Growing up in Central New York, I am surrounded by farm country. I pass more cows, corn fields and farms than cars on my morning commute. We like to think most of our food is grown by our local farmer who sells his product to the local supermarket. Unless you are shopping at the farmer’s market or have joined a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) your food is grown by GIANT corporations.
In general food is BIG business in this country and it is dominated by GIANTS. Like any other BIG business the food industry is a powerful lobby and flexes its muscle in order to wrangle BIGGER and BIGGER profit for themselves. I don’t have a problem with the industry making money yet when their profit is made at the expense of our health then we as a nation have a very large problem.
I have always had an interest in healthy eating and have been a vegetarian for the last 18 years. I eat fish on occasion and would likely have a melt down if I didn’t have half and half in my tea or cheese in my eggs. I don’t preach about my way of eating and recognize that there are a multitude of opinions on what constitutes healthy. I love a yummy dessert and like my snacks as much as the next kayaker but I am aware of what I eat and I do my best to choose options that maximize my health.
I have watched a bunch of food documentaries over the last few years on Netflix on a wide range of topics from how our food is grown to what gets added to it and how the food industry has evolved over the years. Two documentaries were specifically on the dangers of SUGAR and the sugar industry in general. When one documentary compared the tactics of the sugar industry to the tobacco industry, my radar was on high alert.
Being an educated Lake Girl who prides herself on eating a fairly healthy diet I immediately assumed that my sugar intake was significantly less than the average American diet. Although this is probably true I did a quick scan in my kitchen cabinets to see where this newly identified enemy was lurking.
I have found sugar lurking in every corner of my kitchen; from the pantry to the refrigerator to the freezer. I found it in my canned corn, my yogurt, my salad dressing. It was my spaghetti sauce, my bread and my sunflower seed butter. It was even in the can of 3 bean salad that has been sitting in the cabinet for at least 3 years. Can you believe it was in my beloved Sriracha Sauce. Hot sauce has sugar in it???
Growing up with Mother Fran it was common to have the amount of sugar cut in half for any recipe that was being followed. There was no sugary cereal in the house and rarely soda or sugary snacks. Mother Fran was ahead of her time!
Do you ever read food labels? You know the ones where the calories are listed along with daily percentages of saturated fat, unsaturated fat, carbohydrates, protein… that can be found in the product. Did you ever stop to wonder why it doesn’t tell you the daily percentage of SUGAR you are consuming? It states the grams but not the percentage. That is the food industry lobby hard at work to keep us in the dark. Sugar is disguised by so many different names you can get dizzy trying to identify it as you read the ingredients in your favorite foods. In order to keep sugar from being listed as the #1 ingredient several different sweeteners are used with names that you might not recognize.
There are the obvious ones such as table sugar, brown sugar, honey, maple syrup and white sugar. There are the science sounding types of sugar like maltose, dextrose, glucose, fructose, and anhydrous dextrose. How about the healthy sounding names for sugar like beet juice, agave, nectar, carob. Or scary sounding names such as sucanat and high fructose corn syrup. A quick google scan revealed a list of 60 different names for sugar!
My brain is buzzing from all of this sugar.
No matter what BIG business calls it, your body recognizes it and treats it the same way. It either burns it for energy or converts it to fat and stores it in fat cells. When we eat too much sugar our body releases more insulin to deal with it which causes our blood sugar to drop which causes us to crave more sugar. CRAZY right?
My generation grew up thinking the main danger of sugar was that it would give you cavities by promoting tooth decay. It is so much worse than we thought. Sugar is linked to obesity, diabetes, depression, behavioral problems and more.
Sugar is addictive, it stimulates the brain like cocaine and other drugs that produce cravings for MORE and MORE. Processed food is not prepared lovingly in the kitchen of the food company. It is engineered in a laboratory to be addictive; to find your “bliss point” to keep you coming back for more. According to a NY Times Article from 12/22/2014 “Sugar Season. It’s Everywhere, and Addictive”, the average American consumes ¼ pound to ½ pound of sugar a day. We are clearly not adding that ourselves by the teaspoon full into our coffee and tea! The same article states that 75% of packaged foods contain sugar.
Think about it… We are consuming up to ½ pound of sugar a day, it is addictive and linked to oh so many serious health related problems. The food industry is sneaking it into the vast majority of food they create in order to keep us coming back for more. Don’t let the food industry ruin your health in its pursuit of profit.
Sitting here in my Little Blue Kayak I encourage you to get educated! Check out the following documentaries on sugar. “That Sugar Film” and “Sugar Coated”. I found them both on Netflix.
Be warned food documentaries are always educational, often funny and sometimes scary. They will get you thinking about what you are putting into your body and things you can do to choose health instead of letting the food industry simply choose profit.