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The (not so) sweet truth

The average American consumes 19.5 teaspoons of sugar every day – that equals about 66 pounds of added sugars per year! Compared to the American Heart Association recommendation of 6 teaspoons (female) and 9 teaspoons (male) a day, it is not surprising that we have seen a dramatic increase in obesity, diabetes and other chronic disease.

Sugars are either defined as “natural occurring” or “added.”. Added sugars are sugars or syrups added to foods during processing and preparation. These contain no nutritional value and can lead to unhealthy weight gain, high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol.   Naturally occurring sugars are those found in whole, unprocessed foods such as fruit.

Even if you are not spending the day eating cookies, ice cream or other sugary treats – it is likely there are added sugars hiding in your diet. Breakfast bars, salad dressings, condiments, frozen prepared meals, dried fruit, energy drinks, processed meats, chewing gum… the list goes on and on. These seemingly “healthy” foods may be harboring detrimental sugars and lacking the nutrients your body truly needs.  So, where exactly are they hiding? I’ll show you below.

 

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Sugar and our bodies

What does sugar actually do to our body that makes it so bad? Insulin is a crucial hormone responsible for controlling blood sugar levels. When sugar is consumed in large amounts, not enough insulin is produced and blood sugar levels rise. Over time, this causes a condition known as insulin resistance, in which the body no longer responds to insulin. It doesn’t stop here. Insulin resistance can lead to inflammation, diabetes, obesity, cancer and other serious health disorders. Scary – right?! Now this doesn’t mean you can never eat sugar again. It means you need to be aware what type of sugars you are eating and how much is being consumed.

The reason some of us find it so hard to cut out sugar is not surprising – it’s addicting. Regular sugar consumption can actually lead to a feeling of “dependency” and cause similar effects to substance abuse. Mimicking the effect of drugs, this may cause bingeing, withdrawal and intense cravings. Crazy! So, how do you stop craving sugar? It may be easier said than done but – the less you eat, the less you crave. Through small, gradual changes you can re-wire your brain to stray away from sugar. Some tips below to help you cut back your intake.

  • Increase protein and fat intake – these are digested slower than sugars, helping to stay full and reduce cravings
  • Swap out the soda – choose water or seltzer instead
  • Pick fresh fruit – avoid juices and opt for the whole food version
  • Start reading ingredient labels – look for “added sugars” on nutrition facts
  • Substitute applesauce or mashed banana when baking

 

Replace THIS with THAT

When we talk about sugars, not all our created equally. This post is not intended to tell you to stop eating sugar all together (is that even possible?). However, I want to help you reach for healthier options when the cravings hit. Natural sugars (raw honey, maple syrup, dates, coconut sugar) are considered better options. However, portion control is imperative no matter the type. For example, one tablespoon of raw honey provides about 62 calories and 17 grams of sugar. While raw honey contains bonus antioxidant and antibacterial benefits, sugar is still sugar. Be sure to limit your intake.

Personally, I have a huge sweet tooth. I always have and let’s be honest – I probably always will. To avoid intense cravings and bingeing, I allow myself a little something sweet every single night. When you deprive yourself it only leads to eating an entire pint of ice cream or tray of brownies on Friday night. Don’t worry, we’ve all been there. Below are some of my favorite nightly treats:

  • Organic, fair trade dark chocolate
  • Medjool date stuffed with almond butter
  • Piece of fresh fruit
  • Bee Bites from Squirrel & The Bee (have you tried – YUM!)

 

Overall, it is important to remember that everybody is different. We all respond to sugar differently and it is ultimately up to you to decide how much is too much. I advise you to listen to your body and start to become aware of how much sugar you consume every day. You might be surprised! Below are some interesting articles if you are interested in learning more!

 

References:

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