How much sugar is in your healthy food?
Do you eat healthy? Or are you one of many who just feel confused and frustrated with all the “dietary” advice available? Most people I talk to say “yes” they eat healthy however cases of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, brain dysfunction; including cognitive impairment and moods disorders, and obesity continue to rise. Could the prepackaged, sugar laden food marketed to us as being “healthy” be the reason why chronic disease is on the rise?
According to a 2017 report released by the CDC, more than 100 million Americans have diabetes or prediabetes. Sugar’s link to coronary heart disease has been known since the 1950s and the Standard American Diet (SAD diet) is an established risk factor for cognitive decline and dementia. That is just the tip of the iceberg. Sugar has been linked to addictive behavior, the growth of harmful gut bacteria, also known as dysbiosis, chronic inflammation and even to some cancers.
Since there is growing scientific evidence indicating altered gut bacteria as a result of diets high in sugar and food additives, the first thing I teach my clients is to turn over the package and look at the ingredients in their favorite foods. Have you ever noticed that sugar is currently the only line item on the ingredient label that does not have to disclose its daily percentage value? Thankfully the FDA guidelines surrounding added sugar have changed; by 2021 all sugar amounts will have to be disclosed.
Four grams of sugar is equal to one teaspoon. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), men can safely consume 37.5 grams or 9 teaspoons of added sugar; while women should stick to 25 grams or 6 teaspoons of added sugar daily. It’s important to note that this is added sugar and not the sugar that occurs naturally in some healthy, whole foods.
Added sugars are any sugars added during the processing of foods, including refined white sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and slightly better sugars described as natural but are still added and not naturally found in the product like maple syrup, honey, and coconut sugar. Don’t get me wrong, the later can be incorporated into a healthy diet depending on your individual needs; however I still recommend them as “treats” and not dietary staples.
The second thing I teach my clients is how to find healthier alternatives to their favorite items or meals. Homemade versions of sauces, condiments, and salad dressings are usually the best place to start, as hidden sugars lurk in most store bought variations. Here are some simple alternative choices and behaviors to incorporate into your own daily routine.
Swap sweetened beverages for fruit- infused water, home-made smoothies, or herbal teas. Sugar drinks were the single largest source of calories and accounted for 39% of added sugar in the American diet in 2010. A single energy drink contains between 24 and 29 grams of sugar. Even your favorite smoothies are not as guilt free as you think. Ditch the soda, sweet tea, and fruit juices for fruit infused water or herbal teas.
Eat full fat and protein rich foods instead of low-fat versions. One serving of low-fat yogurt can contain up to 60%of your daily USDA sugar limit. Instead, stock up on whole foods that are packed with fiber, protein, and natural fat. Think fresh fruits and vegetables fish, eggs and full-fat dairy products.
Learn where sugar hides and the aliases it uses. Added sugar is in 74% of packaged foods. From frozen meals, breads, canned soups , condiments, salad dressing, lunch meat, canned fruits and crackers so even if you skip dessert you still may be consuming way more added sugar than what you are intending. There are at least 61 known names for sugar, make sure you check for ingredients such as agave, brown sugar, dextrose, corn sugar, molasses, fructose and evaporated cane sugar just to name a few. The higher up on the ingredient list the more sugar that product contains.
Trade refined sugar for natural sweeteners. I understand with the holidays coming up it’s just about impossible to get away from sugary treats. Find my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe here. Natural sweeteners such as raw honey, maple syrup, dates, bananas, and applesauce can all be used as sugar substitutes in baking and cooking. Fruits are rich in fiber which can slow the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream; however it is still important to keep all sugar intake to a low level no matter the source. It is a common myth that you can load up on natural sweeteners with no negative health consequences.
Eating low to no sugar is not hard, just different. Once we detox from the “sugar fix” our taste buds will change and real food will taste like real food again. Surprisingly this transformation doesn’t take as long as you think. There are also wonderful added bonuses to ditching the added sugar; better sleep, a clearer mind, sustained energy throughout the day, reduced joint pain and your pants may even fit better. Now that’s my idea of healthy food.
Are you ready to make the sugar switch? Join or start a RESTART® group now as classes are forming for 2020. The RESTART ® program is a 5-week powerful program that focuses on REAL FOOD. There are no pills, powders, or prepackaged foods to buy. Find out how to stop dieting and start living today.
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