To Your Health
February, 2007 (Vol. 01, Issue 02)
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In a 2003 report, the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization indicated that sugar should comprise less than 10 percent of total daily calories - that's one soda per day, based on a 2,000-calorie diet. It's up to the remaining 90 percent of your calorie allotment to supply the vitamins, minerals and nutrients you need.

And if you throw in another soda, or perhaps a small slice of coffee cake, a larger and larger percentage of your remaining calories for that day need to be super-nutritive. That's a lot of pressure to track down and consume healthier foods throughout your busy day.

And let's be honest, there aren't many Americans who limit their caloric intake so strictly. A more likely scenario is that the sodas and cake are only added to their daily intake, without regard for excess. With that scenario the reality, fat storage and weight gain are imminent. Apparently, that's the case: A whopping (no pun intended) two-thirds of all U.S. adults are considered overweight or obese, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

If you're thinking to yourself, but the sweets I eat are low-fat or even nonfat, check the nutrition labels. Many of the snack cakes and cookies hitting the market these days wave the nonfat banner, but are overloaded with sugar to make up for the difference in taste. Use common sense, a nutrition label featuring a high amount of sugar and calories, but severely low amounts of vitamins, minerals, fiber and protein, should be a red flag. Studies show that excess sugar in the American diet suppresses immunity, reduces the ability of white blood cells to kill germs, can alter attention span and behavior, and promotes heart disease.

It is important to appreciate the sheer volume of sugar we ingest every year, not just in sodas, candy and cookies, but in all of our foods. Estimated annual sugar consumption for the average American usually hovers around 115 pounds! Just think about that for a minute: If you're a 179-pound adult (the average weight for a U.S. adult, as of 2006), you consume approximately 66 percent of your body weight in sugar every year.

Kick The Habit

According to Dr. Barry Sears, author of The Zone Diet, sweets can have an effect on the body similar to an addictive drug. Sugar releases endorphins or "feel-good" hormones that provide a high. But every peak has a trough and that's when cravings take hold. The good news is, there are other ways to stimulate the release of endorphins and other well-being hormones, and even keep them steady all day long.

By following the five guidelines listed below, you can reduce your intake of simple sugars and thus reduce your risk of diabetes and obesity. By replacing your consumption of simple sugars with complex sugars, you will feel better and take the stress off your body. This will lead to a longer, healthier life.