There have been many news reports in the past year or two that focus on the dangers and health effects of consuming sugar. But for many of us (myself included) sugar is SO hard to stop eating. Sweet is something we, the human race, find very enticing. After all, our first food, mother’s breast milk, is inherently sweet and our first solid foods like fruits or grain cereals are as well. So we are primed from the earliest age to enjoy sweet things and associate it with energy, life and fun.
However, has this sweetness gotten out of control? Or have we gone too far off the path from what nature intended with providing sweetness? And is this diversion adversely affecting our bodies and our health?
As a mom, I find it very frustrating that cakes, cookies, ice cream and other sugary sweets are at every party, celebration and even school events. Sugar is unavoidable, and what were once special treats are now household/daily staples. The problem with this is what we are now finding out – that processed sugar and processed foods in general do affect our health – for the worse. In fact, sugar is linked to a plethora of diseases, chronic illnesses and impaired immunity. That is because processed sugar causes inflammation in the body, steals vital nutrients from bones and cells, and feeds the “bad” bugs in our gut flora. Excessive sugar intake (and most kids and adults do consume it excessively) is not only linked to cavities, but also to heart disease, high cholesterol, diabetes, tooth decay, acne, yeast issues, behavior problems, osteoporosis or bone loss, fatigue, cravings, emotional issues and PMS! Crikey!
Our bodies need carbohydrates, proteins and fats, to produce glucose – the main form of cellular energy and what feeds our brains. However, we do not need simple sugars – which we consume so abundantly. In fact, the body gets all the sugar it does need from whole foods like vegetables and grains. The rest is just added “stuff” that starts to contribute to a lot of other “stuff” we don’t want. The average American consumes about one hundred and fifty-six pounds of added sugar per year on a per capita basis, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). That is equal to thirty-one five-pound bags per person, far exceeding the American Heart Association’s recommendation of 6 teaspoons per day for women and 9 teaspoons per day for men!
That is a lot of sugar and it just doesn’t disappear once consumed. In fact, the body in its ultimate wisdom will store this excess energy for a rainy day – intelligence that aids us greatly in times of famine. But living in a culture of food abundance, that famine protection works against us. When there is continual excess your cells will reject it (because they are full), and so it has to go somewhere. The body then stores it as fat. So while you many be concerned about cutting carbs, or losing weight by drinking more water or special protein shakes, taking a look at your sugar intake may serve you best.
But that is the hard part….
We all know that sugar is in cookies and cakes, but did you know that sugar is also found in almost any packaged food you can think of? From packaged meat to soups to commercial salt to baby food, sugar is lurking. It hides behind names such as high fructose corn syrup, beet sugar, barley malt, cane sugar, caramel, dextrose, fructose, glucose syrup, maltodextrin, etc. It is important to note, however, that not all sugar is bad, and the dose or quantity is important to consider as well. Our bodies can process glucose well, it is the load of glucose that makes a difference between health and dis-ease, in addition to what kind of sugar you consume. For example, maple syrup and honey are sugar, but they also contain nutrients the body can use (read more on the nutritional value of maple syrup here: https://draxe.com/maple-syrup-nutrition) . White processed table sugar, however, is nutrient void, and so you put your body at a disadvantage from the start.
Cutting sugar out of your diet requires some strategy, but get started with these tips on how to get sugar out of your kitchen and your mouth.
1. Stop adding it to foods like cereal and fruit and drinks like coffee and tea. You don’t need it. If you must sweeten with something, choose honey, maple syrup or stevia.
2. Eliminate processed carbohydrates from your kitchen. Refined products like white rice, white bread and white pasta are quickly converted to sugar in the body and thus have a similar effect in the body as sugar itself. Switch to whole grain products like brown rice, whole grain bread and brown rice pasta. By incorporating more whole grains into your diet, you are also adding in fiber and essential nutrients like B vitamins and magnesium, both of which contribute to your energy level.
3. Stick with unprocessed whole foods. Take charge of your food and start eating more vegetables, grains and good quality meats. Eating more unprocessed whole foods also helps take away the pain of label-reading. What you see is what you get. A whole foods diet provides our bodies with the right information, energy and fiber – giving your organs, cells and gut what they need to function optimally. When they are happy, your health improves! In fact, there are even some foods that will help you ward off sugar cravings by maintaining blood sugar levels, slowing down the release of glucose, and satisfying hunger. Check out the chart here from our friends at http://www.positivehealthwellness.com for sugar craving fighting foods!
4. Watch your fluids. Soda, commercial juices and other sugary liquids are sugar-rich, and because we know excess sugar is stored as fat, can lead to weight gain. In fact, studies have shown that eliminating soda can lead to significant weight loss in one year. Replace soda and other drinks with water and herbal teas.
5. Beware of Fat-Free Foods. They may have taken out the fat, but replaced it with sugar! Author and Nutritionist Ann Louise Gittleman states in her book Get the Sugar Out, “Fat-free products may sound good on paper, but in the ultimate irony, fat-free products helped to make Americans fatter and can still do so if you eat them excessively.”
Taking these small steps to live a healthier, less sugary lifestyle will have tremendous impact in the long run – on your health and your waist line. Not only will you reduce your sugar cravings, but the addition of more whole foods equals more variety and flavors, which your taste buds and cells will enjoy!
If you are ready to cut out the sugar, then please check out my FREE 10 Days to Sugar Freedom E-Book.
It is a step by step process of easy, manageable steps that will help you break the sugar cycle and get more energy.
Download your copy today!