A Very Brief History of Sugar Consumption
Sugar. Once upon a time, it was considered a special treat that a family could only afford small portions of at Christmas time. Today, however, the average American consumes 61 pounds of it in a year.
Doctors have been warning us about the devastating effects of this substance on our health since 1942. However, there is something about its overwhelming sweetness that comforts us, and draws us back for more . . and more . . and more.
What’s so Bad About Sugar?
Despite its welcoming taste, sugar is the most unhealthy and unnecessary aspect of our daily food intake. The negative health effects make up a list that covers us from head to toe. Here’s the jist of it:
Obesity – As Americans’ sugar consumption rates have increased over the decades, so have the numbers on the scale. Today, nearly three-quarters of adults are considered overweight. Even more disturbing is the fact that children’s obesity rates have skyrocketed to about 19%.
Heart Problems – A 15-year study done by Harvard Medical School, found that: “participants who took in 25% or more of their daily calories as sugar, were more than twice as likely to die from heart disease as those whose diets included less than 10% added sugar.”
Skin Issues – Eating added sugars tends to accelerate our bodies’ insulin production leading to additional oil production and acne condition. It also often aggravates eczema and other chronic skin ailments.
Type 2 Diabetes – This comprehensive study involving more than 175 countries, found that one’s diabetes risk grew by 1.1%, for every 150 calories of sugar, consumed per day.
Elevated Cancer Risks – researchers have discovered that when one’s diet causes their blood glucose levels to spike regularly, there is an increased risk of stomach, breast and colorectal cancers.
Poor-quality Mental Health – What comes up must go down. The same holds true with a “sugar high.” While it may feel really good and satisfying to your brain initially, a sugar binge will always end in a crash; one that brings your mood down with it.
Accelerated Aging – Excessive sugar intake has been found to lead to dehydration and glycation, promoting wrinkling and cognitive decline.
Energy Depletion – Added sugars only give us a false sense of energy that ultimately lead to a physical and mental crash. When we experience these insulin spikes and the resulting crashes, repeatedly, it is quite exhausting for our bodies.
Liver & Kidney Ailments – Too much sugar can also lead to fatty liver and kidney damage over time.
Poor Dental Health – It’s no secret that sugar is the root of cavities.
Where is Sugar Found?
We have become absolutely engulfed by it. Companies know what our tastebuds like, so they slip it in every product they can. So not only are we bombarded by sugary treats at every grocery, restaurant, festival, holiday, or other event; but we can’t even escape this harmful substance when we open up a jar of pasta sauce.
Foods that we typically regard as being healthy, such as protein bars, yogurts and the like, often contain high levels of sugar. Foods that are created as low-fat alternatives often have extra added sugars to compensate.
The best practice is to get in the habit of reading food labels. Here is a list of surprising places where you will often find added sugars:
- Pasta sauces
- Nut butters
- Frozen meals
- Dried fruits
- Milk substitutes
- Salad dressings
- BBQ sauce
- Tomato sauce
- Prepared sauces
- Plain yogurts
And here are some places where you will often find higher amounts of sugar than you would expect:
- Protein/Granola/Cereal bars
- Flavored oatmeals
- Fruit juices
- Sport drinks
- Flavored Coffees
- Iced tea
- Canned fruit
- Bottled smoothies
If you are one who likes to dine out regularly, you are likely consuming a lot of extra sugar in places you might not expect. So it’s best to do so in moderation.
Common Names for Sugar
There are so many pseudonyms for sugar, you would think it were working undercover for the FBI. Here is a list of all of its aliases:
- Barley malt
- Barbados sugar
- Beet sugar
- Brown sugar
- Buttered syrup
- Cane juice
- Cane sugar
- Corn syrup
- Corn syrup solids
- Confectioner’s sugar
- Carob syrup
- Castor sugar
- Date sugar
- Dehydrated cane juice
- Demerara sugar
- Diastatic malt
- Ethyl maltol
- Free flowing brown sugars
- Fruit juice
- Fruit juice concentrat
- Glucose solids
- Golden sugar
- Golden syrup
- Granulated sugar
- Grape sugar
- High fructose corn syrup
- Icing sugar
- Invert sugar
- Malt syrup
- Maple syrup
- Powdered sugar
- Raw sugar
- Refiner’s syrup
- Rice syrup
- Turbinado sugar
- Yellow sugar
Whew! That was a lot. Read your labels and be proactive.
How to Break Free from Sugar
I am in the middle of attempting this as we speak. It may seem a wee bit overwhelming for those of us who’ve grown accustomed to sugar’s pleasures, but it can be done. Here are my tips for doing so:
Find a Support Network
For many of us, accountability is key. If you are one of those people, find a friend or group that is on the same mission. Facebook has a ton of them. Do a quick search; or feel free to join the one I am participating in, led by Healing with Khristine.
Purge the Sugars from Your Home & Work Environments
If the temptation is there, you’re much more likely to cave during weak moments. Make it hard to fail by donating or freezing the treats that are likely to lead you off track.
Create a List of Coping Mechanisms
Another great way to be ready for the moments that tug at your emotions and make you fragile, is to come up with a list of ideas for managing those moods without a sugar high. Think about some self-care options that work best for you.
Have Several Healthy Snacks On Hand
Preparation is huge! Here is a list of healthy snack ideas that you can buy or make without the added sugars.
Limit Eating Out
Restaurants often toss in additional hidden sugars or processed ingredients that will hinder your goals. Avoid the temptation to eat out on a busy evening by throwing together one of these healthy instantpot meals.
Keep a Food Diary
Sometimes the best way to make healthy changes is to simply become aware of what is stopping you.
Get Plenty of Sleep
When we become tired, we are much more likely to make poor choices. Here are some guidelines for getting your best night’s rest.
Consume Healthy Fats, Fibers & Proteins
Food sources high in these nutrients will allow our bellies to feel satiated much longer, decreasing our susceptibility to eating poorly on a whim.
Prepare a List of Reasons for Your Sugar Detox
Allow your goals to remain fresh on your mind by reviewing them when you feel it most beneficial. Remember how your mind and body felt when you were consuming all of those added sugars. Think about the long-term benefits of having more energy, better skin and longevity.
Healthy Swaps You Can Make
Once you start avoiding refined sugars, you will learn that it is possible to eat without it and still be satisfied. You just have to know where to look. Here are healthy substitutions for some of the most common foods where the sugar can sneak up on you:
- Ezekial bread slice (0g) vs your average bread slice(1.6g)
- Homemade oats w/a little honey,fresh or frozen fruit & cinnamon (close to 0g refined) vs your average sugary cereal (19.8 g) or flavored oatmeal packet (12 g)
- The average bottled salad dressing (6g) vs one of these homemade versions (0g)
- The average jarred pasta sauce (6g) vs a simple homemade option (0g)
- The average storebought jam (7g) vs this sugar-free homemade alternative (0g)
- Chobani 0% Greek Yogurt (19 g) vs Siggi’s Icelandic Style Skyr Strained Nonfat Yogurt (9 g)
The Truth About Sugar Substitutes
Over the past few decades, numerous promising sugar substitutes have popped up on the market. The problem is that the majority of these were eventually deemed unsafe for consumption due to neurological and other health effects. Following are the few that are still considered safe:
- Honey – I recommend doing a search for local brands in order to avoid all of the fillers that often go into commercial honeys. By shopping locally you will also reap the anti-allergy benefits.
- Maple syrup – This natural sweetener comes straight from the tree and is filled with nutritional value
- Stevia – This sugar substitute comes in powder and liquid form. It is derived naturally, from the stevia plant leaves; and is more concentrated than sugar, so use sparingly.
There are others, but these are the ones I trust most. Now that you have the tools, let’s use them to break free from those sugar demons once and for all. You’ve got this!
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