Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sugar, oh honey honey...

When did sugar become a demon? Approximately 30 years ago when childhood obesity started to increase, perhaps? Of course, you'll see that corresponds with the increased use of high fructose corn syrup . But now we know that is bad and it's been replaced. If you shop and read labels, you'll see low-sugar or "lite" have become key words. "No High-fructose Corn Syrup" is the new catch phrase and it's been replaced with the likes of aspartame and sucrulose. What happened to good, old-fashioned sugar?

Recently, I tried to find bubblegum. I had trouble finding any gum that didn't have some form of alternative sweetener. I could not find just plain, old bubblegum. Why? Why is sugar being replaced in many foods with chemical alternatives?

The bottom line is, as is often the case in our society, we are looking for the quick fix. In the last 30 years, children have become less active. The rise of television and computer games in combination with the fear of letting children play outside alone, has caused our youth to lead sedentary lives. Rather than addressing these issues and teaching healthy eating habits, we try to make foods that have less calories so our children, and lets be honest, ourselves, can eat what we want without weight-gain consequences.

But, what are the other consequences? How safe are these additives? Aspartame has undergone extensive testing and so far been proven safe. But some question the validity of those studies. And some, like me, think that an unnatural chemical can't be healthy. Because it is made from phenylalanine, aspartame can be dangerous to those who suffer from phenylketonuria, and it is being added to new products all the time.

And what about sucrulose? The "natural" artificial sweetener? Some newer studies suggest that sucrulose may actually cause weight gain and may have some detrimental side-effects.

And so, for the last 10 years, it has taken me hours to do my grocery shopping. First I had to look for high fructose corn syrup. Now I have to look for artificial sweeteners. Why can't we just make things with real sugar and get some exercise? Why can't we stop putting extra sugar in things that don't need it? I make bread. It doesn't need that much sugar, just enough to proof the yeast. It doesn't need sugar, honey, high fructose corn syrup and sucrulose. Everything is over-sweetened. So what do we do? Do I go back to making my own bread? Start making my own yogurt and granola bars? Spend more money on the healthier alternatives and hours shopping and reading labels? Start a letter-writing campaign to the food manufacturers? Maybe some combination of all of them? I don't know for sure. But, I do know this, Cracker Barrel sells old-fashioned gum: bubble and spearmint made with sugar! At least I don't have to search for that anymore!