SUGAR: THE OTHER WHITE POWDER
As a healthcare professional and an orthodontist in Irvine I have to be honest and admit that I was quite ignorant about the food industry. I was either too busy trying to pass a board exam or trying to get into residency. It’s funny that as a I type this, I am being offered something called a “stroopwafel”. The first four ingredients are glucose syrup, wheat flour, butter, and sugar. Ten grams of sugar in a 29 gram wafer! The wafer is basically 1/3 sugar and I am so tempted to eat it. I took a bite, but am resisting the rest…and it was delicious. After I graduated and had children and moved to Irvine, I became more health conscious because I was suddenly surrounded by people that were more health conscious. They talked about organic food and I thought it was all baloney. I grew up in a blue collar town and my family wasn’t wealthy or educated so Little Debbie snacks, Sarah Lee pound cakes, and Entenmann’s danishes were what I ate for breakfast. It wasn’t until I was perusing through Netflix that I decided to watch a documentary called Food Inc. It blew my mind how unaware I was of the food industry! This led me to another documentary called Fed Up. I highly suggest you all watch these movies. In the dental field, we are all about fighting tooth decay, but what about preventing it? What’s causing all the tooth decay? We all know it’s sugar! But do we ever realize how we are getting all this sugar?! My eyes have opened up to how much the sugar industry has taken over the American diet and the root (no pun intended) of the metabolic disorders and tooth decay. How sugar is hidden in ingredients: Sugar is hidden in ingredients lists as pure cane sugar, organic cane syrup, high fructose corn syrup, honey, and agave nectar. Don’t be fooled by fancy names. Sugar is still sugar. How sugar is cleverly marketed: Don’t fall for clever wording on packaging. Take, for example, Honest Kids 100% Organic Juice. Sure, no sugar is added, but did you look to see how much sugar is already in it? Is it really “honest”!? You might as well drink a soda. Sure, Honest Kids is a healthier alternative to other boxed juices, but let’s try to stick with water if we can. What about chocolate milk? Have you ever checked how much sugar is in that? We have been brainwashed to think that fat is bad. Have you ever noticed that Starburst and Sour Patch Kids are marketed as “fat free,” but really, is it truly a healthy alternative with all that sugar? It’s hard to find protein bars or health bars that have less than 10 grams of sugar. Important Changes to Nutrition Labels: Did you ever notice that sugar doesn’t have a Recommended Dietary Allowance percentage listed in nutrition labels on food packaging? Finally, the FDA has changed the nutrition labels to reflect that because if you would look at a soda can, it would be 1000% of the recommended dietary allowance for sugar. Read more about the new labels here. In a nutshell, I’m not a sugar Nazi or anything because it’s inevitable that we are surrounded by it. Restricting sweets at birthday parties are a futile cause and I don’t want to make a scene, but I do want my kids to be educated. My children already know which foods have sugar and which foods do not. My son knows how to make healthy choices at school. Whether or not he chooses to buy it is in his hands, but if you tell him, “If you keep eating Fruit Loops you are going to get a disease that could kill you and make you very sick,” it really opens their eyes. Kids understand germs and viruses, but they don’t understand things that you eat can make you sick, too. The sad thing is that most americans don’t realize this. Finally, the detrimental effects of sugar are coming more to light and my goal isn’t to make someone feel guilty about drinking a soda or eating a lollipop. It is to make you aware of what you are doing to your body and to look at the labels when you think you are buying something like Yoplait fat free yogurt that seems healthy, but actually has 26 grams of sugar in it. It’s okay to consume small amounts of sugar, but just be aware. You can save some extra trips to the dentist, too.