Did you know that we actually need sugar in our diets? It is our body’s preferred source of fuel. (Hold it, drop the M&Ms! I’m not done!) We just eat waaaaaaay too much of it!
Limit daily sugar to 6 tsps (25 g) for women, 9 tsps (38 g) for men. Yet, the average American consumes 19.5 teaspoons (82 grams) every day. That translates into about 66 pounds of added sugar consumed each year, per person. -sugarscience.org
Sugar is everywhere and can really be lumped into 1 of 2 categories: a REFINED carbohydrate or an UNREFINED carbohydrate. Huh?! Let’s break it down…
Refined carbs (or simple carbs) will turn to energy in the body immediately after eating them. Think cookies, candy, baked goods, white rice, white bread, pretzels, etc. These refined foods are processed in a way that strips them of their vitamin and mineral composition. They will spike your blood sugar and then crash it (not good!), and make fat burning incredibly difficult.
Unrefined carbs (or complex carbs) contain their natural nutrients, stabilize blood sugar more efficiently, and can improve your health (very good!). A few examples include: oats, brown rice, carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, beans, legumes, bananas, apples, berries, pears, tomatoes, garlic, limes, lemons, brussel sprouts, dark leafy greens, asparagus, beets, broccoli, green beans, celery, cherries, zucchini, and oranges. What a beautifully colorful list of delicious and nutritious foods!
I have actually gone through a personal challenge and tried to cut all sugar out of my diet. Wow! That is hard!! But it was do-able, and I wanted to test it. I found that I feel much better when I am moderately and intentionally allowing myself sugar in the form of fruits, complex carbs, honey, and other natural alternatives. And if I am going to eat white sugar (the bad stuff) I eat sugar; not the artificial junk. When I am not completely sugar-free my energy level is better, and my moods are more stable. However, just like so many things in our world, allowing some margin in your life for complex carbs/sugar can create a gateway for more, more, MORE!!! This is why eating a balanced diet that is rich in healthy protein, fiber, and fat is key. When balanced, you are much less likely to binge on the sugar!
Sugar can wreck your health and wellness. It comes in all different shapes and sizes. It is packaged and processed. “Sugar is white poison. We have been assaulted by this “anti”-food as it has steadily crept into everything that touches our lips, from cigarettes to salt, processed meats, medicine and more.” (Reno, 82)
We know being addicted to sugar is bad, but here are some specific side effects:
1. Stresses the Liver: “When we eat fructose, it goes to the liver. If liver glycogen is low, such as after a run, the fructose will be used to replenish it (3).However, most people aren’t consuming fructose after a long workout and their livers are already full of glycogen. When this happens, the liver turns the fructose into fat (2). Some of the fat gets shipped out, but part of it remains in the liver. The fat can build up over time and ultimately lead to Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (4, 5, 6).”
2. Increases Bad Cholesterol and Triglycerides (source).
3. Can contribute to Leptin Resistance (and then weight gain, cravings, sleep trouble, etc) – (source).
4. Creates an addictive sugar response in the brain (source).
5. Doesn’t fill you up and instead encourages you to eat more.
So how do we cut the added sugars (not the fruits, sweet potatoes, or honey in our Habitude Fitness Energy Ballz? And what do we focus on to aim for that healthy balanced diet we talked about earlier?
1. Hidden Dangers:
If you are still drinking diet soda, fruit juice, having a Snickers or gummy bears every afternoon, or consuming products with added sugars (BBQ sauce, ketchup, applesauce, cereal bars, instant oatmeal, spaghetti sauce, bottled teas…), begin to slowly cut some of these habits back.
Give yourself some time and make one change each week that you can stick to until you are eating more natural sugars in your diet rather than those added ones!
Whether you are meat-eater, vegetarian, pescatarian, or vegan, it is important to get a substantial amount of protein in your diet. Protein will keep you satisfied and ward off hunger. It will also keep hormones in check unlike the physiological effects of consuming too many sugars. Have you ever eaten sugar and then wanted MORE?! That is a chemical reaction happening in your body, not just a lack of your will power! Fortunately, there are many great sources of protein available! Even many of your colorful vegetables supply a good amount of protein. They are, but not limited to:
Asparagus (6 g per 2 cups)
Cauliflower (4 g per 2 cup serving)
Broccoli, Brussel sprouts, artichoke (6 g per 2 cup serving)
Kale (4 g per 2 cups serving)
Some other good protein sources include chicken breast, turkey breast, canned tuna, tilapia and other fish varieties, soy/edamame, tofu, bison (all gluten-free), all nuts and seeds, milk, and eggs.
I am so relieved the low-fat craze of the 90’s is long gone!
Eating a balanced diet that includes an appropriate amount of healthy fats will make you feel more energized and give you a tenacious metabolism! (Yay!! This is great news!) Go after those omega 3 fats, omega 6 fats, and try some monounsaturated fats (extra virgin olive oil, nuts and seeds, and avocados). Be sure to stay away from the unhealthy trans fats and saturated fats. (Keep this number close to zero!)
4. Natural Alternatives:
If you still want to bake, have some treats, and enjoy life’s sweetest gifts, there is a way to replace the sugar in your recipes with natural ingredients that are not stripped of their nutrients. Given time your tastes buds will adjust!
If you eat what’s right for you, what works for you, and makes you feel good, including lean proteins, fats, veggies and natural sugars in fruits and unrefined carbs, you will have less of a desire to consume added sugars. You will experience satisfaction and will be able to indulge in a treat every once in a while without going sugar crazy! And you know I am all about those special time treats! 🙂
Please don’t get me wrong, I love to bake for my family and friends, and M&Ms are my arch nemesis. (If they find a way into my home or my line of vision, they are a goner.) However, when I cut the abundance of refined and fake sugar out of my diet I saw major changes in my health. Weight loss was a bonus too. Back before I knew much about healthy living, I used to be the queen of replacing sugar with its evil step sister, high fructose corn syrup. I also had a fridge loaded with their cousins’ aspartame, saccharine, and Splenda. I was always on a diet, always working out, and always overweight. One day, I threw a garbage bag full of fake food out and never looked back…
Baby steps. Give it time. Trust the process!
Reno, Tosca. “Chapter 5.” The Eat-clean Diet Stripped: Peel off Those Last 10 Pounds.Mississauga, Ont.: R. Kennedy Pub., 2011. 80. Print.
Reno, Tosca. “Chapter 5.” The Eat-clean Diet Stripped: Peel off Those Last 10 Pounds.Mississauga, Ont.: R. Kennedy Pub., 2011. 82. Print.