The Hidden Truth About Sugar

How many of you are frustrated of eating “healthy” and exercising on a regular basis, only to be stuck with a larger-than-desirable waistline? Join the club, folks. If you feel that you just can’t seem to shed those last 5-10 (or even 20) pounds, even though you are “eating healthy,” then, well… chances are, you are not really eating healthy.

I’m not blaming you, I blame the “industry!” This is one of the most important messages you will see me write about. It will change your weight. It will change your skin. It will decrease your chances of metabolic diseases and cancer. It will prolong your life. It’s a serious change, IF you are serious about changing. And for most of you, it’s going to be a real eye-opener. Ready?

Forget everything you have ever learned about eating healthy and losing weight. All you have to do is look at the rise in obesity in America to see that someone has been f**king with us, and making a ton of money while doing so. The billion dollar “weight-loss” industry is one of the biggest scams of our generation. They are not in the truth-telling business, folks. If they were, they would be broke, and we would all be skinny. We have been lied to by the food industry for our entire lives. And if you haven’t sensed it already… I’m pissed!

I want to start by reiterating: it is not your fault. You are fighting the fight. You are not giving up and sitting down to eat an entire bag of Nacho Cheese-Flavored Doritos. You are trying. But I hope, after reading this, you are going to build an entirely new relationship with food. An honest relationship. A relationship based on truth. And by doing this, you WILL become healthier (and maybe even lose some weight in the process).

Here is the food industry lie that we have been spoon-fed, so to speak: if you want to lose weight, you have to eat less and exercise more. It’s the common sense idea we’ve been pitched for the past 50 years, and I hate to break it to you… but this is bullsh*t! This entire approach to weight loss is wrong. This equation says that weight management comes down to “calories in” versus “calories out.” It assumes that all calories are created equal. I am here to tell you, THEY ARE NOT!

*100 calories of raw almonds is NOT equal to 100 calories of cookies.
*100 calories of orange juice is NOT equal to 100 calories of orange slices.
*100 calories of plain M&M’s is not even equal to 100 calories of Peanut M&M’s!
And for all you protein-smoothie drinkers? *100 calories of whole strawberries does not equal 100 calories of pulverized strawberries in your morning smoothie. (Confused? Read on.)

In our ever-growing, fast-paced world of “breakfast on the go,” having equally fast-paced, easily digestible food is a very bad idea. It makes your body more likely to store that “breakfast on the go” as fat. I know this from experience. I, too, fell into the “healthy smoothie” trap for a month or so (that is, until I could no longer button up my jeans). And then it dawned on me: why are we pre-digesting our food before it even hits our mouths? We are not newborn babies. We have teeth for a reason! CHEW, for God’s sake! Don’t make things easy to digest. Our digestive system begins in our mouth. Why are we replacing the first steps of digestion (chewing and breaking down food with saliva) with something that plugs into an electrical outlet? Hello? Have we really become that lazy? I guarantee you, that if you put all of the ingredients that go into one of those “healthy smoothies” onto a plate for breakfast, WITHOUT pulverizing them into a pre-digested creamy beverage, you would not consume nearly as much. The easier you make the job on your digestive system, the more quickly things get digested. The quicker things get digested, the more chance they have to be stored in your body as fat. Which brings me to my next point.

Juice, which has even less fiber than a smoothie, is even quicker to digest. Those of you who really know me have heard me preach for years: “Don’t drink your calories.” Eat the orange. Don’t drink the orange juice. The fiber in the orange, when eaten, slows down the rate at which the sugar is processed by your liver. You see, without the fiber,  your body doesn’t distinguish between the sugar found in orange juice and the sugar found in an orange soda… Yes, one is loaded with Vitamin C, and the other isn’t. But really, that’s the only difference. They will both make you equally fat.

Here is what happens inside your body when you drink the orange juice (or soda):

Once you ingest the juice, your liver begins to process the fructose (the sweet part of sugar). And when the liver is bombarded with sugar, such as that found in soda, juice, or processed foods, the pancreas produces excess amounts of insulin. Insulin is the hormone that changes sugar into fat, for storage. So even though there is no fat in juice, your body will still store this excess sugar AS FAT in our bodies. High levels of insulin also block your brain from receiving the signals that you are full. Hello… Eating sugar causes more sugar cravings. And so the cycle begins.

To compound the problem – and here is the source of my frustration in this blog – it’s not always easy to detect the sugar found in products. It is hidden in EVERYTHING that is packaged and processed: from spaghetti sauce to protein bars. This includes items you would naturally assume are filled with sodium and would never be associated with added sugar (ramen noodles, bottled salad dressing, saltine crackers, potato chips, ketchup, etc.).

As I wrote this article, I decided to test myself out. Even though I have my go-to healthy products, the ones I’ve eaten and trusted over the years, I went to my pantry, and looked through everything on my shelf. Surprise! (Not the good kind of surprise.) I thought I was on top of this! Yet, I found evaporated cane sugar in the least expected place – my favorite multi-grain tortilla chips from Whole Foods. Ugghhh! It’s in everything!

Which, unfortunately, brings us to the next problem. Sugar goes by a hundred different names: Sucrose, Fructose, brown rice syrup, beet sugar, Malto dextrin, high fructose corn syrup, honey, agave syrup, barley malt… The list goes on and on. (And, to be honest, some of them even sound healthy: who wouldn’t have fallen for “agave” and barley”?) However, your body does very little to distinguish between that gourmet honey you bought at the local farmer’s market and ordinary white table sugar. Just as it does very little to distinguish between the sugar in fresh squeezed orange juice and the sugar found in a can of orange soda.

It’s no surprise that the food industry is in business to make money. But how do you think they can best do this? By getting you to want to eat more. Which sugar, as I’ve explained, does quite well. And what better way to get you hooked on their products than to disguise added sugar (which many medical professionals tell us is as addictive as cocaine) and label the product as “healthy”? If things are labeled as “healthy,” don’t we tend to eat more of them? I know do.  Or at least, I DID.

Remember in the late 70’s and early 80’s, when “fat-free” was the big craze? The food industry tried to tell us that eating fat made us fat. So, every food imaginable was made in low-fat or non-fat versions. I was a victim of the craze: I bought reduced-fat Chips Ahoy and fat-free Fig Newtons. I was in heaven! Instead of eating a few regular cookies, I would scarf down 5 or 6 (or 12) of the reduced-fat versions because they were better for me than the originals. I felt like I had permission to eat more. All of the pleasure, none of the guilt, right? WRONG!  “Half the fat” often means twice the amount of sugar. For example, when you take the fat out of yogurt, it tastes terrible. So what did the food industry do? They added sugar to make it taste better. And where does that extra sugar go? That’s right, girls, straight to your thighs! (For you men, it’s likely that it’s led to that spare tire you’ve been carrying around your midsection). Because of the added sugar to compensate for less-tastiness, you will gain more weight eating that fat-free, reduced-calorie ice cream than you will with the full-fat, original version. And because we think we are eating healthier, we give ourselves the extra scoop that we wouldn’t normally put into our bowl. The whole thing is a scam! (Are you feeling my frustration by now?)

And although “reduced-calorie” may, in fact, list fewer calories on the label, we’ve already discussed how one calorie isn’t necessarily equal to another calorie. So, how your body processes that “reduced-calorie” food may actually be causing your body to store more fat than the original, full-calorie version.

In addition, diet foods that contain artificial sweeteners are all dangerous. They trick our bodies into expecting sugar. So they still cause insulin spikes. The bottom line is simple: we have to get back to eating what’s real. Our bodies are completely confused as to what to do with all of this processed, chemical stuff.

You would think that our government, with its stated concern about health-care, would be honest with us. However, the government doesn’t even require companies to list the percentage of daily requirements for sugar. Don’t believe me? Go right now and grab anything out of your pantry – the storage place for most of your processed food (“real food” rarely has a shelf-life). I’ll wait – go ahead…

Okay, got your pantry item? Now look at the label. I’ll bet you find the percentage of the daily recommended amount of sodium along with many other ingredients, but NOT the daily allowance for sugar. Am I the only person who finds this strange?…

And why is this important to know? Because if you saw that your single serving of instant oatmeal had 50% of your daily recommended requirement for sugar per day, you would drastically change the way you ate. Or at least how much of it you ate.

So, now that we know that sugar is hidden in everything. Now what?

Now we have to make the change.

1. Stop buying fat-free, reduced-fat, or reduced-calorie products. They are loaded with sugar or sugar substitutes and will make you fat. Guaranteed.

2. If you don’t recognize something on a label, walk away. It’s not real food. Chances are the ingredient you can’t pronounce is some form of sugar. Even if it’s not, beware.

3. Don’t drink your calories. It’s better to eat the fruit than to drink the juice. Remember, our body processes the sugar in a glass of juice in the same way it does a can of soda. We need the fiber to mitigate the sugar. And a smoothie, although not quite as bad as juice, is still an easy way to consume far too many calories in far too short a time.

4. Stay away from artificial sweeteners, they are no better than the real thing, in that they trick your body into craving sugar and cause spikes in our insulin levels.

5. Learn to look for added sugar – even in things you wouldn’t expect (peanut butter, pasta sauce, saltine crackers, and tortilla chips, for example).

That’s it. Just be aware of the food industry’s labeling tricks. These tricks keep us addicted to our sugar highs. They make us fat, even though our intentions are to eat healthy. And they seduce us into continuing to buy their products. It took me years of thinking  that I was taking care of my body, before I actually started taking care of my body. I’m not perfect. I eat sugar. I just want to be informed of exactly when I am eating it.  Let me cheat and have my peanut M&M’s during a movie, but don’t sucker-punch me and slip added sugar into my “healthy” multi-grain, organic, vegan tortilla chips! That’s just not playing fair! Just remember, eating healthy is less about reading the manufacturer’s claims on the front of the packages and more about reading the labels on the back. So let’s stop falling for marketing tricks and become more informed (and slimmer) consumers, shall we?

To watch Live Young Lifestyle’s YouTube video about hidden sugars and deciphering labels, click here.

Live Young,
Darnell :)