Sugar…It’s Not So Sweet: Calgary Avansino at TEDxMoorgate (Full Transcript)

So about two weeks ago, I was speaking at a school in California about sugar. And after I was done, a little six-year-old boy, adorable little boy, came up to me and said, “But I don’t have to worry about that because I don’t eat a lot of sugar.”

So I crouched down with him, and I started chatting with him. And I said, “What do you normally eat for breakfast?” And he said, “Well, my favorite thing is white bread with jam.”

And I said, “What do you eat for snack?”

“Usually, a packet of crisps or a bag of potato chips,” he said.

“And what do you like to eat for lunch?”

“Well, usually, my favorite Lunchables pack.”

“And how about dinner?”

“Well, most of the time, I have white pasta with cookies.” “But,” he said, “I’m, like, the healthiest boy in my class.”

So we’re going to come back to this little boy later in my talk. Right now, April 2016, we are faced with this situation: 19 billion people worldwide are categorized as overweight. That means they have a body mass index of 25 or above.

Another 650 million people worldwide are categorized as obese. That means they have a body mass index of 30 or above. Twenty percent of all ten-year-olds in the UK are obese, and another 15% are overweight. And 400 million people worldwide are struggling with type 2 diabetes. Now, that is a very sad state of affairs.

But let’s now look at ten years from now. The most conservative projections say that 20% of the world population will be obese. And many doctors and many researchers absolutely believe that that number will be 50%. By 2025, one in every ten people will have type 2 diabetes, and countries that we don’t normally associate with obesity, Latin America, Central America, China, and the Middle East, will be struggling with vast increases in obesity and lifestyle diseases.

So if those statistics shock you as much as they did when I was learning about them, I want us to think about this room. That’s 20% to 50% of all people not being able to work efficiently, move well, fundamentally being happy or content. Let’s look at this room. There’s 100 people in this room. There’s ten rows. That’s ten people in each row. Look down your row. That means that up to five people in each row would be obese, have type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and other lifestyle diseases. This is a major, major public health issue, and it’s preventable.

So how did we come so far from 100 years ago, when obesity really wasn’t an issue? Well, first of all, our lifestyles are drastically different. But today, I want to talk about our food culture and our eating habits, which would be unrecognizable to our great-grandparents.

Yes, we need to move more; yes, we need to sweat more; our kids need to watch less video games and get outside more, but that is not why I just read off the statistics that I did. It is mostly and a lot about the food that we eat.

So let’s think about a table, a meal table 100 years ago. There would be meat from a local butcher or a local ranch. There would be fruit and vegetables that was seasonal and local, often bought by someone that you knew. There wasn’t processed snacks; there wasn’t really snacks at all. Food was cooked in the home, and it was eaten with the family. None of it was processed. None of it was manufactured. And all of it was real food, food that came from the sun’s energy that’s grown in the soil.

Now let’s look at a meal today. Much like that little six-year-old’s meal. It often starts with a bowl of cereal that comes from a box that has high fructose corn syrup loaded into it. A snack is ripped out of a packet, lunch is a drive-through fast-food restaurant, afternoon snack is a candy bar and a coke, and dinner is something maybe that you can put in the microwave for five minutes, four minutes, and it’s done. And of course, dessert.

So, the biggest element that we need to look at is how all of that is processed. All of that is manufactured food, and none of it is real. It is unreal food. And the most detrimental element of that unreal food that I want to talk about today is sugar. Sugar, sugar, sugar – it’s everywhere.

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If you step out of the produce section in any grocery store, and look down any other aisle, it is flooded with products that are filled with sugar. I’m going to tell you about a happy married couple, called processed food and sugar. They’re connected at the hip, they never fight, and they’re madly in love. Those two together are what is causing these epidemics and this crisis. And it’s not just sugary things that you might expect.

It’s not just candy and sweets and sodas. It’s savory things; it’s unexpected items; it’s dressings; it’s bread products; it’s dairy products. It’s everything. So I want to talk about how much sugar the average person here in Britain eats on a weekly basis. It’s 20 teaspoons of sugar.

Now, the World Health Organization and doctors and researchers and scientists, people who know what they’re talking about, say that our bodies cannot handle more than seven teaspoons, or 30 grams, of sugar per day. Six – some people even say six, and children should have five teaspoons. The average Briton eats 20 teaspoons of sugar per day. Per day. And we need to be eating no more than seven teaspoons per day.

So I’m talking about grams, and I’m talking about teaspoons, and it’s a little bit confusing because until the labeling regulations change, all the food that you see in grocery stores, all the food that you see in fast-food restaurants or quick service chains is in grams. And that’s hard for us to visualize. But if we can visualize teaspoons, it makes it much easier. So the equation that you need to embed in your mind is that four grams of sugar equals one teaspoon. Four grams of sugar equals one teaspoon.

Because if you can visualize that this bowl of cereal that you’re thinking of giving your child to start their day has four teaspoons of sugar in it, you’re going to think twice about it. But somehow grams gets us a little bit confused. So I’m going to do a little experiment with us.

Here’s the 20 teaspoons of sugar that people are eating per day, and this is the seven teaspoons of sugar that we’re meant to be eating every day. Now, first, I’m going to go through a meal which I consider to be a pretty unhealthy day of meals

But I must remind you that many, many people around the world would not consider this an unhealthy day of meals Let me find my unhealthy bag So we’re going to start with a bowl of average sugar cereal, which is three teaspoons of sugar, and a danish, which is five teaspoons. Then you’re going to have a Coke at 11 am, which is ten teaspoons of sugar. Then you’re going to have a fried chicken sandwich with a honey barbecue dipping sauce, and some crisps, and that’s six teaspoons of sugar. A KitKat at 3 pm, 25 teaspoons of sugar, a double cheeseburger, french fries with ketchup, three teaspoons of sugar, a gin and tonic, 35 teaspoons, and a bowl of ice cream and a few cookies, that’s nine teaspoons. Okay. You laugh, but that’s a reality for many, many people. And the grand total is 42 teaspoons of sugar.

How many are we supposed to have per day? Seven. Okay. Now, I’m going to do a jar, which many of you might assume is a very healthy day of meals. So, we’re going to start with a bowl of granola, which is three teaspoons of sugar. A glass of orange juice, which is four teaspoons of sugar. A healthy snack bar and an Innocent smoothie, nine teaspoons of sugar. A salad with creamy French dressing, two teaspoons of sugar. A low-fat vanilla yogurt with fresh chopped mango, 14 teaspoons of sugar. A chicken teriyaki dinner with fried rice, three teaspoons of sugar. And no dessert. And that grand total is 32 teaspoons of sugar.

So, some of you probably found that pretty surprising, right? So even if you’re thinking to yourself: “This lady’s not talking to me. I don’t drink a lot of Coke. I don’t eat a lot of sweets,” I guarantee you, you eat more sugar than you think, and definitely more than is good for you. So while we have these numbers floating around in our head, I want to show you some other examples of the amount of sugar in certain items.

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And some of them are treats, and you’re going to say, “Obviously, those have sugar in them.” That’s not why I’m showing you them. I’m showing them because I want you to see how much sugar they have in them. They have so much. Some of them, this “treat” that you might be eating two to three time a week has more in it than we’re supposed to have per day.

So let’s just start with a granola. One bowl, four teaspoons of sugar. These fruit and nut nibbles are four and a half teaspoons of sugar. Please keep in your mind the seven teaspoons of sugar that we’re supposed to have per day. Petits Filous, any of you that have children know that kids will beg you to buy these. No one eats just one; they look like a bite in themselves. Two of these are 29 teaspoons of sugar. Tomato soup, 485 teaspoons of sugar. Baked beans, nation’s favorite, 49 teaspoons of sugar. Twix bar – and definitely no one eats one of these – is six teaspoons for the two sticks; Mars bar, 76 teaspoons.

So now, we’re over our daily limit just with our afternoon snack. Flavored fruit water, healthy flavored fruit water, 85 teaspoons of sugar. Jelly Babies – not the whole pack, just eight of the little babies – is 10 teaspoons of sugar. Raspberry jam that you put on your toast, 100 grams, which is about to there, is 12 teaspoons of sugar. The beloved Coca-Cola, 135 teaspoons of sugar. Red Bull, seven teaspoons of sugar. And one bottle of Lucozade, 155 teaspoons of sugar.

So we all need to make changes. We need to make changes to how we eat. We need to make changes to how we shop, for us, but also for our families, and most importantly, for our children. So there are five ways that I want you to try to make changes in your life.

First of all, don’t assume that something is healthy just because it says “natural” or “light” on the label, or just because you’ve always eaten it, or just because it’s always been in your kitchen. Start turning around everything you buy, looking on the back, looking at the ingredients. If there are tons of words that you don’t understand, put it back on the shelf. If it is loaded with sugar, put it back on the shelf.

The second thing I want you to do is to learn all these sneaky ways that brands put sugar into foods. I’ve given you a handout. There are hundreds of different words that products use for the word “sugar.” Just because it doesn’t say S-U-G-A-R in the ingredient list, does not mean it’s not loaded with sugar. So educate yourself about that.

The third thing: remember your numbers. Four grams equals one teaspoon. That’s your equation so that you can visualize those teaspoons in your head when you’re shopping for you, when you’re shopping for your children, and when you’re feeding them. And remember, seven teaspoons of sugar per day should be your goal. Try to do less, but seven teaspoons per day has got to be your goal.

Number four: think about my happy couple, processed food and sugar. This is the most important thing. We need to stop eating so much processed food and sugar. I called my book “Keep It Real,” because the most important thing that people need to do is start eating real food, food that has grown from the earth. That is what we’re meant to be eating. Start cooking as many days of the week as you can. Cook with your children on the weekends. Bring your cooked leftovers in to lunch with you. If you make that shift to start eating real food, change will happen.

Number five: remember that you are in control of what you buy. If you don’t want to be eating certain foods, if you don’t want your family to be eating certain foods, don’t buy it. Don’t bring it into your house. Because if it’s not in your house, you’re not going to eat it. If we all make changes, we can have a healthier, happier future, and just, maybe, that little six-year-old boy will not be a depressing statistic. Thank you very much. Thank you for having me.

 

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