Bring on week two! I admit, I thought giving up added sugars was going to be hard but I can say in all honesty I am LOVING this sugar-free thing.
If you’re just joining me, I have dedicated June to being sugar-free and I know some of you are following along as well. How do you feel!?
According to the American Heart Association, the average person eats 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day. Those teaspoons aren’t all from cookies, candy and cake. About 1/2 of the sugar we eat on a daily basis comes from added, hidded sources: peanut butter, cereal, flavored yogurts, bread, ect.
From a health perspective, 22 teaspoons is way too much. Why? Well for starters, sugar is empty calories with nil nutrition. It’s also a highly concentrated source of calories which when eaten in excess adds pounds. New research points to sugar as the ultimate evil: the culprit for fat accumulating in your liver. Varman Samuel, who studies insulin resistance at Yale School of Medicine, says the correlation between liver fat and insulin resistance in patients, lean or obese, is “remarkably strong.” What it looks like, Samuel says, is that “when you deposit fat in the liver, that’s when you become insulin-resistant.”
While not all nutrition experts agree, fructose is thought to increase fat accumulation in the liver more so than regular glucose. In animal studies, when sugar is removed from the diet, the fatty liver and insulin resistance go away. When humans were given 8-10 regular pepsi/coke a day their livers would start to become insulin-resistant, and their triglycerides would go up – all in just a few days.
While most of us agree that more research is needed, it’s enough to make me decrease my consumption habits. Whether your looking to cut back or kick the habit for good (or 30 days) here are my top tips:
1. Remove sugar beverages. Soda pop, sweet tea, fruit drinks: these sweetened beverages provide little nutrition and a whole lot-ta calories.
2. If you’re trying to cut back- choose sweets that you really love. Remember Snack-Wells? Those fat-free, overtly sweet cookies from the 90s? Who actually enjoyed those!? But lots of people ate them. Why? They were fat-free. Yuck, enjoy your sweets, if you’re going to eat sugar make if something you really love. If red-velvet cake is your can’t miss treat then slow down and savor the real thing. Have a few bites and focus on eating the cake, nothing else. Try walking away from the rest, you had your small bit- did you enjoy it?
3. Check the labels. One of my underlying points of this 30 day challenge is to become more aware of where sugar is. Since labels don’t differentiate between natural and added, your best bet is the ingredient list. Anything that ends in -ose is a sugar, no matter how fancy or healthy sounding it is. Other names: honey, sorbitol, mannitol, agave, dextrin, maltodextrin, high fructose corn syrup, brown rice syrup, other syrups, agave.
4. Just because it’s savory, doesn’t mean its not sugar. I’m talking to you white bread, pasta, and flour! Fiber helps slow down insulin release. Eat your carbohydrates with a healthy dose of fiber: whole grain pasta, brown rice, quinoa, millet, and oats are some of my favorite whole grains.
5. Get REAL! Not only to control sugar intake, but for overall healthy life: real food > processed foods. If it can sit on your shelf for more than 2 months- it’s probably got a boat-load of sugars, additives, and preservatives. Not all foods fit this bill, but a lot do. Cutting down on processed foods means you get to focus on real foods. Real plant-based foods are naturally lower in sugar, lower in fat and high in fiber: Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, beans, nuts/legumes.
It’s not too late to start! Try a sugar-free day and see where you go from there.
What’s your favorite low-sugar/sugar-free tips?