Not So Sweet

Although February is celebrated by many as the month of love, most parents can attest that it can also be a month filled with stuffy noses, sneezing and coughing. While it’s certainly not unusual for children to get sick throughout the year, there are many things that parents can do to help support their children’s immune systems. A significant reason for lowered immunity in children can be the amount of sugar they consume in their diet.

While cinnamon hearts, cookies and cupcakes with pink icing are treats that children often enjoy around Valentine’s Day, for many sugar filled treats aren’t just for special occasions, they’re an everyday addition to their diet. In fact, North Americans on average eat 125 pounds of sugar each year. That’s 13 625 teaspoons every year! Even when we are diligent about restricting the amount of candy and treats our children eat, sugar consumption will often remain quite high.

Sugar can be found in almost all processed foods. If it’s not a whole food, then it has probably had sugar added to either enhance the taste or promote a longer shelf life. Sugar can be found in ketchup, salad dressing, canned vegetables, tomato sauce, peanut butter, lunch meat, pretzels and even some baby formulas. Not only is sugar hidden in most processed foods, the food industry is always coming up with different names for the sugar they use. To date there are at least 69 different words being used on labels for the word sugar.

This is a list of some of the more common words being used:

Corn sweetenerGlucoseSaccharose
Corn syrupHigh-fructose corn syrupSorbitol
Corn syrup solidsInvert sugarSorghum or sorghum
Cane JuiceLactoseSyrup
Dehydrated cane juiceMaltodextrinSucrose
DextrinMalt syrupSyrup
Fruit juice concentrateRaw sugar

A child’s immune system is important in maintaining health and preventing illness. Their bodies are being challenged and responding to potential viruses and bacteria every day. Unfortunately, their immune system function can be extremely impeded by eating sugar. Our white blood cells are responsible for helping to fight infections and even one teaspoon of sugar can paralyze some of these cells for up to six hours, leaving the body vulnerable to attack from viruses, bacteria and parasites. When children (and adults) are eating sugar with nearly every meal, their immune systems are constantly operating at a lowered level.

The benefits of reducing sugar from the diet are enormous; a stronger immune system, fewer mood swings and behavioural problems and a reduced risk of obesity and diabetes. Completely removing sugar from a child’s diet is not realistic but being aware of where sugar may be hidden in all foods can help you can make better, healthier choices for your whole family.


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