Humans have been sweet on sweets for a very long time. Before sugar there was honey, the available natural sweetener, as long as you weren’t afraid of bees. As far back as 8000 BC, New Guinea and Southeast Asian began extracting juice from the sugar cane plant and frequently chewing it for its sweet taste (kind of like early chewing gum). With the discovery of granulation a few thousand years later, it was easily transported and slowly introduced into Persia, India and ultimately the Mediterranean countries along the trade routes. Around 510 BC the Persian Emperor Darius invaded India where he found “the reed which gives honey without bees.”
During medieval times, sugar was quite expensive and considered a fine spice, along with salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and pepper. Although sweetening still relied mainly on honey and fruits (like dates) it made its way into the West Indies, thanks to Christopher Columbus, a sweet guy, since he carried sugar on his second voyage there, specifically to Hispaniola, what is now Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Ironically, ancient Greeks and Romans considered it medicinal. (Oh boy, wouldn’t that be great.)
As recent as two hundred years ago, when sugar was a premium commodity, the average American consumed only about 5 pounds a year. These days, the average American consumes a staggering 150 to 170 pounds of sugar in one year, which plays out to 1/4 to 1/2 pound daily (picture 30 to 35 five-pound bags). Yikes. You’re thinking, no way, not me. Well, even if you don’t drink soft drinks or sweetened beverages, added sugar is lurking in so many foods where you might not realize. Sweeteners such as high fructose corn syrup can be found in everyday basics which we use liberally without a thought: ketchup, hot dogs, processed foods, canned goods, peanut butter, salad dressings, the list is endless.
The American Heart Association recommends added sugars should not exceed 150 calories per day (37.5 grams or 9 teaspoons) for men; 100 calories per day (25 grams or 6 teaspoons) for women. Heck, one soft drink or candy bar blows that out of the water.
So where is all this sugar invading our diets? Let’s take a look:
Juice boxes for kids, even if it says 100% juice, may contain 15 to 22 grams of sugar for a 6 to 8 oz serving. They may as well be drinking soda pop
Lunchables, frequently found in children’s lunch boxes, 14 g sugar
Honey Smacks boxed cereal is 60% flat-out sugar (20 g )
Apple Jacks and Fruit Loops both come in at (12 g)
How about those drinks you believe are healthier: many popular fruit smoothies contain over 40 g in the small size
Your favorite blended drinks at Starbucks:
Tall Caramel Frappuccino (12 oz) 46 g
Horchata Almond milk Frappuccino (16 oz) 66 g
Average 12-ounce can of soda contains about 8 teaspoons of simple sugar. It only takes four 12-ounce cans of soda to equal 1/4 pound! For some people, drinking this amount of soda in one day is not a difficult task to accomplish. For many, it is a daily habit; other popular soft drinks average 13 g to 16 g.
One of the most popular cookies on your grocers’ shelf:
Chips Ahoy, just three cookies delivers 33 g;
Twinkies (2 cakes) 33 g;
So let’s move on to what may not be as obvious:
Low-fat yogurt can add up to 47 grams of sugar (zowie)
Sports drink (32 g)
Ragu Chunky pasta sauce 12 g sugar (per 1/2 cup)
Canned veggies 10 g per serving
Glazed doughnut 12 g
One scoop of premium ice cream, up to 19 g (add 2 T chocolate syrup another 19 g)
Chocolate shake (fast food) 74 g sugar
2 Tablespoons of Honey Mustard Dressing has 5 grams of sugar; the same serving of fat-free French has 7 grams, (and few people use just 2 Tablespoons)
Average granola snack bar 24 g
(author’s note: many low or fat-free products contain extra sugar, and keep in mind that drinking orange juice or apple juice is still sugar)
So just for fun, let’s add up a typical American daily food intake (average portions) 4 grams of sugar equals 1 teaspoon:
Breakfast: orange juice, cereal, coffee (20 g, 12 g) smoothie or two donuts on the run (40 g or 24 g)
Lunch: off to the fast food joint where you grab a cheeseburger, fries, lots of ketchup and a chocolate shake (9 g, 14 g, 74 g)
Afternoon: blended coffee pick me up (46 g) or raiding the office vending machine for a candy bar, soft drink (30 g, 39 g)
Dinner: frozen entree, salad with dressing, 4 cookies, iced tea with sugar (16 g, 20 g, 44 g, 4 g)
Late night snack: peanut butter with crackers (14 g + 2 g), cola (39 g)
Total: 337 g which translates to a whopping 84 teaspoons of sugar for the day (and that’s conservative). Yikes.
No matter what you call it, corn syrup, maltose, fructose, lactose, dextrose, brown sugar, cane crystals, cane sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, fruit juice, malt syrup, concentrates, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, liquid fructose, maple syrup, molasses, raw sugar, syrup and white sugar, sorbitol, sorghum, sucanat, mannitol, malted barley, maltodextrin, rice syrup and still counting, it spells sugar and the human body does not differentiate. (Plus you need a degree in chemistry just to pronounce the names.) Have a sweet day.
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