In my journey to live a healthier lifestyle I’ve always hit a roadblock when it comes to my diet. I dislike the general idea of dieting restrictively but I’ve also come to realize that sometimes it might be necessary. For example, reducing my sugar intake, has become a huge goal. But it’s also difficult to do so. Part of this is because sugar is in almost everything we consume. As a child, I admit, I did eat sugar cubes, I heaped a spoonful of sugar on my cereal… I loved sugar. I still love sugar, but I’m also learning that this isn’t such a great thing. Here are a few practical ways to start reducing your sugar intake.
Why You Should Reduce Your Sugar Intake
There are several reasons as to why we should reduce our sugar intake. I’m not about to suggest that you completely go sugar free, but if you do feel like taking the next step- more power to you. For me, I know that’s something that I just can’t possibly do at this time.
But why should you start reducing your sugar intake?
Most people in America, Canada and the U.K. consume too much sugar. The World Health Organization recommends our diet should not contain more than 5% added sugar – the sugar added to products, not naturally occurring as it does in fruit.
For people on a 2,000 calorie diet, that amounts to 100 calories per day. At 4 calories per gram, that amounts to 20 grams of sugar or about 5 teaspoons. In reality we are consuming on average 18 to 26 teaspoons per day or about 5 times the amount we should have. Consuming too much sugar can cause a whole host of conditions or illnesses:
One of the leading causes of weight gain, and in extreme cases obesity, is the added sugar found in soda drinks, fast foods, processed foods and bakery items. The extra sugar your body doesn’t need is converted to triglycerides and stored as fat around your waist hips and thighs.
Eating too much sugar can put you at risk for Type 2 diabetes. When you eat something high in added sugar, your body releases insulin as a response to process the sugar and carry it to the cells for energy. Forcing the insulin response over time can make your body insulin resistant meaning it takes more and more insulin to process the same amount of sugar. Eventually your body will not be able to make enough insulin on its own to get the sugar out of your system, thus causing diabetes.
Excess sugar in your bloodstream acts as tiny shards of glass and if not controlled, it can cause scarring on the inside of your veins and arteries. This can provide places for plaque to begin attaching thus eventually causing restrictions in blood flow and in extreme cases blockage resulting in either a heart attack or stroke.
The organ in the body that secretes insulin is the pancreas. By overworking it, you increase your chances for pancreatic cancer.
Chronically high insulin levels in your bloodstream also increase your risk for other conditions such as polycystic ovarian syndrome, acne and even myopia. Decreasing your intake of added sugar allows your body to process sugar on a more even basis, thus reducing your risk for the mentioned illnesses and conditions.
How to Start Reducing Your Sugar Intake
You may be eating a lot more sugar than you think. Sure you expect pastries to taste sweet, but added sugar is hidden in foods that you wouldn’t think would have sugar, such as sauces, breads and condiments.
Most likely you are eating about twice the amount of added sugar recommended by the American Heart Association. They recommend 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day maximum. Most of us eat twice that amount and don’t even know it. A diet high in sugar causes tooth decay, heart disease, diabetes and weight gain. So how can you start reducing your sugar intake?
The easiest way for packaged products is to look for sugar in the nutritional information. It will tell you how many grams of sugar each serving has in it.
Learn sugar aliases
Sugar is called many things on nutrition labels. High fructose corn syrup, dried cane sugar, invert sugar, molasses and sucrose are just a few of the names you’ll find. Anything ending in “-ose” is a sugar.
Look for foods that advertise themselves as unsweetened or “no sugar added”. But you still have to read the label as it might contain an artificial sweetener. Some of that stuff is worse for you than real sugar. If you buy canned fruit, buy “packed in its own juices” and not “in syrup”.
Gradually cut down on sugar
Sugar is addictive, so if you try to ditch it cold turkey, your craving for it will win out and you’ll be right back where you started. Instead, slowly wean yourself off of it with an eventual goal of getting off of it altogether (or at least reduced down to a minimum). For example, if you normally use two packets of sugar in your coffee, use just one instead.
Eat more protein
Many of the foods containing carbohydrates are also loaded with sugar. So think proteins instead. Protein helps stabilize out blood sugar spikes by slowing down the release of sugar into your blood stream. Besides, fiber fills you up so you are less likely to grab a carbohydrate snack later on that is loaded with sugar.
I had read, during my pregnancy, that when I was craving sugar my body was really craving protein. I wonder if that still applies now?
Avoid artificial sweeteners
While it may seem like a good idea, if you are trying to cut down on the amount of sugar you eat, don’t switch to foods sweetened with artificial sweeteners. What happens when you eat or drink something sweetened artificially, your body thinks it is real sugar and therefore expects the calories and nutrition associated with sugar, but it doesn’t get it. In the short term, it increases your appetite and in the end, you gain weight.
And if you’d like more help with gradually reducing your sugar intake, I have a free guide to help you get started!