An Apple a Day Keeps the Sugar Away

Rachel O'Donnell , Writer

It’s 7:30 in the morning. You’re tired. You’re hungry. You have math class first period. So what do you do?

If you’re like most American teenagers, the first thing to reach for is the Dunkin’ Donuts iced latte and pumpkin muffin. After all, you’ve got to stay awake somehow, right?

And how unhealthy could a little cream and sugar really be?

You see, the problem is that we all feel invincible when we’re in high school. At this age, it’s all about “YOLO”, “Who has the coolest Vera Bradley”, and “I want that new iPhone 5! The Blackberry is so 2010.”

Let’s face it: we just don’t care about the long-term effects at age 16. We figure it’s perfectly okay to skip the breakfast and eat dessert first.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you want to look at it), it’s more serious than we thought—and while we may not have to be worried about developing osteoporosis at age 19 or suffering from a sudden heart attack due to high blood pressure, there’s no denying the facts: According to the American Obesity Association, 30.4 percent of teens are overweight.

15.5 percent are obese…and we’re the fattest nation on earth.

And did you know that starting your day off with a fattening pile of hydrogenated oils and sugar can actually be the cause of your drowsiness?

To put it simply, that temporary feeling of happiness you feel after eating a pumpkin muffin is actually just your body experiencing a spike of blood sugar levels in the blood stream. Meanwhile, in the brain, the production of a certain chemical called “orexin”—which is linked to alertness—is inhibited, causing that tired “crash” we all feel after about 10 minutes.

Therefore (believe it or not), eating a sugary breakfast or snack is making you more tired during the day.

“I’m happy when I’m eating sugary foods, but then a little while later I feel bad that I didn’t eat something healthy,” comments FHS Junior Allison Klowan. And it’s true: when eating sugar, our body releases serotonin, a brain chemical that makes us feel happy…at least for a brief period of time!

Inevitably, we can’t help but love the feeling sweet foods give us. We crave that short-lived sugar high, and, consequently, reach for another bar of candy or cup of coffee to get us going again and wash away the guilt….thus continuing the sugar addiction.

“After I eat sugar, I usually feel guilty and consequently want to eat more food. That’s why I try so hard to eat healthy!” says 11th grader Erin Moreau.

Basically, sugar is a two-faced evil. It propels us into a never-ending cycle of extreme happiness due to the production of seretonin and opioids, then smashes us down with tiredness and sadness (not to mention, a lifelong plethora of disease and malnutrition).

In fact, according to recent research, prolonged consumption of sugary foods may serve as a link between ADHD, cancer, cardiovascular disease, hyperactivity, difficulty concentrating, anxiety, crankiness, reduction in defense against infectious diseases, and obesity.

Of course, it certainly doesn’t help when we’re surrounded by snack stands selling nutritionally void Doritos and Double Stuffed Oreos—after all, who’s going to pass that up? Again, we tend to remember the original “high” we get from eating these foods rather than the consequences consumption might entail.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of those chocolate chip cookies too—but we have to stop this addiction before it escalates any further. Obesity is becoming a national issue…and it’s not something to be taken lightly. It’s simple: if you want to live a healthy lifestyle, put down the junk! It’s not worth it.

Here are some simple tips to get you started:

1.)    Start with a protein-packed breakfast to kick start your day and help you feel satisfied longer…that way, you’ll be less likely to go for that pumpkin muffin!

2.)    Eat regularly! Don’t starve yourself until 3 PM when you go home and eat everything you can find—this is a bad habit. Pack some trail mix or celery and peanut butter; the combo of fiber and “healthy” fats will keep you fuller for a longer period of time.

3.)    Exercise and drink lots of water—at least 8 glasses a day. I know. Probably more than you have in a week…but your heart will thank you in the long run.

4.)    Eat more fruit! They’re packed with essential vitamins and minerals…plus, they taste pretty good, too.

5.)    Cut down on the processed foods—yes, I’m looking at you, Rice Krispie Treats and 100 Calorie packs. If the first or second ingredient is sugar, put down the package and walk away.

6.)    Be mindful of what you’re eating, and try not to snack out of boredom or the pursuit of emotional stability. Your body works so hard to keep you strong and healthy—so give it some nutrition in return!

Really, it’s all about moderation, guys. The American Heart Association recommends that we don’t consume more than 25 grams of sugar per day…and do you know how much we have?

About 110 grams every day.

That’s ridiculous!

In short, you can just pretend you’ve never read this and go on eating the loads of fattening fries and sugar-filled soft drinks which consume the average American diet. You can deny the facts, you can walk away, you can hide from the truth.

Or you can actually take a step in the right direction and get your health on track again. It’s simple: Instead of the burger, go for the salad! When 2 o’clock rolls around and you’re dying for a satisfying snack before dinner, reach for an apple or a protein bar!

But the next time you pick up that bowl of chips, just think: is it really worth risking the future of your physical and emotional health? Is it worth setting yourself up for cancer, disease, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, kidney damage, and illness?

Either way, you’re only hurting yourself…but the more we begin to realize the harmful effects of sugary foods in our lives, the better chance we have for a brighter, healthier future.

Think about it.

Would you consider modifying your sugar intake?


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