Sugar: A Necessary Evil?

Laurel Antonmarchi, Visual Editor

Sugar Facts

Finals are just a couple weeks out, and many Black Hills State University students simply won’t have time to prepare healthy meals at home. For those craving a quick snack between classes, it’s hard to ignore the rows of baked goods and sweet treats that far outnumber the healthy options. The calorie-laden cookies and muffins behind the case whisper sugary sweet nothings while you attempt to order your morning coffee at Jacket Java. Even those with the strongest willpower may succumb to the delights of freshly baked golden-brownness.

Blame the cavemen for that sweet tooth’science says that humans evolved to crave sugar despite the fact that prehistoric bodies required very little to function due to the scarcity of fruit sugar. Thanks to today’s overabundance of fructose, modern humans have found themselves addicted to sweetness’quite literally.

“Sugar has been compared to cocaine or heroin in terms of addictiveness,” said BHSU Assistant Athletic Trainer Ana Nemec. Scientific research has determined that sugar in the bloodstream stimulates the same pleasure centers in the brain as hardcore drug use.

The American Heart Association recommends no more than 100 calories, or six teaspoons, of sugar per day for American women, and no more than 150 calories, or nine teaspoons, for American men. If you think you’re doing your health a solid by reaching for that berry parfait instead of a scone, you may not even realize that fruit-flavored yogurt is chock full of sugara��in some cases, nearly 50 grams per one-cup serving. And that doesn’t even include the homemade granola sprinkled on top! Many aren’t aware they are guilty of consuming much more sugar than necessary. Added sugars can be found hiding in other seemingly innocent foods like cereal, peanut butter, and salad dressing. In fact, the average American consumes 22.7 teaspoons, or 90.8 grams, of sugar daily.

Is sugar really all that bad? Sugar occurs naturally in fruits and veggies, along with essential vitamins and minerals.

“[Sugar is] our body’s preferred fuel,” said Dr. David Katz, Director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center. The old adage “everything in moderation” is quite applicable here, but it’s more than just the empty calories that need to be avoided. It’s the sugars added after the facta��high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, and maltose, just to name a fewa��that lead to toxic effects on health. Americans are drowning under waves of high fructose corn syrup in the sea of sugary, processed foods’and the food industry makes it difficult to stay afloat. The Center for Human Nutrition predicts that by this year 75percent of the population will be overweight and 41percent will be obese. The AHA links added sugars to the spike in obesity, which can lead to type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

“You should think about where you are consuming the majority of your sugar’soda, candy, juices, or other processed foods?” asked Nemec.

Those sources should only be consumed in limited amounts. There’s still hope for those looking to improve their overall wellness by curbing their sugar cravings. Better health choices can be made at home as well as at the grocery store. Start by taking simple steps. Nemec suggested starting by “cleaning out your kitchen or dorm room of any foods that contain high amounts of sugar. When you shop, read food labels and look for ingredients that hint of added sugars.”

So next time you’re in the grocery aisle, reach for the plain yogurt instead. Add a sprinkle of cinnamon and a teaspoon of honey if sweetness is desired. Remember to not beat yourself up for mistakes when changing your diet lifestyle. “It’s not about perfection,” said Nemec.