I’m in the throes of a sugar detox (Day 5 of 21).  Eating only veggies, meats, nuts, and some whole dairy and a little quinoa, my body is experiencing major withdrawals. Lightheadedness, dizziness, the feeling of being empty and hungry even though I just ate.  It’s enough to drive one mad.  But I am staying the course.  So far.

What’s been even more fascinating than the realization that my brain and body were so addicted to sugar due to the severe withdrawals, is HOW MUCH SUGAR IS IN EVERYTHING, and how we are led to believe that it’s NO BIG DEAL.

Sugar labels:  The FDA allows big food companies to forego the daily percentage intake on one little section: SUGAR.  Probably because if you saw that that one candy bar would satisfy 150% of your daily sugar intake, you may not actually buy it.  They say they are changing that, proposing all kinds of things like actually holding big companies responsible for providing proper information to consumers who don’t know exactly how much sugar they should be ingesting.  But as of this writing, the percentages are still left deceptively blank on food labels.

To make sure that we’re all on the same page, the American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 teaspoons, or about 25 grams, of added sugars per day for women, and 9 teaspoons, or about 36 grams, for men.  (4 grams = 1 teaspoon)

This is just a recommendation because we don’t actually need ANY added sugar in our diet.  But since it’s in almost everything, the above is more like a guideline to the most you could eat per day before it causes you a slow death.

One 12-ounce can of Coca-Cola has 39 grams of sugar.

Other names for sugar:  If this wasn’t all shady enough, companies disguise sugar by using different names.  Here are all of the names of sugar – which breakdown the same way in your body regardless of name, origin, or processing:

 61 Names for Sugar
  • Agave nectar
  • Barbados sugar
  • Barley malt
  • Barley malt syrup
  • Beet sugar
  • Brown sugar
  • Buttered syrup
  • Cane juice
  • Cane juice crystals
  • Cane sugar
  • Caramel
  • Carob syrup
  • Castor sugar
  • Coconut palm sugar
  • Coconut sugar
  • Confectioner’s sugar
  • Corn sweetener
  • Corn syrup
  • Corn syrup solids
  • Date sugar
  • Dehydrated cane juice
  • Demerara sugar
  • Dextrin
  • Dextrose
  • Evaporated cane juice
  • Free-flowing brown sugars
  • Fructose
  • Fruit juice
  • Fruit juice concentrate
  • Glucose
  • Glucose solids
  • Golden sugar
  • Golden syrup
  • Grape sugar
  • HFCS (High-Fructose Corn Syrup)
  • Honey
  • Icing sugar
  • Invert sugar
  • Malt syrup
  • Maltodextrin
  • Maltol
  • Maltose
  • Mannose
  • Maple syrup
  • Molasses
  • Muscovado
  • Palm sugar
  • Panocha
  • Powdered sugar
  • Raw sugar
  • Refiner’s syrup
  • Rice syrup
  • Saccharose
  • Sorghum Syrup
  • Sucrose
  • Sugar (granulated)
  • Sweet Sorghum
  • Syrup
  • Treacle
  • Turbinado sugar
  • Yellow sugar

(From sugarscience.org)

Marketing:  Remember when everyone thought that fat was killing us?  We were wrong.  It’s sugar.  See, food can still taste good without as much fat, and the food companies know this.  So when we freaked out about eating too much fat because a couple of dudes in 1999 decided to publish a study that no one bothered to question, the food companies were like, oh yeah sweet, we can make all kinds of low-fat products!  All we have to do is pump more sugar in them!  No one cares about sugar!  So that’s what they did, and we all got even fatter and sicker.

These guys are so good at marketing that we’ve created what I like to call a “culture of ease,” where grabbing some chips or a Snickers is not only acceptable, it’d be weird if you didn’t.  And good luck trying to find a snack on the go that isn’t made from chemicals by a robot machine, modified and messed with until the exact compound creates such a satisfying trigger in your brain that you MUST EAT MORE.  There are people whose full-time jobs are to find the “bliss point” so that we consume as much of the big food corporations’ products as possible, helping them reach their annual 1 trillion dollar sales.

For example, Snickers does such a great job marketing their product, that in the past when I’d have to make a stop at the gas station on an empty stomach, I would buy into the idea that it would satisfy my hunger, therefore negating the amount of sugar I was consuming, which is almost the same as any other candy bar.  It’s just marketed so well that my brain thinks, this is more than a candy bar; it’s actually good for hunger too, therefore it’s better for me than a Butterfinger. Which of course is bullshit, but when we’re hungry, logic and rebellion can sometimes wane.

Where do we go from here?  First, we continue to educate ourselves about how much sugar is in foods, how it negatively affects our bodies (more on that later), and how the big food companies are poisoning us while taking our hard earned money from jobs that make us hungry but don’t always allow us the time to cook and prep meals to have handy when we get hungry.  We then step back to take a look at our lives and determine when we can do the grocery shopping and cooking prep required to get some of this junk out of our bodies for good.