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Cursed by dieters everywhere, and loved by children around the world, sugar is one those substances we ‘love to hate’ and ‘hate to love’! It can make bland foods tasty and can make the dentist rich. Americans love sugar in all forms, from pure white granulated to liquid to fluffy cotton candy. As a nation, it’s fair to say that we’ve developed a love affair with sugar!
But at what cost? Our ever-expanding waistlines are due, in part, to our sugar infatuation. Many of us try to eat healthier, only to be pushed into consuming even more sugar! Take for example the low-fat craze of the 1980’s and ’90’s, pushed by the federal government’s proclomation that FAT IS BAD. As soon as Americans started demanding low-fat products, the food manufacturers responded by flooding the market with low-fat, high-sugar foods…..and we loved it. Honestly, how many of us have chowed down an entire box of Hot Tamales candy and justified it because they’re ‘fat-free’? Cotton candy, that staple of the county fair, is also fat-free! Hard candy, jelly beans, licorice and oh so many more foods found their way into our mouths – all justified because of their fat-free status.
But at what cost? Common sense, reinforced by our expanding size, soon reminded us that it’s EXCESS CALORIES THAT MAKE US FAT, and that SUGAR HAS CALORIES! It took us only a decade or so to figure out that just because a food is fat-free, doesn’t mean that it’s good for us!
Again, the food industry responded (and is still responding) by giving us loads and loads of sugar-free food. From ice cream to candy to soda, sugar-free is fast replacing fat-free as the new standard of ‘healthy’.
Our scientists have created many different sugar substitutes for us to enjoy: DiabetiSweet, Splenda, Equal, Sucralose, Xylitol, Stevia, NutraSweet, aspartame, tagatose, saccharin, and many many more. Even the Pepsi Slushie, that icon from our youth, now has a sugar-free version!
But at what cost? Do we really know everything we need to know about the sugar replacements on the market today? Take saccharin for example. Saccharin has been used to sweeten foods and beverages without calories or carbohydrates for over a century. Its use was considerable during the sugar shortages of the two world wars, particularly in Europe.
Later, however, we find some experts debating the safety of saccharin: “In a joint letter, the scientists told the National Toxicology Program, a division of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, that declaring saccharin safe would ‘result in greater exposure to this probable carcinogen in tens of millions of people, including children (indeed, fetuses). If saccharin is even a weak carcinogen, this unnecessary additive would pose an intolerable risk to the public.'”. (Source: http://www.cspinet.org)
Now, citing new research, some scientists are claiming that sugar-free foods may not help us lose weight! As with many topics, the experts don’t agree on this issue. What’s important to note, however, is that some doctors believe that the sugar-free craze might be just a bad case of deja vu similar to the fat-free craze of decades past.
So, when the year 2030 rolls around, will we all be looking back in disbelief wondering how in the heck we ever believed in that sugar-free nonsense? Only time will tell. In the meantime, we need to realize that BALANCE IS THE KEY to everything. Balance a healthy diet (eating foods in moderation) with a regular exercise program. Let the experts debate all day long about what to eat and what not to eat…..while they’re trying to figure out the ‘magic formula’ for the perfect diet, we’ll be maintaining a healthy weight through exercise!!