In a world where almost every food product has sugar lurking behind, it can get really tricky to limit your intake. Sugar can become a serious addiction if you’re not careful about it. Experts say that it has the potential to be 20 times more addictive than cocaine.
Sugar is one of the most awful things for your body. Excess amount can wreak havoc on every organ it encounters. Numerous studies have shown how devastating sugar can be for your body, contributing to serious health issues like obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and tooth decay.
Natural sugars with in fruits do not have a profound effect on your blood sugar levels, and they offer much more nutrition like vitamins and minerals along with it but, added refined sugars in processed foods are a threat to your health. A survey shows that on average a person consumes around 17 teaspoons (68 grams) of added sugar everyday, which is far beyond the daily limit recommended (i.e. 6 teaspoons or 25 grams for women and 9 teaspoons or 37 grams for men).
Here are 5 ways to help you limit your sugar intake effectively:
Realizing there is a problem is the first step to resolve it. Once you realize that you have been consuming a lot of sugar, you can try to be more conscious about it. Eating sweet foods is usually just a habit for most people. Lunching on the go and grabbing instant energy snacks filled with hidden sugars during work becomes a part of everyday routine. If that is the case for you, simply changing your daily routine in little ways can help you reduce sugar intake. Being aware of this habit can help you break it and create new patterns of food consumption and health.
Without a doubt, resisting sugar cravings requires a very strong willpower. These cravings can frustrate you at any time of the day, but they may get too tempting in the evenings. Studies show that your internal clock enhances hunger and cravings for sweet and starchy foods in the evenings. Keep yourself distracted during these cravings and you will be able to resist them.
At the beginning, cutting down on sugar will be overwhelming. But overtime, your body and taste buds will adjust and eventually you will feel that candies and ice-creams are now too sweet for you. You'll start to get satisfied with the natural sweetness of fruits and vegetables.
Switch to Natural Sweeteners
It can be very intimidating to suddenly stop taking sugar in beverages or desserts so if you are finding it difficult to let go immediately, there are some natural sweeteners that are good for your health. These include:
- Stevia: It is made from the leaves of a plant called Stevia rebaudiana. This sweetener is calorie-free and can improve blood pressure and blood sugar levels in diabetics.
- Erythritol: it is a fruit sugar that has 6% of the calories of sugar and does not spike blood sugar levels.
- Xylitol: it is a sugar alcohol used as a sweetener, derived from fruits and vegetables. It contains ⅓ the calories of table sugar and offers incredible dental benefits as well.
Read the Labels
When you know what is in your food, you will know what to avoid. Food items that are organic and look healthy, may have a huge amount of sugar that you may have never realized. Simple things like tomato sauce, crackers, condiments or salad dressings can be loaded with sugar, so it is important that you read labels on everything you buy from the store.
It is shocking to know that things like plain bread even may have some form of sugar while healthy snacks like granola bars, protein bars and dried fruit can also contain some amount of sugar. Some granola bars might contain up to 8 teaspoons or 32 grams of sugar, and dried fruit that can give you so many nutrients and antioxidants, also contains natural sugar, so make sure you consume it moderately. Some dried fruits may have added sugar in them so it’s best to check for a label that says "100% fruit" to avoid extra intake.
Sugars added in food products can have many names so when you read food labels, it might be hiding under many sneaky names like:
- Cane sugar
- Confectioners sugar
- Blackstrap molasses
- Golden syrup
- Icing sugar
- Refiner’s syrup, barbados sugar
- Brown sugar, caramel
- Corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), corn syrup solids
- Fructose, Glucose
- Fruit juice
- Evaporated cane juice and Fruit juice concentrate.
Once you have decided to reduce your sugar intake, its essential you do so with a balanced and moderate approach by switching to other alternate options. If you are used to having snacks filled with sugar, try these alternatives:
- All kinds of nuts, as they offer good calories, protein and healthy fats.
- Trail mix without added sugar.
- Sugar-free jerky as it contains proteins and very few calories.
- Fresh fruits as they have natural sugars. You can also add fruits like berries to natural plain yogurt or eat sliced apples or pears with a spread of almond butter.
If you love to add sauces to your meals, like ketchup, bbq sauce or sweet chili sauce, make sure you are aware about it’s sugar content. One tablespoon of ketchup can have 4 grams of sugar, so it’s best to avoid sauces and find other alternatives to flavour your food. Some ideas are:
- Herbs and spices
- Fresh chili
- Yellow mustard
- Harissa paste (instead of sweet chili sauce)
- Mayonnaise (sugar-free but high in fat)
For beverages or breakfast meals, you can induce new flavour by adding vanilla bean or vanilla extract or citrus zests to bring some sweetness without using sugar. Add cocoa or vanilla powder in an unsweetened latte. Include cinnamon, nutmeg or a little ginger in your oatmeal.
You can switch to unsweetened versions of common foods once you get past the transition stage and opt for non-dairy milk like almond and soy or sugar-free nut butters.
Eat Healthy Fats
Healthy fats can be a powerful tool to help resist your desire for sugar. This is because, not only do they slow down the release of blood sugar in your body but they also fill you up, balancing your hunger hormones and satiating you enough to stop cravings.
Another important thing to remember is to always go for full-fat food if you are trying to avoid sugar cravings. Many people still believe that all fats have to be restricted in order to lose weight and they naturally reach for low-fat versions. However, low-fat foods usually contain more sugar calories than their full-fat versions.
Infact, 4 oz of low-fat vanilla yogurt comes with 4 teaspoons or 16 g of sugar and 96 calories while the same amount of full-fat plain yogurt contains a little over 1 teaspoon or 5 g of natural milk sugar and just 69 calories. Similarly, an 8 oz of coffee made with whole milk and no sugar has only half teaspoon or 2 g of natural milk sugar and 18 calories whereas, the same amount of a low-fat mocha beverage has 6.5 teaspoons or 26 g of sugar and a shocking 160 calories.
Studies have shown that high sugar intake is also a major contributor to weight gain, so that makes it completely useless to opt for low-fat foods in the first place. Healthy fats can actually help you lose weight and boost overall health in so many ways.
You can include healthy fats to your diet while reducing sugar intake, by adding almonds to your usual oatmeal or having eggs along with a toast or by blending avocado and hemp seeds to your smoothie. You can consider using olive oil, walnut oil and coconut oil in your meals.
About the Author:
Lisa Brown has been helping her readers in successful business and entrepreneurial strategies for the past 3 years. She currently works with uae.ekuep.com, which is the answer to UAE’s growing restaurant industry. Ekuep is the brand that restaurants, bakeries, cafes, juice bars, and more turn to when they want to stock their kitchens with only the best restaurant equipment.