We all know sugar isn’t a healthy choice, but it often gets pinpointed to only dieting reasons alone. Yes, it causes weight gain … there’s no denying that. However, what many people don’t know (or consider) is how much the sugar industry affects other aspects of our health, nutritional recommendations, and even the overall food industry and future guidelines on our health. It’s manipulating multiple factors that eventually reflect what foods are promoted and available to us at the store, along with health research from seemingly reputable organizations (hospitals, nutritional advisory studies, and dieting organizations) we’re given that many people take seriously on a daily basis.
This is all the result of one big, massive web of sugary lies we’re told from Big Food.
Sugary Lies We’re Told Daily
Sugar production is a massively profitable industry that affects the production of GMO corn, soy, and refined grains used to make processed foods that despite us knowing they aren’t good for us, still seem to skyrocket their way off the shelves because they’re so addicting and convenient. You can thank food politics for this — a.k.a. the way money speaks loud and clear in our food production system. For individuals who aren’t keen on food politics, being duped with Big Food’s sugar industry marketing tactics is sadly a given due to this industry’s influence over not just the food available to us, but also what foods we’re told are nutritional choices.
Marketers have found a way to make so many sugary, processed foods appear healthy by posting labels and slapping claims on them that shout they’re a good choice. In fact, Big Food (also called Big Sugar by some), even influences a large part of our government’s nutritional guidelines. Ever seen the pictures of a bowl of processed cereal, juice, glass of milk, or toast and a bagel promoted as a healthy breakfast? This is why. It’s also why granola bars and other processed foods high in sugar are promoted as “nutritional choices.” These are just a few ways the industry lies to us daily and how they’re affecting our health as we keep on buying them and believing these false claims. If these foods made us healthy, we wouldn’t have seen a nationwide increase in diabetes and weight gain, not to mention heart disease and an increased risk of death from added sugars the last 20 years.
In fact, this has been happening since the 1970’s, when the sugar industry made high efforts to distance the correlation between diabetes and sugar consumption, with many government sites (funded by the industry) even saying sugar is safe to consume and doesn’t affect diabetes. By 1975, the sugar industry made a point to fund 17 studies to back this evidence too.
And it’s still happening, but on a much larger scale. The BMJ recently published an article featuring an infograpic on the “web of lies” led by the sugar industry and how much influence it has on our food system today. Big Food and The Worldwide Sugar Research Organization account for multiple connections to universities who performed studies saying sugar isn’t bad for us, prescription drug companies, multiple food companies within the food industry, weight loss companies like Weight Watchers, and even many health food companies in the market all tied to marketing sugary foods one way or another. (You can view the article and the infographic here to see what exact companies are involved in this web of lies.) Companies and corporations that we trust and often see as reliable sources of nutrition are being influenced (a.k.a. being paid) by Big Food and the sugar industry right under our eyes.
Just think of the typical hospital meal, a typical meal at college universities, “normal” foods at the grocery store, and other places where high sugar, highly refined sources of carbohydrates (cereals, juices, snack bars, yogurts, etc.) are promoted as healthy or “a good source of nutrition.” These foods aren’t promoted and readily available because they’re healthy choices, but because someone (Big Food) paid to have them promoted down the line of nutritional recommendations, the food companies, hospital and dieting organizations, and eventually medical organizations, school systems, and more. Though we’ve been aware of Big Food’s influence in the health (and food) industry for years on marketing tactics, we’re just learning now how they’re also depriving us of good health and taking advantage of us and our money right under our noses.
Food Politics … Let’s Get Involved
Marion Nestle is a classic, go-to food politics expert and author of many award-winning best-selling books and the blog, Food Politics. Nestle makes a point to show in most all her work the importance of consumers taking a stand by learning who funded what research they are being given through marketing. One of her strongest arguments is regarding the cereal industry and its promotion to children (and adults) as being a great choice for a “healthy breakfast.” Big Food has even made a way to make sugar profitable in the form of cartoon-based labels that advertise these “foods” as being a good source of fiber, whole grains, vitamins and minerals.
Didn’t we all know Cocoa Puffs was the best way to get our whole grains and calcium in? Even adult-based cereals boast these labels and one of their first ingredients are … you guessed it — sugar or refined grains. Yet many of them have studies that back up their benefits and some are pretty convincing. But just like the egg industry funded the latest research showing cholesterol should be sourced from foods like eggs, you can bet the sugar industry has funded multiple studies that do the same thing to promote highly refined, high-carbohydrate — very profitable — processed foods too.
So what’s Marion Nestle’s stand on sugar? Less is always better.
Is sugar really all that bad?
The main problem with sugar is that it really has no value and your body can’t use it to do anything for you. What it does do is train your taste buds to crave high sugar foods, it increases your insulin levels and leads to weight gain, blood sugar problems, it kills off the good bacteria in your digestive system by feeding yeasts and bacteria, and it also affects the way your nervous system and neurotransmitters work. It also doesn’t keep you full, which is why so many people eat all day long and claim they’re always hungry and never satisfied. Their bodies are essentially robbed of nutrition. Many people even call sugar a drug, and while that may seem a bit strong, it is worth noting that Big Food clearly recognizes sugars’ powers over all other food ingredients to sell people and want them want more, so apparently, they know more than we seem to.
So, what can you do to fight back?
The best way to fight back is to do three things:
1. First, do your research. Anytime a new study is released on the benefits of a food being for you, find out who funded the study. If it’s a processed food or a byproduct of animal food production, chances are that research is swayed. Truly healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, greens, beans, and legumes don’t receive a large part of marketing and don’t need a label for us to know they’re good for us.
2. Buy whole, living foods. Secondly, spend your money on real food (greens, fruit, veggies, nuts, seeds, healthy fats, beans, legumes, 100 percent real whole grains not whole grain products). Your dollar bills are your vote, Green Monsters! Nestle even recently wrote her last book about this very issue, titled, “Eat Drink Vote” which we all need to think about and do more often instead of just complaining about our unhealthy country or poor state of health. Your body can also learn to enjoy real foods that curb sugar cravings the way nature intended it to do, but it can’t do that if it keeps receiving junk food that disrupts insulin levels and changes the taste buds.
3. Recognize your power. While your dollars start the vote, your actions are the do-all end-all. Say no to Big Food by supporting the whole and organic foods industry, limiting processed food consumption, and eat smart and simply by eating foods nature gave us. You can also sign petitions like those at the Organic Consumers Association that strive to bring more organic, whole foods into food production, and promote real foods over processed foods altogether.
We’re seeing a turn start to happen with new proposals for food labels regarding sugar, however, we can’t stop here. #EatForThePlanet for an ultimately healthier you and certainly a much healthier planet.
Lead Image Source: Flickr