Consuming too much added sugar can cause many health effects such as high blood pressure, weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, fatty liver disease, and some forms of cancer. Cutting back on added sugar can help limit cravings and minimize your risk of developing diseases. Decreasing the amount of added sugar you consume may sound like an easy suggestion, but in reality, it can be difficult. Consuming sugar causes a signal in our brain to say, “wow, I really like this, and I want more of it!” This response from consuming sugar can cause our body to crave it and build a tolerance to it, meaning that we can end up consuming more and more of it to get the same effect, which is detrimental to our health.
Many of us are already consuming too much-added sugar. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, anyone two years and older should get no more than 10% of daily calories from added sugars. On an average recommended 2,000 calorie diet, no more than 200 calories (12 teaspoons) should come from added sugars.
So, if I need to cut back on consuming added sugars, can I eat nothing sweet? What’s the difference between natural and added sugars??
Not all forms of sugar are created equal! Sugar can be found naturally in nutrient-dense foods and is a valuable part of a well-rounded diet. Naturally, sugar can be found in fruit, starchy vegetables, dairy products, and minimally processed carbohydrates like brown rice and whole-grain pasta. These natural sugars are accompanied by healthy vitamins, nutrients, antioxidants, and dietary fiber. Sugar in these natural forms provides a stable and efficient form of energy, maintains blood glucose levels over time, and keeps your metabolism steady. Sugar in its raw form also takes your body much longer to digest than added sugars, which is why they keep energy and blood glucose levels stable.
Refined or added sugars may come from a natural source, but it has been stripped and processed so that only the sugar component remains. These refined sugars are absorbed quickly and can be used as a quick energy source. When this energy source is not used or swiftly burned, it is sent to the liver and stored as fat. Blood glucose levels drop quickly after consuming added sugars, which can cause hunger, tiredness, irritability, and increased cravings. Common foods that have added sugars include soda, energy drinks, sports drinks, candy, pastries, some yogurts, granola bars, breakfast cereals, and some condiments.
Here are 5 tips to help limit added sugars to your diet!
1. Cut out sugary beverages like soda, energy drinks, lemonade, sports drinks, and coffee.
Sugary beverages are the leading source of added sugar consumption for Americans. Drinking these beverages is an easy way to consume a considerable amount of sugar and calories without addressing hunger. Next time you want a sweet drink, choose healthy alternatives such as unsweetened sparkling water, coconut water, and fruit-infused water.
2. Top off your coffee with natural flavors
Coffee creamers and sugar are an easy way to exceed your limit of added sugars for the day. If you like your coffee to have added flavors, try healthy alternatives such as a dash of cinnamon, nutmeg, or cocoa powder.
3. Indulge in a naturally sweet treat, fruit!
Eating fruit every day is an essential part of a healthy diet and is a great way to satisfy your sweet tooth. On average, adults should consume at least 1 ½ to 2 servings of fruit daily, and according to the Center of Disease Control, only 10% of adults meet that recommendation. A fruit salad or fruit smoothie can be a great healthy treat to replace unhealthy options like ice cream and pastry desserts.
4. Share a dessert with a friend
If you are going to have a sweet treat with added sugars, split it with a friend. By splitting it in half, you both get to enjoy a sweet treat, but you are splitting the amount of calories and sugar in half.
5. Review nutrition labels
Added sugars are now prominently displayed on nutrition fact labels. Be sure to check this information to compare added sugar content between similar products. Added sugars can be disguised by being labeled under another name on the ingredient list. Other common names for added sugar are fructose, dextrose, maltose, high fructose corn syrup, and maple syrup.
The best way to know that you are consuming sugar that’s best for your health is to eat primarily plant-based food sources. Having a well-balanced diet of lean proteins, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, and legumes is the best way to provide your body with the nutrients it needs to function at its best.
Written by: Coach Alex