You may be wondering is sugar really that bad for you? Or maybe you already know the answer, but really need to make a change in your diet!
Sugar has been linked to diabetes, obesity, hyperactivity, dental cavities and other diseases. Primarily what we are talking about today is added sugars, not natural sugars.
What is the difference between added sugars and natural sugar?
Added sugars are what is put in to processed food items to compensate for flavor and texture of foods that have been processed out. This is generally sugar that is added to packaged foods. This lacks all nutritional value and is purely there for taste and texture.
Natural sugars on the other hand are sugars that are found in real whole foods like fruits, vegetables, grains and more. These do have nutritional value and can be helpful and it is hard to over-consume these in terms of sugar content.
How do you know if what you are eating has added sugar?
Sugars are added to 74 percent of packaged foods! If you are eating something that isn’t fresh and is from a box or package you need to check the nutritional label and the ingredients list. The nutritional label lists the types of sugars under the sugar section. This will give you an idea. If your label doesn’t have this (it should!) you can also read the ingredients list under the nutritional label. It will list the highest ingredients to lowest ingredients (last). Sugars will be listed by the natural source, or the added source (things like high fructose corn syrup).
If you are eating a natural fruit or vegetable you won’t know the exact sugars, but could look them up if you needed to – but you don’t really need to. As long as you are consuming daily recommended amounts you will be eating healthy.
How do I know if I am consuming too much sugar?
Americans are consuming 300+ calories per day in added sugar. And teens consume even more! Current recommendations are less than 10 percent of calories per day be from added sugars. To put that into reference the recommended caloric intake on labels is 2000 calories per day – at 10 percent that makes less than 200 calories per day from added sugars. But in reality you really should be under 5 percent of your calories from added sugars to prevent disease and risk. That is about equal to just one cup of a sweetened Greek yogurt.
So what might you feel like if you are overdoing it?
• Are you feeling a ton of fatigue and crash each day? Sure you might have that sugar in the coffee in the morning or your sweet treat and you get a boost, but then there is always a crash with sugar. Your body will always be seeking more. If you are fatigued or crash out after meals or treats – it’s sugar related.
• Are you hungry often? If you are eating a lot of sugar or certain types of carbs (processed) then your body will be constantly hungry. There is no nutritional value in added sugars and processed carbs so your body isn’t receiving the nutrition it needs, leaving it to ask for more please.
• Are you frequently catching colds or what is going around? Over consumption of sugar and processed foods can lead to altered immunity leaving you susceptible.
• Are you moody? If you are feeling irritable, angry, hangry and more on a regular basis all day- this is probably from over consuming sugar or processed carbs and then a drop in sugar levels following.
• Are you craving sweet stuff and carbs? If you are craving it’s because you aren’t getting whole nutrients and are eating empty sugar and carb calories. Your body will keep asking for more if you aren’t getting the nutrients it needs.
Five Easy Ways to Lower Sugar Intake
1- Eat a variety of foods in their natural state
This means no boxes, packages, bags. You are looking at consuming fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, fresh proteins. That means the inner aisles at the store – produce and meat section foods. You will prep and eat those at each meal and for snacks. These are all natural carbs and sugars, and nothing added as long as you are coming right from the source. These are nutritional necessities for your body and you will feel full, satisfied and stop the cravings.
2- Eat a variety of whole grains.
This means these are unprocessed. You will get these in the other aisles, BUT you are going to need to read the label. You want to look for things like whole grain, or 100% grain. You will read the ingredients on the label to be sure it is only the one grain in it. You will focus on things like quinoa, brown rice, whole grain cereals, granola (warning – be sure to check the ingredients some are not really whole grain), beans, sweet potatoes.
3- Focus on lean proteins
This means fresh meat that is a lean cut like chicken breast, seafood, fish, egg whites, certain dairy like cottage cheese, no fat Greek yogurt (unsweetened of course – need a sweetener – use natural whole fruit).
4- Cut down and out certain sauces and marinades
Store purchased sauces and marinades are often loaded with added sugars as fillers and taste components. If you want to make your own – you can control what goes in and use healthy oils, and healthy vinegars and spices. You can keep it low fat and not add any sugars!
5- Use unsweetened dairy products
If you use creamer in the morning, especially flavors take a look at the sugar. If you are eating yogurt – take a look at the sugar levels. Be sure you choose unsweetened items. You can always add your own NATURAL sweet items to make things taste to your liking and you will get the added nutritional benefit of those additions as well!