Death By Sugar: Kicking the Addiction for a Better Lifeby Carissa - August 28th, 2015
Not long ago, I wrote an article about sugar and the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation’s recommendation to start taxing high-sugar content foods and drinks. There are some interesting statistics for the concept, particularly the fact that Canadians and Americans alike are consuming toxic levels of sugar every day. After writing that article, it got me thinking about my own consumption and that of my family. For the most part, I considered my consumption to be fairly low – but oh was I surprised when I started to track it.
I am not typically one to have sodas or high sugar drinks in my house, nor do I eat a lot of candy, or high sugar foods. Yet, my sugar intake was well above the recommended 6-10 teaspoons per day. How could this be so?
I went on a mission to find out. I began by logging all of my daily foods for a week. I found my biggest contributor was to the English tea or coffee my husband and I would have each day. Some days were worse than others, but I roughly consumed 3 teaspoons or more daily just with those drinks alone. That was the easy part; pinpointing all the rest was a bit more challenging. In the end, I found added sugar is hidden in some unsuspecting places, like your ketchup bottle, your granola bar, and even your “healthy" yogurt.
To combat the sugar in my house, I had to get real about the ugly truth about sugar and what it does not only to my body, but to the little ones in my household, too.
Why Too Much is Bad and What It Does:
Too many bites of your favorite sugar-packed treat causes a surge in insulin and alters the way your liver metabolizes glucose, the simple form of sugar. When you have too many spikes in insulin, over time it can lead to insulin resistance, liver problems, and even Type 2 diabetes in those who are susceptible. No bueno.
But sugar alone isn’t the only culprit: Any carbohydrate stripped of fiber can also lead to a quick insulin rise. Harvard School of Public Health researchers found potato chips and French fries were a leading cause of weight gain among Americans followed by sugar-sweetened beverages, due to this response.
8 Tips to Keep Your Sugar Intake In Check:
1. Track – Take a little bit of time to track all of your foods and drinks. This helps not only with sugar intake, but also with over eating/drinking as well. Write down everything you eat and pay particular attention to the sugar grams adding up. Remember, if you’re a woman, sticking below 24 grams is ideal per day (or 6 teaspoons). However, for now, don’t try to restrict, just write it all down.
2. Evaluate – Once you’ve tracked for your allotted amount of time, say a week or more, go back through your journal and evaluate the results. Look for the foods and drinks that are highest in added sugars and empty carbohydrates. Star the ones that you have the biggest cravings for, or the ones that you can’t imagine going without.
3. Eliminate trigger foods first – Yes, you read that right. Those starred ones should go first, as they are leading you on to eat more sugar. They likely trigger your cravings and will make it harder to reduce your sugar intake in the long run.
4. Dump sodas & sugary drinks – Your body is craving hydration, not more sugar – despite what you think it wants. Did you know that up to 75% of Americans may be chronically dehydrated? Drink some water. You can thank me later.
5. Say no to all HFCS - Derived from cornstarch, high fructose corn syrup might be the scariest of sugars. Much of it contains mercury, a by-product of chemical processing, but its high artificial fructose content can be 75 times sweeter than white sugar and that much more addictive.
6. Reduce or eliminate sugary processed foods – It’s hiding in everything. As I said, it can be found in your ketchup, barbeque sauce, granola bars, flavored water, tv dinner, you name it. Watch your labels for anything resembling a sugar byproduct.
7. Eat sugar with fiber – When you do plan to have sugar, save your liver by also consuming something with high fiber along with it. This is because the fiber will allow you to feel full, where the sugar won’t trigger your fullness response. Think of it this way: you can drink a glass of orange juice and still feel hungry, but if you ate the three oranges it would take to make the same cup of juice, you would feel full. It’s because the fiber from the pulp will make you feel satiated.
8. Don’t eliminate it entirely – Especially if sugars are a comfort food, it’s important not to eliminate sugar all together. Partially because this could lead to binge eating or falling off the wagon completely – but also because your body will still respond in a positive way with far less sugar, once you’ve purged it from your system.
Since kicking the sugar habit, I can honestly say that I’ve found my moods leveling, my concentration increasing, and my cravings for sugar diminishing. My energy levels have also found a natural spike, as my cell must have been working overtime to try to compensate for the sugar spikes. The lesson here: sugar is good, but too much is not. I encourage each of you to try reducing your sugar intake for a month and see how you feel. If you’re like me, you won’t want to go back.
Carissa Andrews is a passionate author and freelancer from Minnesota with a focus in creative writing.
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