Oh sweet sugar, what would be of our lives without you? Sugar is part of your life, either you like it or not, whether you love it or hate it.
Most of the foods and products you consume on a daily basis contain sugar, you might even be addicted to it without knowing it. Most of the people are. The food industry play us lots of sugar tricks, in this article I mention some and offer several tips to improve your sugar intake.
You might start your day with a cup of coffee or tea and add a sweetener. Maybe you have for breakfast toast with jam or peanut butter. For lunch a green salad with ranch dressing, for afternoon snack a cookie and half an apple. And for dinner some pasta Bolognese with garlic bread. To close your day you have a ball of yogurt ice cream.
Simple daily meals in good portions, healthy right? Actually not. The hot-drink sweetener most likely is refined or processed. Jam, peanut butter and cookies contain a lot of sugar. The ranch dressing contains sugar even when it has a salty flavour. Salsa Bolognese has sugar and yogurt as well.
If you don’t believe me, have a look at the product labels. And I’m not saying sugar is bad, it is essential for the correct functioning of our body. Even the brain needs it to send
Nevertheless, the body needs natural sugar, since it’s the one it can process. This is a component found in fruits and some vegetables named fructose, in milk called lactose, and derives from maltose found in grains.
The problem nowadays is the number of refined sugars and artificial sweeteners in the market and the exaggerated amount of these in products.
The body is not able to digest them provoking momentary energy which drops suddenly causing fatigue, and of course detriment to our health such as cavities, high triglycerides, addiction, overweight and other chronic problems such as type 2 diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular diseases.
Why do we become addicted to sugar?
Due to its chemical structure, and the way sugar enters our body, it behaves the same way as caffeine and drugs. It’s a vice cycle, we ingest it and feel nice sensations which generates serotonin (a chemical that regulates our behaviours). After a while, the levels go down and the organism wants to stay in that nice state of comfort, therefore we require more and keep repeating the cycle.
Other kinds of sugars
They are chemical substances added to many foods during processing or preparation to add taste, texture and colour. They have been created by food producers to keep the products for longer periods of time on the market shelves and of course to make you consume more.
According to studies from the Sugar Sciences of the University of California in San Francisco, the unsweetened truth of sugar, 74% of packed products contain added sugars.
No sugary products?
We tend to think that no sugary products and foods are “healthy” when is not true. Products like pasta, tomato sauce, canned corn, energy bars, white bread, salad dressings, yogurt, etcetera, etcetera, contain sugar. That’s why the importance of learning to read product nutritional labels.
Fast food and microwave food also contain sugar substitutes to add flavour, colour and in some cases used as conservatives.
Unclear product labels
Food producers are required to state on their labels all the ingredients on their food. Unfortunately, when describing the total sugar amount, they do not specify how much sugar comes from natural food and how much comes from sugar substitutes.
The British Heart Foundation has created this infographic: How to spot sugar on an ingredients list. Worth having a look at it.
Variety of names
Sugar has at this time 61 different names (at this time, because they keep inventing more and more), and of course, it’s impossible to track and remember all these when buying products, reason why the best choice to consume sugar is by eating whole foods.
The more common names used for sugar substitutes are sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup, as well as barley malt, dextrose, maltose and rice syrup, among others. A good tip, generally speaking, chemical names ending in -ose indicate sugars. “Syrup” indicates a sugary solution.
In case you are interested, click here to read an article about how different types of sugar are processed.
This is a smart trick from the body. The reason why sugar causes overweight is due to a defence mechanism. The body collects sugar in our organism (liver and muscles), these two have storage capacity and when the limit is reached in our body, the excess starts to be stored in the form of fat reserves to protect the vital organs.
Therefore if you have waist fat or you are overweight, your body is protecting you due to the high acidity level you might have that can provoke illnesses.
How much sugar to eat and which type?
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends no more than 9 teaspoons (38 grams) of added sugar per day for men and 6 teaspoons (25 grams) per day for women. For children vary depending on their age and caloric needs, but range between 3-6 teaspoons (12 – 25 grams) per day.
Just to give you an idea of the amount of artificial sweeteners in products. A can of 330ml of Coca-Cola has 35 grams of sugar. And 100gr of box cereal might contain an average of 20gr of sugar.
As you can read, the portion of these products already contain almost the sugar intake of one day in an adult and a child. And it’s not even considering the fact that these artificial sweeteners are not metabolized by the body for its benefit.
Natural sources of sugar
The sugars the body is able to process are the ones from whole foods and natural resources. Fruits and some vegetables contain fructose. Other natural sugar sources are muscovado sugar, unrefined honey and maple syrup; dates, natural stevia and molasses.
These are great options to sweeten your food. Please consider that even when they are natural sugars, they must be consumed in moderation.
Tips to reduce your sugar intake
- If you add lots of refined sugar or artificial sweeteners to your coffee or tea, start by decreasing the amounts little by little. Let’s say you add 3 teaspoons, reduce it to 2 tsp for a week, the next week add only one. Then you might want to swap it for a natural sweetener like stevia or honey. Some teas are even tastier without sugar.
- Avoid consuming sugary drinks such as soft drinks,
sportdrinks, energy drinks, flavoured milks, 100% fruit juice, fruit-flavoured drinks, etc. Start decreasing the amounts consumed so the body gets used to it softly. Add lemonade (sweetened with maple syrup and a touch of mint) or other homemade drinks to your daily routine.
- While grocery shopping, avoid the aisles with packaged food and add more whole foods for cooking and as snacks.
- In your favourite recipes, swap white sugar or other processed sugar for natural sugars. Example use dates instead of brown sugar in your desserts.
- Change your pantry little by little. Buy stevia, start using softly until you get used to the flavour and stop buying white sugar.
- Every time you go grocery shopping by a different type of vinegar like balsamic, red and white wine vinegar, etc. and different kinds of oils like extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, sesame oil, etc. and soon you’ll have a wide variety of salad dressings.
- Instead of ice cream, freeze fruits like bananas, any type of berries, mango, etc. mix your favourite flavours in a blender, serve and add toppings like cacao nibs, coconut flakes, chia and nuts.
- Avoid buying regular packaged sweet baked goods and desserts. There are more healthy options on the market now, search wisely, and the best option will always be to do your own homemade desserts, cookies and granola bars. Browse for the healthier option of your favourite recipes.
- Take a different route. On your way to work you stop at a coffee place, get one and buy a donut, or on your way back home you stop at the fast-food drive-thru? Well, change the route! Most likely you do those stops as a habit.
Therefore, bring your coffee and breakfast from home, you might save some money and in time, well, preparation might take the same as making the line. Cooking at home is good for your economy and might serve you like a relaxing and creative time or family time to improve your relationships.
- Learn to read food labels. These might vary from country to country. Here are the guidelines from Health Canada.
We are surrounded by sweetness. Most of the foods in the supermarkets contain sugar and we are addicted to it without knowing it.
The food industry uses a lot of tricks to make us loyal consumers at the expense of our health. We must be informed and take wise action towards the benefit of our health and our loved ones.
It might take time and effort and I assure you it’ll be worth it!
Take Action and share in the comments below.
- Which of the tips will you implement to reduce your sugar intake?
- What is your experience with sugar?
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Invest in your health now instead of spending in illness in the future. Savour the sweet life you deserve in a healthy way.