*Originally published 1/20/20
Sugar is a hot topic right now, but what’s all the fuss about? Today I want to give you a brief overview of why sugar is something you need to be aware of, how it can affect your health, where it might be hiding in your diet, and some tips to cut back on your intake.
You’ve probably heard about blood sugar and the glycemic index, but what does really mean? Blood sugar is the amount of glucose we have circulating in our blood, and it’s regulated by insulin (helps clear sugar from the blood into cells where it can be stored when blood sugar levels are high) and glucagon (which helps break down stored glucose to raise blood sugar levels back to normal if they are low). Some foods are digested and absorbed more quickly than others (AKA high glycemic), which causes a sharp increase in blood sugar levels.
Continuously elevated blood sugar may lead to not only weight gain, but also:
- Increased likelihood to have memory deficits and increased risk of Alzheimer’s Disease
- Increased risk of cavities in your teeth
- May increase blood pressure and triglycerides, which may cause heart disease
- May increase risk of asthma
- Can lead to insulin resistance and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes
- May disrupt the gut microbiome and impair the immune system
- Can keep you from feeling satiated after a meal, causing overeating and an increased risk of obesity
- Promotes inflammation, the underlying cause of many chronic diseases
- Misplaces nutrient-dense calories and may lead to vitamin deficiencies
Most Americans consume over 19 teaspoons of sugar each day, while it is recommended that adults limit consumption to a maximum of 6 teaspoons a day.
Blood sugar spikes can be prevented by consuming foods that are naturally high in fiber, like vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and some fruits. You can also slow digestion and reduce the amount of glucose being exposed to your system by eating meals that have a balance of carbs, proteins, and fats.
It’s important to understand the difference between natural and added sugars. Natural sugar exists in whole foods like fruits and vegetables, while added sugar is added during processing, and can be found in things like soda, baked goods, sauces, dips and many other things. Naturally occurring sugars are generally safe, because if you’re consuming a whole fruit, like an apple, there is enough fiber to counteract the amount of sugar in the fruit, and slow down the rate of absorption (unfortunately, this is not the case with fruit juices, since the fiber is stripped of the fruit when it is juiced).
If you’ve never paid attention to added sugar, I highly recommend checking out the labels of the foods you’re buying- you’ll be surprised by some of the things (savory foods like chips, crackers, salad dressings) that have sugar added to them! Many food that are marketed as “healthy” like breakfast cereal, nutrition bars, and yogurt are loaded with sugar.
So, how can you actually decrease your sugar intake?
The first step is to make yourself aware. Start reading the labels on the food you’re buying. Like I said before, you’ll probably be surprised by some of the places sugar is hiding! Try looking for alternative products that have less added sugar, or better yet, none!
Next, do more home cooking! Since most added sugars are hiding in processed foods, the less you eat out of a package, the less added sugar you’ll consume. You’ll also save money when you cook at home, it’s a great way to connect and spend time with your family!
Cut back on (or better yet, quit!) sodas and sweetened coffee beverages. These are empty calories that don’t do anything good for your body.
Use cinnamon- it adds a sweet taste without adding sugar, and has been shown in several studies to reduce fasting blood sugar levels.
Eat more fats. Fats have gotten a bad rap over the years, but eating healthy fats like nuts, nut butters, full fat dairy, avocado, etc. will help keep you feeling full and satisfied so you won’t crave sugar as much.
Crowd out junk food by working sweet vegetables and fruit into your diet. The more sweetness you get from real foods like sweet potatoes, summer squash, beets, and whole fruit, the less room you’ll have for candy and other junk foods.
And finally, give yourself time. Whether you try to quit cold turkey, or gradually cut back over time, it will be a process. You should notice change in your taste buds after about 2 weeks, but it can take much longer (up to 8 weeks), especially if you’re making gradual changes.
If you’re interested in cutting back on your sugar intake, I’m here to help! Schedule your free consultation today to see how I can help you make lasting change!