Thursday, January 6, 2011

Sugar and More!

So.  I was creating a lesson on the differences I experience between the good old U. S. of A. and Japan, and I said to myself, "Hey, that's good blog material, right there, that is."  Here is what I was thinking: 

The food is very different.  Desserts are VERY different.  In the US, desserts are cakes, brownies, pies, cookies, ice cream, crème brulee, tarts, etc.  Very sweet and sugary.  In Japan, desserts are made of rice or beans and water and sugar.  Sure, they have ice cream and stuff, but it's more of an international novelty than a staple.  Mochi is where it's at, and it's just rice.  In the stores, to my dismay, I can only buy small boxes of individually wrapped cookies.  I quote myself, "Why are they individually wrapped?  They don't need to keep.  Once I open it, I am going to eat the whole box."  Sugar makes up American desserts, but only dresses Japanese desserts.  Imagine if, every time you ate a sweet, you ate, like, 50% less sugar, and got something nutritional out of it.  It would make a huge difference, over the course of a year, or 50 years. 

After experiencing food in Japan, where the all-around perception is that Japanese food is very healthy, despite the presence of fried food at almost every meal, I have come to think that Americans have the worst weight problems on the planet because of the amount of sugar in American food, not just in desserts, but in everything, thanks to manufacturers, from bar-b-q sauce to rice.  I mention the manufacturers because I really don't believe that the sugar they put into stuff is necessary for any reason, and, although I am a huge proponent of personal responsibility, my current experience shifts my perspective to see Americans as victims of the manufacturers, slaves to their (our) addiction. 

Americans have to make careful choices to stay away from bad food, choices that Japanese people don't have to make because those terrible products don't exist here.  For instance, for many years trans fats have infected our food, which are now becoming illegal, thanks to the state of New York.  So, for years people ate what is now illegal.  It’s not people’s faults, for a large part, that they are overweight and sick, when a great majority of the options available to them breed disease.  Not everyone can be a food scientist, but in today's food culture, it seems that we have to be to keep ourselves healthy, to defend ourselves from the corporations that grow so large that no one feels responsible for what they sell.  Either that, or there are some seriously messed up ethics in the food business...  Actually, being in Japan has already made me soft;  Of course there are seriously messed up ethics in the American food industry.  People do really sick things.  Maybe they are desensitized, they don't feel any personal responsibility, they are desperate to make a dime, despite the means...  Our food culture is sickly Machiavellian.  It makes me feel defeated.  This is why I was vegan, and why I revisit the idea now.  It's the only power I have. 

Why all the sugar?  I don't think it makes things taste better than healthier alternatives, or induces brand loyalty (although all sellers of food can band together and benefit from the addiction it causes), it's certainly not healthy...  I don't understand it.  I recall that things don't spoil as quickly when they have lots of sugar.  Maybe it's included so often and in such quantities for preservation reasons?  That's where the ethics come in.  Someone made a decision that the shelf life was more important than the nutritional value or the harm their products might cause. 

If corporations decide to put something in their food, it takes a long time for people to discover how bad it is and, if it becomes necessary, for the government to step in and regulate it.  It's got to be really bad for that to happen, and takes the formation of independent organizations to create awareness and pressure, but it does happen.  In Japan, they don't have so many products laden with sugar and chemicals.  Why?  Many layers and years cloud the reasons; however, I attribute it to a combination of values, less advertising, and a phobia of preservatives among the people.  That's where it comes back to personal responsibility; people in America just have to stop buying the stuff.  We're just in so deep...  and do crack addicts just one day say to themselves, "You know, this really isn't good for me.  I think I'll stop buying it."  You might think that correlation draws a little too dramatically, but I'm not sure.

Some stuff I just found:
"The trans-fats used to manufacture Oreos added greatly to the cookie’s distinctive taste, consistency and ease of manufacture...."

"Consumption of processed foods (which are laced with sugar) cost the American public more than $54 billion in dental bills each year, so the dental industry reaps huge profits from the programmed addiction of the public to sugar products."

In the last 20 years, we have increased sugar consumption in the U.S. 26 pounds to 135 lbs. of sugar per person per year!

The fierce perspective of the "macrobiotics" website might turn some people off, but I eat that stuff up.  They mention that "sugar manufacturers are aggressive in defending their product and have a strong political lobby which allows them to continue selling a deadly food item that by all reason should not be allowed in the American diet."  I know that the breakdown of such a monstrous industry would, painfully and in plain view, significantly change many people's lives for a short time, but it would also, out of our collective consciousness in the darkness of the body, significantly improve even more lives for a long time.  Also a bit Machiavellian.  So, I propose something preposterous.  The sugar industry gets 10 years to save and invest all of the money it would have spent on political gains, and use it to help their employees when their doors close, or become dramatically fewer.  Where's my Nobel prize?

For myself, I have the addiction.  My sweet tooth would kill you in your sleep if you denied it it's dark chocolate bars, rich chocolate cakes, milk shakes, ohhhhhhhh... I think I am committing slow suicide, and I seriously need to do something about it.

I know my thoughts drift off in many directions where I do not follow, and that many of my presumptions and conclusions may be insufficiently thought out.  Just fast food for thought.

From Japan,


Megan said...

It's like you are reading my mind except you are tons more brilliant.

But really, this is a very salient topic right now in my brain. I read an article here a while ago that sort of relates to why people go vegan, but how there might be other alternatives (to eat the other food without supporting the unhelpful manufacturers): "I was wrong about veganism. Let them eat meat – but farm it properly". It may be of some help to you.

I guess one reason why they might add sugar to what seems like everything is because sugar is addictive and people will consume, enjoy and just want more.
I have found since avoiding refined sugars to the best of my ability that whenever I partake of something sugary, I'm almost immediately disgusted by its over the top sweetness. This means I barely buy packaged goods or sweets anymore; I'd rather make it myself with different natural sweeteners like honey or Grade B Maple Syrup. And who gets the money for that? The supplier (like a family or local company), not a big food company, most likely. So, it seems to me that in most cases, some company benefits while the public suffers. It's a vicious cycle and you're right, people need to be responsible, but we also need to get the word out.

A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, but maybe if we weren't so addicted to sugar we wouldn't need all that extra medicine in the first place.

Now let's go eat some rice!

Anonymous said...

Nice blog Tiff. I really could go for a Twinkie now! or in ten years because it will still be ok to eat then. You draw everyone in with the great title, then...

gnacres said...

I really enjoyed this particular entry, Tiffany. I emailed it to a friend and hopefully she too will become a follower. I signed up as one but notice I am not listed in with the other "followers" but rather on top of them....not sure what I have to do to get this corrected. BUT nevermind....I read.

Megan said...

I wrote a really awesome comment last night but I guess it didn't take.

Megan said...

Anyway my point was I think it's all a sham. Sugar is addictive so it gets added to everything so you'll buy more of it. I guess what I'm saying is it's big business.

Since I do not consume nearly as much refined sugars as I used to, I'm not quite as addicted and therefore barely support certain brands or manufacturers. Oh well.

But you know how Mary Poppins sings, "A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down"? Maybe if we weren't addicted to sugar we wouldn't need so much medicine!! TAKE THAT!! ;)

いいちゃん said...

I don't know your blog.
I'll cheak it:D

Ayne said...

Sadly, I am discovering a sugar addiction as well. I wish I felt powerful enough to do something about it.