Eliminating empty calories and refined sugar is essential in adopting a healthy lifestyle. But if you want to cut down, where do you start? We have some easy ways to help you reduce the amount of sugar you consume daily.
How Sugar is Making Us Sick
Not only does refined sugar lack essential nutrients, but it has a devastating effect on our health. Dr. Don Clum, Private Health Strategy Consultant, and Developer of Lifestyle Based Insulin Resistance/Metabolic Syndrome/Diabetes Prevention programs, explains, “Refined, isolated sugar is toxic to the human body. Excess sugar in our bloodstream can cause a process called Advanced Glycation End Product or AGEs. In this process, sugar binds with certain proteins and fats in our body. Function is altered, and becomes toxic. DNA reactions are triggered, literally driving the aging process: producing wrinkles, liver spots, cataracts, and decreased elasticity in our skin causing us to appear older as well.”
Dr. Clum also explains that dietary sugar is the number one stimulator of insulin. In time, a diet high in sugar will cause insulin resistance, the precursor to metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, cardio-metabolic issues, and is correlated with Alzheimer’s and other neuro-degenerative brain diseases, earning them the new label of type 3 diabetes. “Insulin resistance resulting from constant exposure to dietary sugar is also what causes fat gain and leads to weight loss resistance and obesity.”
- Sugar disrupts our metabolism and weight loss efforts.
- Sugar suppresses the body’s immune function, and lowers our resistance to illness.
- Sugar creates inflammation in the body, which is a precursor for disease. Diets high in sugar drastically increase the risk of developing chronic health conditions, such as diabetes, gout, hypertension, cancer, and more.
- Obesity and inflammation create stress on your joints and nerve system.
- Sugar is bad for your teeth and oral health as it feeds the harmful bacteria in the mouth.
Always read the list of ingredients when shopping. Refined sugar, particularly corn syrup is not only used in beverages and desserts, but is added to everything from canned vegetables and soups to sauces, condiments, dips, salad dressings, sausage, processed meats and too many packaged foods to list.
- When checking sugar content on food labels, remember: 4 grams of sugar equals 1 teaspoon. The bloodstream can only handle ½ teaspoon of sugar at a time. What happens to anything over this amount? The body converts excess sugar in the bloodstream into fat, leading to unhealthy weight gain and health problems, as Dr. Clum explained.
- To reduce sugar intake, avoid products containing these forms of sugar: corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, fructose, juice concentrate, brown sugar, dextrose and maltodextrin. Look for the -ose suffix to identify sugars.
Breakfast’s Worst Offenders
The first step to cutting sugar out of your diet is to look at the most important meal of the day: breakfast. When following the trend for portable, quick meals, breakfast can yield more grams of sugar than one cup of vanilla ice cream containing 22 grams — that’s 5 1/2 teaspoons, of sugar!
Here’s a break down of a typical American breakfast. Even if you don’t grab a breakfast biscuit, muffin or pastry along with a syrupy coffee concoction from a drive-through window in the morning, sugar can creep in, without notice:
- A bowl of cold cereal with cow’s milk and a glass of orange juice has been the typical American breakfast for decades. But did you know that cereal, bread, pastries, pancakes, muffins, and other grain foods quickly convert to sugar when ingested? Combine that with the added sugar these processed grain foods contain and you’ll see that cereal is not a nutritious choice.
- The cow’s milk in your cereal bowl is also high in milk sugar, called lactose. Drinking skim milk doesn’t reduce the sugar content. Fat-free and 2% cow’s milk both contain the same amount of sugar – 12 grams per cup.
- Orange juice may be the traditional breakfast beverage, but each 8 oz. glass contains about 22 grams of sugar. Apple juice contains 26 grams, and grapefruit juice 20 grams. Even 100% no-sugar-added cranberry juice has a whopping 28 grams of sugar.
- If you start your morning with yogurt and fresh fruit, take a look at the amount of sugar you’re ingesting: 1 cup of yogurt – 33 grams; fresh fruit – between 7 grams to 12 grams of naturally-occurring sugar per serving
This simple “healthy” breakfast can contain upwards of 45 grams of sugar. Add a glass of fruit juice and it can shoot up to as much as a whopping 73 grams. That’s like eating over 18 teaspoons of sugar, or more than three cups of ice cream, for breakfast. You probably don’t want to start your day out that way.
Build a Better Breakfast
Start each morning by replacing sugary foods with rich sources of protein to boost energy, increase satiety, and reduce cravings. Try these healthier breakfast choices:
- Pastured, or free-range eggs are a healthy breakfast choice and quick to prepare. Enjoy scrambled, fried in coconut oil, or as an omelet with sautéed onions, mushrooms, and bell peppers. Boil some up the night before for a quick on-the-go meal.
- Coconut flour or buckwheat pancakes, topped with natural apple sauce.
- Greek yogurt contains protein and is low in sugar, about 7 grams. Stir in pumpkin or sweet potato puree, sliced almonds, wild blueberries, a dash of cinnamon and a spoonful of raw honey or the non-caloric herbal sweetener, stevia, to taste.
- Almond butter (unsweetened) and raw honey drizzled on a slice of toasted sprouted grain or sourdough bread is delicious and satisfying.
- Make your own hot chocolate using almond milk, unsweetened organic cocoa or carob powder, and stevia, to taste.
- Instead of bottled fruit juice, add fresh or frozen fruit to a blender with spring water, chia seeds, sliced almonds and a handful of spinach or kale for a nutritious smoothie.
- Serve organic coffee, hot herbal or green tea, or lemon water. Instead of using cream and sugar in your morning mug, brew organic coffee or tea at home and sweeten it with stevia.
- Use almond, coconut or cashew milk instead of cream in your coffee or hot tea.
Think you might be addicted to sugar? Learn more here.