One of the biggest questions I hear when it comes to nutrition advice is about sugar. In recent decades, sugar, in some form, has shown up in just about every product, often listed as something other than “sugar”, and that has caused a lot of confusion even for the most trained food label readers. In truth, added sugars account for 17% of the daily calorie intake in the average American adult diet-and almost as much in the average child’s diet (14%).
You’ve likely heard all about the dangers of refined sugar. It increases the risks of chronic disease, increases the chance of weight gain, and affects insulin levels and hormones. Sugar consumption affects the skin, causing both acne and even a reduction of collagen, which leads to wrinkles and sagging. Sugar intake can increase energy for brief amounts of time, but this only leads to a crash in blood sugar and leads to even more periods of low energy. Sugar creates inflammation in the body that leads to pain and damage to the cells. In totality, sugar has the ability to badly affect all of the organs of the body, leading to general all over poor health. Sugar also has absolutely no nutritional value, but has 16 calories a teaspoon.
Removing added sugar from our diets is not the easiest thing to do, unless you decide to eat a completely and entirely whole food diet. If that’s not something you wish to take on, but wish to cut as much sugar as possible in your current diet, consider the following suggestions:
*Be a label reader, and know your sugar words. These include words that end with “ose” like, fructose, maltose, lactose, and dextrose. Another huge culprit that has entered our food production is high fructose corn syrup, which is a chemically enhanced version of sugar that has caused quite the negative conversations within the nutrition community because this form may have even worse affects on the body than pure sugar.
*Try to eat as many whole foods as possible, and limit your packaged and processed foods greatly. To accomplish this, try planning your meals by focusing only by what is on the perimeter of your market-produce, meats, seafood, and dairy. Choose whole grain breads and cereals without added sugar, and if you buy canned foods, check the label for sugars.
*Limit your condiments!! Most of these products are full of sugar!
*Removing sugar from the diet can be a daunting experience, but well worth it. Start small! Set your first goal to something you can easily achieve, like giving up sugary drinks like sodas and sweetened juices. After accomplishing that, try removing sugar from another aspect of your diet, perhaps removing sweets, or using a healthy substitute like Swerve when baking. Make small changes as you progress to easily remove sugar from your diet.
As you remove sugar from your diet, and replace those foods with whole, fresh foods, you will experience many benefits:
*Enhanced Energy Levels
Refined sugar enters your bloodstream almost instantly which causes your energy levels quickly surge and crash. When you start to eat less refined sugar, these fluctuations in energy levels will become a thing of the past and you’ll find that you generally have much more energy throughout the day. Not only does this help you feel great but it also makes you much more productive and allows you to perform all your daily tasks effectively.
*Younger Looking Skin
One of the biggest negatives of consuming refined sugar is that it damages your skin in numerous ways.
First, it causes the collagen and elastin in your skin to become inflamed. These structural proteins help your skin stay firm and youthful looking. When they constantly become inflamed as a result of regularly eating large amounts of refined sugar, they become less effective which causes your skin to sag and wrinkles to form.
Second, the inflammation caused by eating sugar has been shown to aggravate various skin disorders including acne (a disorder characterized by red pimples on the skin) and rosacea (a skin disorder characterized by burning and redness).
When you stop eating refined sugar, you’ll also stop damaging your skin in the ways described above and you’ll find that it looks much smoother, more vibrant and youthful.
*Easier Weight Loss
Sugars passes through the digestive system very quickly and because of this, foods that contain high levels of sugar aren’t as satiating as foods that contain minimal amounts of sugar. This means it’s much easier to overeat and consume large amounts of calories that lead to weight gain when you’re eating lots of refined sugar.
Quitting sugar will mean that you’ll feel much fuller every time you eat and naturally eat less food. Food cravings will come less often and because you’re consuming fewer calories, it will be much easier to lose weight.
The energy surges and crashed caused by eating lots of refined sugar are very disruptive to your sleep patterns. They make it difficult to sleep and have a negative impact on your sleep quality when you do manage to fall asleep.
Cutting sugar out of your diet stops it wreaking havoc on your sleep cycles and allows you to enjoy restful, better quality sleep.
Numerous studies have shown that refined sugar is a huge contributor to chronic disease. It causes inflammation in the body, damages your blood vessels and has a negative impact on your vital organs which leaves you open to a wide range of ailments, illness and diseases.
Reducing your intake of refined sugar stops it damaging your body in this way and allows it to heal. Not only does this make you less susceptible to ailments that are directly caused by refined sugar but it also boosts your overall immunity.
Replacing the Sweet
If you’re looking for ways to keep your sweet tooth, but eliminate sugar, try one of these healthy sugar substitutes! If you’re tracking your calorie intake, be sure to check the calories before using these.
Stevia is one of the most popular natural sweeteners. This herb, which comes from South America, is 300 times sweeter than refined sugar. It contains zero calories, so is a great choice if you’re trying to lose weight. Plus, it has no glycemic impact, so it’s a perfect refined sugar alternative if you’re diabetic. Stevia is also very easy to digest which means you won’t suffer from any of the digestive problems that are often associated with sugar substitutes.
Coconut sugar is created through the heating the sap from coconut palms. Unlike refined sugar, coconut sugar doesn’t de-stabilize your energy levels, so is ideal if you want to stay productive and focused during the day. Like stevia, it’s also a great choice if you suffer from diabetes because it won’t disrupt your blood sugar levels. Another great thing about coconut sugar is that it supplies your body with nutrients as it sweetens and is a good source of calcium, iron, potassium and zinc. 10 calories a teaspoon.
Date sugar is made by grinding down dehydrated dates into sugar sized granules. As you’d expect from the production process, it has the same rich and sweet flavor of fresh dates, and shares all their health benefits. These health benefits include promoting healthy digestion, strengthening your heart and lowering your blood pressure. The main negative of date sugar is that it doesn’t melt or dissolve easily, so it’s not a good choice if you want to sweeten your drinks. 15 calories a teaspoon
Honey is sweeter than refined sugar and has a much greater range of health benefits. It contains high levels of vitamins and minerals which support many vital processes within the body. It also has antibacterial and antifungal properties, so is a perfect sweetener for boosting your immunity. Unlike refined sugar, honey is also great for your skin and can help make it brighter, smoother and more radiant. It tastes great in tea and can also be used as a replacement for sugar in many recipes. 21 calories a teaspoon
Maple syrup contains around half the calories of refined sugar and is a much more nutritious choice. It’s loaded with antioxidants which protect your body’s cells from damage and reduce the visible signs of aging. Maple syrup is also a brilliant source of the manganese and zinc which boost your metabolism and your immune system. In addition to this, it’s great for your skin and can protect against skin blemishes, dry skin and redness. Finally, maple syrup has been shown to protect against a range of chronic ailments and diseases including arthritis, cancer, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease and heart disease. Make sure your maple syrup is pure, with no added sugars! 17 calories a teaspoon
If you have questions about your sugar intake, or how to remove sugar from your diet by setting small attainable goals, feel free to contact me