There’s no getting around it, sweet things taste good. While greasy doughnuts and multi colored candies have never appealed to me, there was a time when I couldn’t be left alone with a chick flick and a pint of sorbet.
This changed about three years ago when I read a piece on American’s excessive sugar consumption. As a natural foods enthusiast who avoided the standard American Diet like the plague, I assumed I was doing much better than most. It was true I wasn’t eating hydrogenated oils, and synthetic colors, or flavors, but I was still consuming double the recommended amount of sugar on a near daily basis. On a day when I would indulge in my half pint of sorbet the figures were much worse. This was without drinking sugary things or eating candy!
Within one month of my new found sugar awareness, my always easily inflamed and broken out complexion had cleared in a way that amazed me. I also no longer needed to take 12-15 ibuprofen per month for cramps and headaches. I knew sugar was inflammatory, but I never realized how much so until I minimized my consumption. An added benefit of my great sugar reduction was feeling my energy level skyrocket.
I know cutting sugar sounds near impossible, perhaps even punitive, but becoming aware of my sugar intake and avoiding added sugar has been one of the best things I have done for myself, which is why I’ve chosen to share the experience. Let me show you the way I went about this journey.
A few starting points:
* It is important to note there is no timeline. This can be done at one’s desired speed. The point of this is lasting and positive change.
*According to the World Health Organization the average adult female should consume no more than 25 grams (six teaspoons) of sugar per day. Did you enjoy a glass of apple juice with breakfast? Congratulations, you’ve just taken in 24 grams of sugar (and done so without fiber to slow absorption).
*When I began, I set out to consume less than 25 grams of sugar or less each day. That was helpful because I never denied myself when I craved a bit of sweetness. I encourage readers to follow that same guideline rather than attempt a path of complete abstinence, which will result in cravings and is unlikely to result in lasting change.
* Cutting down on sugar may be more of a challenge if your diet is highly processed. It is still completely doable if you’re willing to read some labels and switch a few packaged foods out for the real thing. When checking labels know that manufacturers often use alternative names for sugar: fructose, glucose, sucrose, dextrose, corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, raw sugar, rice syrup, corn sweetener, fruit juice concentrate, brown sugar, cane juice, cane sugar, crystalline fructose,or beet sugar.
Below are the steps I have taken to rid my body excess sugar and the negative effects it was having on my personal well being.
The initial step is taking note of how much sugar you are consuming. Do this by printing one of the simple online charts that list the naturally occurring sugar content of all fruits, vegetables, and grains. For any canned or packaged food, reading labels is imperative. When following a whole foods diet with little processed food, there are few sneaky sugars. The same cannot be said for prepared or processed foods. Sugar is added to cereals, bars, and even savory soups, and crackers.
When grocery shopping, it’s best to buy ingredients. Shop the perimeter of the market for as many items as possible. Your cart should be filled with a variety of vegetables, grains, seasonings, and fruits. Processes snacks should be kept to a bare minimum.
I’m aware some remove fruit from their diet when avoiding sugar; not only is this likely to cause intense cravings and loss of micronutrients, it’s also unnecessary. We will be using fruit to satisfy those sugar cravings. In addition to nutrients,fruit contains fiber which causes its natural sugars to be released into the bloodstream slowly. Speaking of sweetness…
I used to be one of those folks who’d cringe at the sight of dates. I had never eaten one, but to me they didn’t look very appetizing. These days, I keep a Costco-sized container of deglet noor dates in the fridge. I also make date paste to sweeten any recipe ( it tastes way better than it sounds).
Why dates? They’re a natural whole foods sweetener. Dates should be used conservatively given their high sugar content, but they are the best bet if you’re making dessert or smoothie that needs extra sweetness. In addition, dates are full of fiber and minerals and won’t cause the dreaded sugar crash.
Make Smart Choices with Prepared Food. Boxed Cereals should be avoided. I say this because A. Does anyone actually feel satiated eating this as a meal? B. Boxed cereal with no added sugar usually tastes like cardboard. If you must have cereal, I recommend plain oatmeal with fruit. Remember the banana you slice into your oatmeal contains about 18 grams of sugar. Do yourself a favor and trade a heavily sweetened breakfast for a better option.
For lunch many of us enjoy sandwiches. Have you read your bread, though? If ever you have made your own, you are aware that bread is supposed to contain flour, water, salt, and yeast. Most breads you see the market contain added sugars (and hydrogenated oils, Datem, and calcium proprionate). Stick with Goldminer and La Brea, which can be found in the bakery section of most markets. Their sourdough has no added sugars. Of course, there is always the option to make your own bread. The aforementioned brands taste significantly better than most sandwich breads. The only caveat is they don’t keep as long. Unless eaten quicky, they will need to be frozen, or toasted. How about what your putting onto and into your sandwiches and meals?
Most bottled dressings and marinades are loaded with sugar and other synthetic chemicals. I strongly encourage everyone to make their own. There are countless quick and simple recipes (Hello, oil and vinegar with seasonings)! While it is simple to prepare our own dressings and marinades, few of us prepare our own ketchup (although there are easy recipes at the click of a mouse!). Personally, I buy ketchup without high fructose corn syrup, but it remains fairly sugary. Be aware of how much ketchup and other sweetened condiments you’re consuming. The liquid sugar trap doesn’t end there.
Would you believe half of our sugar intake comes from sugar-laden drinks? Soda, fruit juice, and fruit drinks. Water should always be our default drink. If that seems boring to you, try adding a few lemon slices or experimenting with carbonated flavored waters. This helps, particularly if you are a soda drinker.
Snack foods almost always contain added sugar. Here are a few of my favorite no sugar added choices:
*Vegetables with a homemade dressing of olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and garlic
* Edamame (soybeans)
*Avocado with salt and lime
*Blue Diamond Almond Nut Thins
* Sourdough Pretzels with hummus
*Avocado Toast….and more!
I know what you’re thinking: What About Dessert? When I opened my eyes to the dangers of excess sugar consumption I admittedly had a moment of, “I don’t need to eat dessert again.” Who was I kidding? I’m sure there are people who live happily in the perpetual abscence of dessert, I’m just not one of them! Plus, I believe in alternatives not denial. At times, you are going to crave sweets. This craving need not find you stuffing yourself with Thin Mint Cookies. Here are a few favorite dessert ideas:
*Date Sweetened Smoothies
*Apple Slices and Peanut Butter
*Mashed Sweet Potato with butter, stevia extract , and cinnamon
*Unsweetened applesauce with cinnamon
* Fruit and/or stevia extract sweetened cakes, pies, and cookies. (Occasionally, I post such desserts.)
*Hail Merry Tarts
*Homemade banana ice cream
Armed with this information,and a few recipes, you’re ready to visit the market. The above guide should help you lessen your sugar intake significantly. As I along with many others have discovered, when excess sugar is removed from our diets along with it goes our heightened chances of developing Type II diabetes, stubborn extra weight, sluggish immunity, inflammation, acne, other inflammatory skin issues, and low energy. Those are all things we can certainly stand to lose on our trek to wellness.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. My writing is based on my personal research and experiences.