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Robin Gaudette

Happy Holidays!

While reading a Christmas letter my husband (the diabetic) was salivating over the mention of white chocolate cranberry brownies. Not to put a damper on holiday baking or enjoyment of sugary treats, I thought this a great time to discuss sugar.

Maybe it will help you be more resolute with your resolutions. No longer is sugar the “empty calorie” but a harmful calorie.

Carbohydrates are one of the macro-nutrients, along with protein and fat, that provide energy in the form of calories. The major source of nutrients for most people prior to the industrial revolution was carbohydrates found primarily in plants — fruits, vegetables and grains. Carbohydrates are molecules made up of building blocks called monosaccharides. Through digestion, the plants we eat are converted into monosaccharides, the body then converts these molecules into glucose.

Glucose is used by the muscle cells to produce energy. Glucose is stored in the muscles and liver in the form of glycogen. Sucrose is table sugar, extracted from beets and sugarcane. Fructose is 1.5 times sweeter than other sugars and is extracted from beets, sugarcane and corn.

With the addition of highly processed, readily available food, added carbohydrates have been “slipped” into things like cookies, soda, pre-made meals, ice cream and baking products.

The over-consumption of added sugar has posed significant health risks. High fructose corn syrup the predominant ingredient in added sweeteners in beverages and packaged foods has researcher’s attention.

Research concludes that high fructose corn syrup contributes to many adverse health effects like insulin resistance, high blood pressure and blood fats and intra-abdominal fat.

There are new concerns that sugar, primarily sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup, not only contribute to obesity and dental cavities but are now linked to risk factors for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, abnormal blood lipid levels and high blood pressure. Research has shown that people who consume 17-to-21% of their daily calories in added sugar have a 38% higher risk of cardiovascular disease than those who consume 8% of calories. Sugar-sweetened beverage consumption may be linked to 4-to-13% of type 2 diabetes diagnoses in the United States. High consumption of fructose has shown to correlate with higher concentrations of blood triglycerides and cholesterol.

The American Heart Association recommends adult women consume less than six teaspoons (25 grams) of added sugar daily and adult men less than nine teaspoons (38 grams). Consumption of added sugar has reached three-to-six times the recommended amounts!

Take an honest look at what you consume. Keep a food diary, focus on the information on the food labels of the processed foods consumed, looking for added sugars. Remember that manufacturers hide sugar in savory products too — sauces, salad dressings, bread and crackers.

Note where you fall in the AHA recommended daily consumption of added sugar. Begin making dietary modifications once you have analyzed your intake. Look to consume your sugar by digesting plant based foods and letting your body take it from there. Not only will you be consuming macro-nutrients but beneficial fiber, vitamins and phytonutrients.

Whole grains are a great way to start the day, choose minimally processed grains such as steel cut oats versus instant oatmeal. Choose a cold cereal that has at least 4 grams of fiber and less than eight grams of sugar per serving. When choosing bread, look for one that has whole grain as the first ingredient or is made with only whole grains. Ditch the bread and go for a salad made from veggies and whole grains such as quinoa. An orange has twice the fiber and half the sugar of a glass of orange juice. Better choices, better health!

Robin Gaudette is the aquatics wellness coordinator at the Redmond Area Park and Recreation District. Contact her at robin.gaudette@raprd.org.

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