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Okay, I am going to start in on sugar. And by sugar, I mean not only granulated cane sugar but also high fructose corn syrup, which seems to be added to just about everything except anchovies these days.

Let’s begin with an interesting bit of medical history. By analyzing old grocery store records, we now know that in the early part of the 19th century, say 1840 or thereabout, Americans ate about 15 pounds of sugar per year. It really was a special treat. Now, based on data from the sugar industry itself, each of us eats an astonishing 150 pounds of sugar every year, or just about a half pound every day.

I saw your eyes widen at that.

You can imagine there’s a problem here. Although the sugar molecule (glucose) is the major source of energy to run our bodies, we simply weren’t designed to handle that much sugar every day. In addition, most sugary foods are nutritional wastelands–hence the term “empty calories.” Eating a doughnut for breakfast, for example, will fool your body into thinking it’s been nourished, but this breakfast is totally devoid of protein, good fats, vitamins, and minerals. So we become obese and malnourished at the same time.

Here’s how we’re paying medically for all this sugar:
• The infant death rate is rising in those areas of the US where pregnant women eat a high-sugar, low-nutrition diet.
• Recent studies from Scandinavia have correlated behavioral problems, learning disabilities, mental illness, and hyperactivity in children and teens with high-sugar diets.
• Obesity in all age groups, from childhood on, is directly linked to sugar intake.
• Diabetes, heart disease, and strokes also correlate to sugar intake.
• Experts in anti-aging medicine believe that sugar-rich, nutritionally poor diets increase our susceptibility to all chronic illness and age us prematurely.

Start reading your labels. On virtually every food that has an ingredient list, you’ll see either “sugar” or “high fructose corn syrup.” Food manufacturers are responding well to our cravings. At taste testings, whether cole slaw or chili con carne, consumers always select the product with a high sugar content.

Because of its presence in so many foods, it’s almost impossible to eliminate sugar completely. I mean, who wants to make their own ketchup?

But if it’s important to you, make a decision to read the labels on the few prepared foods you’ll be buying. Stay away from cookies, candy, pastry, and soft drinks, including those phony “fruit drinks” (drink 8 glasses of water each day instead). Read cereal and soup labels. Buy natural peanut butter containing ground peanuts only–preferably organic. As a general rule, the fewer the ingredients the better on any processed food.

Ideally, limit your grocery shopping to whole foods. Real apples instead of apple-flavored somethings. Real potatoes instead of potato chips.

Avoid the foods someone else makes. The potato salad in the deli case has sugar and the potato salad you can easily make yourself doesn’t have to.

Cut way back on sugar.

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