Opinion Matters

With Gazette Opinion Editor Greg Peck

The plague of sugar in your diet

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Greg Peck
Thursday, May 1, 2014

The older I get, the more I think about proper nutrition. I'll admit, I don't always follow through on what's good for me. Bad habits are hard to break. But knowledge can be beneficial.

Take processed foods and Americans' habit of consuming too much sugar. What's that you say? You seldom dip into the sugar bowl? Well, I can't remember the last time I used one. But how many processed foods do you eat? Many or most contain sugar, high-fructose corn syrup or agave.

I learned much more about this by reading a story by Kristine M. Kierzek in the Cue section of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel last week. Kierzek interviewed Sarah Wilson, a journalist and host of “MasterChef Australia.” Wilson, 40, once became homebound because of an autoimmune problem called Hashimoto's disease. It's basically triggered by sugar.

Autoimmune problems are all about inflammation, and sugar is all inflammation, Wilson told Kierzek. That suggestion made me wonder how much of my back problems are due to little more than inflammation. When I think back to the thousands of bowls full of Frosted Flakes, Sugar Smacks and Apple Jacks I gleefully gobbled as a child—sometimes several bowls in a single sitting—it makes me shudder.

“There have been a number of studies around the world to show that sugar is more insidious than cocaine or heroin,” Wilson told Kierzek. “That always startles people.” As an example, she points out how hard it is to resist that tub of ice cream in your freezer. Manufacturers play on these cravings by putting sugar and corn syrup in processed foods.

Wilson overcame Hashimoto's disease by cutting most sugars from her diet. She poured everything she learned into the book “I Quit Sugar: Your Complete 8-Week Detox Program and Cookbook” ($25, Clarkson Potter).

Did you know that store-bought ketchup contains more sugar than chocolate sauce? Mayonnaise also is made of unhealthy, cheap oils, and Wilson says homemade mayo is easy to make and nutritious. Wilson still indulges in dark chocolate and berries, but she often turns to coconut oil for cooking to make chocolate and as her secret weapon to ward off sugar cravings.

Many healthy food products contain no sugar but do have agave, which Wilson says is the worst sugar alternative you can eat.

If Wilson could encourage people to give up one product that's too high in sugar, she suggests fruit juice. Apple juice, she told Kierzek, whether freshly squeezed or organic, contains the same amount of sugar as a can of cola. Fruit juice, she says, might be “natural” but is basically sugar.

The story caused me to check a can of Coke in our house. It said it contained 39 grams of sugar per 12-ounce serving. Then I grabbed the half-gallon of juice in our refrigerator—the plastic tub that says in bold letters, “100 percent” juice. The label also says no sugar or high-fructose corn syrup were added. Still, an 8-ounce serving contains 36 grams of sugar. That means, ounce-for-ounce, the juice had more sugar than the soda! My grocery bill seems to go nowhere but up. I know one way to cut those costs. No more juices for breakfast.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

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