Sugar. Our favorite treat comes in a variety of shapes and sizes, from sodas and ice cream to cakes, cookies and candies. We all know the common sources of sugar. We know when we’re eating sugar…or do we?
The problem with sugar is that nowadays, it’s in everything. And if you’re not careful, your sugar intake will be sky-high, leaving you wondering why you can’t shed those last few pounds (despite plentiful exercise) or your doctor is warning you of pre-diabetes. But I don’t eat that much sugar, you say. The amount of sugar you’re actually ingesting could come as a shock. Let’s break it down.
First of all, what’s the risk, right? Sugar, often known for it’s ability to create cavities and obesity, is more than that. It’s a substance that creates inflammation and inflammation creates problems all over the body, from stomach aches to heart attacks. Sugar isn’t just a yummy food additive, it’s addictive, toxic and downright bad for us. Eating sugar is just like anything else, you get to choose how you want to live your life. But, if you’re concerned about health and wellness, exercise regularly and aim to live the healthiest life you can, ditch the sugar. All of it.
What is Sugar?
For our purposes, we’re talking about added sugars, not the stuff found in fruit and other natural sources. We’re talking about the stuff found on ingredient lists under the guise of sugar, cane sugar, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), evaporated cane juice, fructose, maltose, malt syrup, honey, molasses and fruit juice concentrate. We’re mostly talking about refined sugars, which means they are processed.
Where Sugar Hides
Sugar hides in some of the strangest places – in foods that have no need for sugar in them. If you’re wanting to minimize or eliminate sugar from your diet, be prepared to spend some time in the store, reading labels and looking for better alternatives.
This article was the motivation for this blog because I believe most people don’t think to look for sugar in all these places. One of my biggest pet peeves is pasta sauce. I shop at a co-op, a tiny co-op at that, so all real estate is prime and usually, only one or two options exist. However, there are six or so pasta sauces, all of them with sugar in them. How frustrating is this?
If you don’t want to read the article, the eight sources of refined sugar are:
- Barbeque sauce
- Nutrition bars
- Tomato sauce
- Flavored yogurt
- Fruit juice
- Grown-up breakfast cereal
- Vitamin drinks
Any surprising items on that list?
The tricky part here is that you might think these kinds of refined, added sugars only come in unhealthy foods, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Just because it says organic or natural doesn’t mean it’s healthy. The general rule is anytime something is processed, it could have some sugar added to it. And just because it’s organic doesn’t mean it’s good for you.
Better Alternatives to Refined Sugars
Cutting down on sugar comes two-fold. You could either focus your attention on the things we know are loaded with sugar (desserts, drinks, etc.) or focus your attention on the hidden culprits (processed or canned foods, carbohydrates, etc.). Ideally, let’s do both! But let’s be realistic, sugar is addictive and cutting it from your diet is not going to be easy. Choose the route that is easiest for you to stick to. Spend some time with that transition and slowly try to cut back on other sources of sugar. Any little bit will help your body (and mind) function better and who knows, you could see dramatic changes.
If you love sweet stuff and loathe the idea of cutting out refined sugars from your diet, especially sodas and pastries, look for alternatives. The internet is a great resource for finding recipes. Love banana bread? Find a version without sugar. You will learn to love the subtle sweetness of the fruit and other natural ingredients. Honey, molasses, coconut sugar, stevia and fruit are amazing sweeteners, with some practice and the right recipes, you can learn to live without sugar. That’s not to say we all don’t fall of the wagon from time to time, but getting off sugar is hard and it is a process.
The benefits of getting off sugar are potentially bigger than I’m going to get into, but from personal experience, I can say going sugar-free for two weeks left me feeling lighter (I lost 5+ pounds), slimmer and more energetic. I didn’t have the mid-afternoon crash and after just a few days, I didn’t have many cravings.
It’s less about food restriction and more about taking control of your health. It’s not about being extreme, it’s about making choices about what you put into your body. It’s about breaking old habits and mindless patterns and choosing to nurture your body – your health.
Have you tried reducing sugar? How’d it go? Or are you thinking about trying but need some help? Post your thoughts, experiences and concerns in the comments.