Got me lifted, driftin’ higher than the ceiling
Ooh, baby it’s the ultimate feeling
You got me lifted feeling so gifted
Sugar, how you get so fly?...
(Robin Schulz “Sugar”)
Last month I was invited to speak in local schools about healthy eating and healthy lifestyle. Even though most of the kids were somewhat aware that they should be limiting their sugar intake, it still struck me how much sugar the school kids are consuming daily.
Following the World Health Organisation’s recommendations, an adult should be consuming not more than 25 grams of sugar per day (that makes up about 6 teaspoons = which is not too bad!). For the kids the guidelines are a bit more difficult to set, depending of course on their age, physical activity and growth spurts that they might be having. Nevertheless, the adult limit is fixed to have an idea as well for the kids.
What overwhelmed me the most was the kids are already from an early age consuming a large amount of sugar, without really knowing it… The usual French kid eats for breakfast some sweetened cereals, drinks cold chocolate or a glass of juice, and spreads a toast with some jam or chocolate paste next to it. When calculating all the sugar from these small breakfast pleasures together, we arrive to an astonishing amount of 30-40 grams of sugar that the kids are consuming just for their breakfast! And indeed the day is not finished yet!
Kids as all humans love sweet things. Sugar is a simple carbohydrate that occurs naturally in foods such as grains, beans, vegetables and fruit. However, the “white” or refined sugar (sucrose) is extracted from either sugarcane or beets and “refining” means that all the vitamins, minerals and fiber have been removed. So our body must deplete its own store of minerals and enzymes to absorb sucrose properly. Therefore, instead of providing the body with nutrition, it creates deficiency…
A lot of common health issues can nowadays be tracked back to excessive sugar consumption:
- Sugar causes your glucose level to spike and plummet – you have probably experienced the “sugar high” – splurge of energy directly after consuming high sugar level food and then a bit later – mood swings, fatigue, headaches…
- Sugar increases the risk of obesity, diabetes and heart diseases because unfortunately excess sugar stores as fat in our bodies…
- Your immune function can be affected by sugar – sugar creates an inflammatory environment in your body as bacteria and yeast feed on sugar;
- Sugar accelerates aging – as sugar hits your bloodstream, it attaches to proteins. The mix of these proteins with sugar causes the skin to lose elasticity and leads to premature aging.
- Sugar causes tooth decay. Point.
In addition sugar does qualify as an additive substance for two reasons:
1. Eating even a small amount creates a desire for more.
2. Suddenly quitting causes withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, mood swings, cravings and fatigue.
There are studies from WHO about at top sugar loving nations in the world. First place goes undoubtedly to the US, where an average person consumes about 126 grams of sugar daily (that’s about 25 teaspoons!!!!)
Sadly, many European countries are almost starting to keep up with the states in these statistics. Second place in the world goes to Germany with 102,9 grams and third one to the Netherlands with 102,5 grams per day. And Belgium has a beautiful 6th place in the world with 93,2 grams per average person per day… (18,6 teaspoons!!!). France comes a bit later with its 66,7 grams which is way lower, however still more than double the WHO set maximum level.
It is really difficult to cut out sugar from our diets as nowadays 68% of all packaged foods contain so called “hidden” sugars. Would you expect to find some sugars in your chicken breast that you cook or frozen vegetables that you eat for dinner? Check the nutrition labels! Reducing sugar intake is especially important for kids – if they get all the sugar filled food today, do you really think they’ll eat differently when they are adults?