Sugar. It’s just plain wrong that something that tastes go good is so bad for us. I mean, who doesn’t love sweetness?
But now scientists have proven how outrageously harmful it is in the human body, at the quantities we are consuming today.
We should all know that sugar causes weight gain and obesity, as well as Type 2 Diabetes, which is the single largest health problem our generation is facing. This disease can lead to premature death.
What is really frightening is that it’s predicted that we are the first generation to live a shorter life expectancy than that of our parents. Simply put, all the advances in modern medicine for us to live longer are now being reversed and largely because of sugar.
Just Google the scary statistics; according to a study published in the Lancet Medical Journal, 2.1 billion people worldwide are overweight or obese. Obesity isn’t just about carrying an few extra kilos of weight, it’s about a serious health condition that will shorten your life.
What’s even more frightening is one in three New Zealand children are overweight or obese, so why is this happening?
The average New Zealander consumes 54 kg of sugar per year. That amounts to 37 teaspoons each and every day. However teenagers are thought to consume above average amounts of sugar.
Just look around the dairies in the mornings before school, how many teenagers, boys in particular, do you see with large bottles of sweet soda? A 1.5 litre bottle of coke contains 162 grams or 39 teaspoons of sugar and many teenagers are consuming one, if not more, of these every day.
I see so many girls at school with lollies purchased from our school canteen. I notice they lack concentration and feel frustrated that they can’t focus, and they wonder why. And I wonder why our school canteens are supplying such products that don’t support learning. Even the iced tea that is served at our school canteen contains 34 grams of sugar or 8.5 teaspoons. So why are school canteens selling us food and drinks that harm our brains and our ability to learn? The bottom line is profit. (More on this in next month’s article where I write about school canteens.)
In the meantime here are some facts we should all know about sugar:
High amounts of sugar:
- Can be as addictive as drugs
- Affect memory and learning
- Is one of the leading causes of acne, so it can give you really bad skin
- Can lead to depression and anxiety because it stimulates our adrenal glands which are activated during times of stress
- Decreases Brain-Derived Neuritrophic Factor (BDNF), a brain chemical responsible for the development of new brain tissue. Animal studies have proven that when BDNF is low it affects our spacial awareness and ability to remember things.
So if we know that sugar is destroying our generation’s health, what are we going to do about it?
Start today to reduce your sugar consumption and avoid white refined sugars wherever possible. There are more than 50 names for sugars on labels so make sure you are aware of these. The best way to avoid sugar is to eat foods that don’t require labels, like fresh produce, nuts, seeds and meats. But here are my tips for teens to reduce sugar;
- Avoid sugary drinks, drink water instead, it clears your skin, hydrates the brain and helps remove toxins from the body
- Eat natural nuts instead of lollies, or a piece of fruit
- Eat protein every morning like a couple of eggs, porridge made with chia seeds and cream with a tsp of real natural maple or coconut sugar if you need to sweeten it, instead of sugary cereals
- Eat protein at school as this will fill you up, feed your brain and give you long lasting energy. Leftover meat from dinner, a small tin of salmon or tuna, or a hard boiled egg is easy
- Eat good fats like butter and coconut oil on homemade popcorn instead of sugary junk food
- Drink naturally sweetened nut milks (see my delicious almond milk recipe)
Use natural sugars to make smoothies, like bananas and other fruits, or dates. Natural sugars work differently in the body so start by making some straight swaps, then as your taste buds adjust keep reducing your sugar intake.
So to summarise, sugar levels are going up in our daily diets, but our generation is going nowhere but down because of it. We are becoming overweight, unhealthy, developing bad skin, not learning as well as we could, becoming more depressed and dying younger. Every choice you make around sugar can define your future, so make sure you are the best version of yourself by avoiding it.
Check out Zoe’s almond milk recipe here
Zoe Gibb is a year 11 student at Sacred Heart and a model with Clyne Model Management. Zoe is a whole foods foodie and is passionate about helping teens find happiness.