Consuming too much sugar can lead to weight gain and obesity, a major risk factor for coronary heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. Here are a few minor changes that you can make to help you cut back on sugar and get rid of thousands of calories from your diet.
What is sugar?
Sugar is a caloric, sweet-tasting carbohydrate found in many foods, both naturally or added. Natural sugars are found naturally in foods like fruit (fructose) and milk (lactose). Added sugars or sweeteners are any sugars added to foods during processing or preparation. Although sugar is a source of energy, it has no nutritional value on its own. Sugars are usually added to processed foods to enhance their taste, color, texture, and shelf-life.
Sugar comes in many forms: white sugar, brown sugar, raw sugar, molasses, honey, maple syrup, malt sugar, invert sugar, corn syrup, and fruit juice concentrate. Apart from these, some labels may have ingredients listed as sugar molecules ending in ‘ose’ as:
While checking food labels, if you find that sugars are listed as the first or second ingredient on the list, the food is likely to be high in sugar.
Some foods such as vegetables and fruits contain natural sugars and are an essential part of a healthy diet since they also include other important nutrients such as fiber. All added sugars are ‘free sugars’ or sugars that are not inside the cells of the food we consume. For example, when fruit is turned into fruit juice, the sugars come out of their cells and become free sugars. The fiber is lost, and it’s easier to consume extra sugar without realizing it.
How does sugar affect our health?
Sugar addiction is linked with heart disease, stroke, obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood cholesterol, cancer and cavities.
How much sugar should we eat a day?
The AHA recommends you consume no more than 100 calories per day from added sugars for women and 150 calories for men. That is about 6–9 teaspoons, or 25–37.5 grams, of sugar a day. Keeping track of your added sugar intake is especially important when you’re suffering from diabetes. Proper diabetes management will ensure your blood pressure levels are regulated.
Foods that naturally contain sugar, such as vegetables and fruits, should be part of a healthy diet in reasonable quantities.
Foods that are high in free sugar or added sugar include:
Sweetened cold and hot beverages, such as coffee, tea, milkshakes, soft drinks, energy drinks, fruit-flavored drinks, fruit juices, and hot chocolate.
Baked goods and desserts include cakes, candies, chocolates, cookies, doughnuts, ice cream, cheesecakes, muffins, pastries, and pies.
Tips to reduce sugar intake
1. Stop drinking your calories.
Avoid consuming sugary beverages. Instead, drink water when you are thirsty. You can also try unsweetened green tea, mint tea, or black coffee.
You can also add natural flavors to your water by adding slices of lemon, orange, strawberries, or fresh mint to keep things interesting.
Avoid soft drinks and sports drinks. They are extremely high in sugar and have zero nutritional value.
Don’t drink fruit juices, even when it is 100% fruit juice. Although fruit juice may contain some nutrients (vitamins, minerals), it has more sugar than the fruit itself and very little fiber. Fruit juice should not be taken as an alternative to fruits. Eat your fruits, don’t drink them.
Stay away from fancy beverages with free sugars. Try adding nutmeg and cinnamon toppings for extra flavor rather than adding sugar.
2. Consume whole foods.
Whole foods remain as close to their natural state as possible with little to no processing. Examples include fresh or frozen vegetables and fruits, fresh poultry and fish, beans, lentils or tofu, brown rice, whole-wheat couscous, barley, rolled oats, whole-grain bread, nuts, and seeds, and plain yogurt.
3. Snack mindfully.
Choose foods such as roasted nuts, oats and date energy bites, whole-grain low-fat crackers, veggies and dip, and plain yogurt with mixed berries. Decrease the number of baked goods, sweet desserts, candies, and chocolates you eat.
4. Eat lower-sugar cereals.
Choose unsweetened cereals or cereals with less than 6 grams of sugar and more than 4 grams of fiber per 1 cup (30 gram) serving.
5. Cook at home more often.
Select recipes that call for very little or no sugar. Also, you can experiment with your favorite recipes by reducing the amount of added sugar by one-quarter to one-third.
6. Read the Nutrition Facts table and the ingredient list on packaged foods.
Pay close attention to the serving size, total amount of sugar and read the ingredient list. The Nutrition Facts label will tell you the total amount of sugar in the product (from natural and added sugars), and the ingredient list will tell you where the sugar is coming from.
It is best to avoid products that contain added sugars such as glucose, fructose, sucrose, honey, evaporated cane juice, fruit puree, molasses, corn syrup, dextrose, and concentrated fruit juice as they provide no nutritional benefits. Changing your diet is hard. If your strategy involves thinking about sugar all the time — whenever you’re shopping or eating — you’ll likely fail. You’ll also be miserable in the process. It’s much more effective to develop a few simple habits and stick to them. If you want to quit your sugar addiction for good, discuss this with our doctor and nutritionists at DrNewMed. If you’re a diabetic, enrolling yourself in a diabetes management program like Un-Chronic Yourself will help you manage your blood sugar levels better. Remember, you can break the sugar habit. Staying away from sugar doesn’t mean you never eat another cake. But it does give you control over your cravings — and your health. To know more, book a consultation today