Sugar: Nutrient and Drug

With Halloween being just a day away, now seems a fitting time as ever to talk about disguises and poison.

With that particularly vague statement, I am addressing “sugar”, by which you can assume I am referring to any number of widely used, added sweeteners: cane sugar, high fructose corn syrup, honey, etc.
Sugar is ambrosia, the sweet nectar of the Greek gods.
It’s instant energy without the hassle of thorough digestion.
It very well may be one of the key participants in human evolution and advancement, along with beer and wheat (similar products I know, but I’m referring to their applications).
In short, sugar has become a very valuable ingredient in our modern diets.

It is a double edged sword, however, in that excessive amounts of sugar cause serious health issues and in extreme cases cripple people with diet-related diseases.
Ah, to be blessed with these “first world problems”, of literally having too many options when it comes to food, rather than starving from a lack of basic nutrients.
Back to America though… land of plenty: the most widespread manifestation of excessive sugar intake is cavities.
Turns out bacteria love sugar just as much as we do. Then there’s the assemblage of life threatening consequences: diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and suggestions of increased cancer-risk.Heart disease should probably be listed first, seeing as how it is the leading cause of death in the United States (shortly followed by cancer).
Not Ebola, or Marijuana overdose, or terrorist attacks… it’s heart disease, which has now become so commonplace, something we have succumbed to living with rather than desperately trying to change.
If these concepts are unfamiliar, clearly someone has been living under a rock.
These links of diet to health are essentially basic knowledge because they are discussed constantly and intensely on all forms of media… the issue lies within the fact that so little is being done to improve our situation.
Instead, most of the energy in this debate is dedicated to keeping things exactly the way they are.

I don’t intend to turn this into the indepth, shaming type of rant I directed towards Monsanto last December, but if my subject’s actions deserve shaming, well there’s bound to be some of that going on.
One of the dirtiest words that exist in our vocabularies today must be lobbyist.
I just can’t help but imagine some greasy dude with the pockets of his suit filled with bills, enticing our representatives to do his bidding.
Quite like directing a rabbit by a carrot hanging on a stick.
Too much money is being siphoned into shaping policy, like those motions that keep school lunches the way they are (key ingredients being those flavored milks and juices, just dripping with sweeteners), that extinguish proposals intended to tax “sugar sweetened beverages”, and that dictate the amount and direction of subsidized funding in agriculture.

click to see some other brilliant lobbyist themed cartoons

The FDA (the organization which bears the responsibility of regulating the information on nutritional labels) has yet to establish a daily value for sugar consumption.
Which means we are perpetually left in the dark regarding this single ingredient of “sugar” on nutritional labels.
Instead, we’re left with an obscure gram measurement.
Problem is, this is America, we do not use and therefore do not understand (on average) the metric system like every other civilized country.
Meanwhile, the WHO, USDA, and AHA have all set recommendations for sugar consumption at one point or another.

John Oliver, in his typical absurd, yet illuminating fashion:

There are too many arguments to be made here.
The ridiculousness of it all, however, is one I would like mention now.
We won’t institute any sort of regulation on sugar but we refuse the widespread legalization or at least decriminalization of (medical) marijuana.
Basically a leaf, that is not manipulated beyond any state than a leaf, and which does considerably less damage than sugar.
This constant ghostly presence of sugar in our beverages, processed foods, and vague yet clearly abhorrent amount in candies and baked goods, is killing the bulk of us in the States.
There are essentially only two things that can be done about the matter either to demand more transparency (if you feel like bothering), or just denouncing these riddled products.
I might guess the supporters of the other cause mentioned probably wouldn’t feel compelled to support me suggesting to ease up on the candy, and other munchies suitable foodstuffs.

I, in particular, have always been partial to Twizzlers – those strawberry/cardboard flavored sticks of plastic, as well as Reese’s Pieces – lacquered bits of pulverized peanuts with just a touch of the brown tinged sugar-sludge Hershey’s likes to call “chocolate”.
So perhaps, based on my history, I am not one who should suggest the complete abandonment of these products.
But believe me, now that I have grown up, and have naturally gained an understanding of what it means to care for my body – such a dismissal of those products is not that difficult to endure.
Instead, as with life in general, we must seek balance.
The hardest part is re-accustoming the palate to flavors without being assaulted by the sensation of sweetness.
Yes to sugar, but in conscious moderation. Perhaps in a delicious caramel sauce with some apples (given that absolutely beautiful and delicious apples are in season!):

caramel dip

So go on, be that house.
The one that gives out apples, fresh from the farmer’s market if possible, to those kiddies bedecked in their adorable handmade or Asian factory-made costumes.
It’s a good thing we don’t get many trick-or-treaters down my street, cause I would not like to be you!

p.s. There is plenty that inspired this post, significant background knowledge gained from curiosity, experience from a nutrition class, working with and learning all about food at school… but most recently, I watched Fed Up. It’s concise and nicely put together: so give it your attention if you eat, and live in America, or anywhere really:


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