fat and cholesterol!
Over 50 years later, this $50,000 bribe caused the entire American society to suffer from obesity due to misleading information? Our USDA dietary guidelines were guided by this info. This is the data that is responsible for shaping those food pyramids you learned about in elementary school.
Fats and oils are on top, with the USDA recommending us to “use sparingly” while it’s ok to eat more servings of bread, cereal, rice, and pasta (all processed stuff) than vegetables! That is INSANE!
So what happened?
During the mid sixties, studies were being published saying that high sugar diets were the cause for heart disease in America. When the Sugar Research Foundation (aka today’s Sugar Association) caught wind of that, they were not happy – as it would lead to lower sales on their sugar-filled products. So what did they do? They paid 3 Harvard scientists the equivalent of today’s $50k to write a 2 part scientific review in The New England Journal of Medicine in 1967 saying that fat and cholesterol caused heart disease, not sugar.
And guess what?
That’s how the low fat diet trend started!
And it’s only NOW that people are beginning to be less scared of fat. I grew up my entire life having low fat everything because that is what “being healthy” meant to my mom and dad. That’s what the documentaries, news segments, books, and interviews all said. But no one could have known better. We were fed the wrong information because some shady people decided to be selfish and greedy.
The crazy thing is…one of the scientists later became the head of nutrition at the USDA!
So what do we do now?
I suggest what I’ve always suggested: eat more veggies, drink more water, and cut down on processed foods. As far as what’s better – carbs, protein, fat? It’s starting to look like completely cutting out one category will not work for the long run. So find your own balance, and don’t be scared of any category – including fat. Healthy fats from salmon, nuts, avocado etc. are good for you! Just don’t overeat.
Now, I think it is very important to understand sugar. Why is it so bad for you? And are all sugars equal?
A lot of people ask about the sugar in fruit versus other kinds of sugar, from the white table variety, to maple syrup and honey. It’s a valid question. In truth, a regular soda and two slices of watermelon have nearly the same amount of total sugar; about 40 grams. But a sugar is not always a sugar, just like a calorie is not just a calorie. Quality matters, a lot. Conceivably, one could lose weight eating 1,200 calories per day of Cheetos. And people have done so, just to prove a point. But at what cost? The inches might come off, but the risk of cancer, heart disease, slowed metabolism, muscle loss, diabetes, high cholesterol, inflammation, ADD, fatigue and sleep disruption could be the side effects.
So when we discuss sugar, we need to think along the same lines. The sugar in veggies, milk products and fruit in grams might equal those in a piece of cake, but the difference is, the former can protect you against cancer, fight free radicals, fill you with fiber, help build muscle, fight inflammation, clear up your skin, satiate you and lower your blood sugar. The latter is straight sugar with no dietary benefits and a long list of huge drawbacks. So what do you think? Are the sugar grams in M&M’s the same as the sugar grams in an orange?
Yes, there are instances where overall sugar needs to be monitored, and where a low-carb lifestyle is needed. Diabetics, those with insulin resistance, people looking to go ketogenic, and even someone looking to lose weight, might need to reduce even natural sugars. But most people eating a well-balanced diet (and yes- this means as many, or more, veggies than fruits) can eat some fruit daily without worry. If you’re out of balance, relying on multiple pieces of fruit per day and not eating veggies, it’s time to get in some greens with those sweeter fruits.
My rule of thumb is: can I have a green veggie now instead of fruit? If I’m at home and wanting to crunch on something with my almond butter, then the answer is probably yes, I can have celery. Other times, the swap isn’t possible, and in those instances, I eat that fruit without guilt or worry! If I’m running out the door, an apple works better than cauliflower, ya know!?
My goal is to diversify. The nutritional power of vegetables is unparalleled, and the trap for most people is, there’s less sweet satisfaction, or more prep that’s involved with them, so they neglect veggies completely and eat fruit with wild abandon. So just to reiterate: the sugar from fruit is not bad! Fruit has incredible benefits and healing properties, but just like everything in life, you need to strike a balance.
So why have some people freaked out and demonized ALL sugar??
Let’s face it; our country is suffering from obesity like never before. Even though we know better, we simply are not DOING better. Portions at restaurants are outrageously large, sugary foods are inexpensive (and addictive) and the cancer-sugar connection is a scientific fact. It’s no wonder sugar has a bad rap. It should! However, narrowly judging foods by only 1-2 criteria doesn’t tell the whole story. If our criteria is: “I can eat anything with less than 10 grams of sugar” we think “it must be ‘good’ for me, so I’m going to eat it and not think twice about it.” Logic like that cuts out entire food groups (like some veggies, fruit, grains and dairy), all of which contain some fabulous health benefits for longevity and beauty!
Using that logic, grapes can be compared to a can of soda. Two cups of grapes contain as many sugar grams as the soda. But the comparison doesn’t tell the whole story: the beautiful tale of a cute little jewel of a fruit that contains fiber, resveratrol, flavonols, carotenoids, vitamin C and anti-inflammatory properties (among dozens of others), as compared to the straight sugar and chemicals in soda! According to the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, strawberries actually help with glucose metabolism, lower lipid levels post-meal and help decrease plaque in the arteries. There’s no way sugar can claim that!
Added sugars ARE a problem, and they’re hidden in foods like ketchup, BBQ sauce, cereal, flavored yogurt, and beverages. 80% of food items in American grocery stores contain added sugar, so check your labels! Be cautious of concentrated natural sugars found in juices and dried fruits too. While they do contain some vitamins, they’re nowhere near as healthy as fresh fruit. 5-6 dates contain 32 grams of sugar. Yes, it’s natural sugar, but you’re missing out on fresh fruit’s long list of benefits. The same goes for juice, syrup and honey. The lack of fiber allows the sugar rush into your system faster, so even though it’s natural, you don’t benefit the same way. A little is ok from time to time, but just be mindful!
And let’s get REEAAL up in here for a minute and use common sense. People have been eating fruit for millions of years without any issues. We have adapted to taking in small amounts of fructose found in nature. What we haven’t adapted to is the onslaught of added sugar in nearly everything that’s man-made. Nature gave us sugar to enjoy in the form of carrots, sweet potatoes, blueberries and melon, so don’t turn your back on Mother Nature. Simply choose her over processed foods.
If you’re still interested in cutting your added sugar intake, ask yourself these questions:
- Is the sugar in this food mostly added sugar or natural sugar (from fruit, vegetables, dairy)?
- Are there sneaky sugars in this food under a different name (corn syrup, fructose, sucrose, sorghum, glucose, etc)?
- Is this food choice providing empty calories, or are there some nutritional benefits?
- Is this food choice bringing me closer to my goals or further away?
- Is there a vegetable I could be grabbing instead?
- Is the rest of my diet sensible today?
- Am I over-consuming dried fruits or juices, and can I reduce this in favor of the real thing?
Let me know in the comments what your thoughts are on sugar and also…the sugar scandal! It’s wild!