Sugar season is upon us. Halloween candy makes its appearance around Labor Day and we are bombarded with sugary treats from now through New Year’s Day. While treats are okay in moderation, most of us eat far too much added sugar every day and it’s a key factor in obesity and chronic disease. What many of us don’t understand is that sugar causes a biochemical reaction in our bodies that makes us crave more of it. Knowledge is power, so read our article below for some helpful tips on keeping your sugar consumption under control. —Chef Marshall
How to Reduce the Amount of Sugar in Your Diet
From birth, we are programmed to associate sweet foods with comfort and nurturing. Although most of us know consuming too much sugar leads to health risks like obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease, we are surrounded with highly processed, sweetened foods, so it is no wonder we have a hard time setting limits or saying no.
Why Avoid Sugar?
Here are some quick reasons it’s worth decreasing your sugar intake:
- Chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease are caused by chronic inflammation, which is primarily caused by sugar. The primary reason we have a reduced quality of life is these chronic illnesses. Sugar is now considered to be the single most toxic ingredient in the modern diet.
- Sugar has the characteristics of an addictive substance. Consuming sugar activates the same brain circuitry involved in addiction to drugs like cocaine. Sugar induces reward and pleasure, alters mood, produces cravings and may elicit biochemical signs of withdrawal in the brain.
- Sugar dampens the stress response, which leads to our bodies producing less of the stress hormone, cortisol, but it increases inflammation. You’re trading one bad situation for another!
- Regular sugar consumption deadens our ability to taste sweetness, which means you need to consume more to get the same taste. The good news is you can retrain your taste buds to be more sensitive by reducing your sugar intake.
How Much Sugar Should You Have Each Day?
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends consuming no more than 24 grams of sugar per day for women and children and 36 grams per day for men. The average American consumes three to four times that amount. Most Americans have exceeded their daily recommended amount of sugar by the time they finish breakfast.
Reduce Consumption of These Foods to Minimize Sugar
- Sweetened beverages
- Soda, juices, coffee drinks, sports drinks
- Snack foods
- Chips, cookies, pastries, most bars
- Most breakfast cereals
- Dry cereals and flavored oatmeal
- Dairy products
- Flavored yogurt, coffer creamer, flavored milk
- Bread, donuts, cake, muffins and other baked goods
- Condiments and sauces
- Ketchup, barbeque sauces, tomato sauce and salad dressings
- Anything food labeled no-fat or low-fat
Break the Sugar Habit
These simple steps allow you to break your sugar habit so you can enjoy sweets in moderation without cravings or guilt.
- Train your taste buds – Reduce the amount of sugar in your food. After several weeks of eating less sugar, you will become more sensitive to sweetness – and can eat less without noticing a difference in taste.
- Replace the sugar in your food with natural sweeteners. Fruits and certain spices, like cinnamon and vanilla, lend natural sweetness to foods, helping you cut back on sugar without giving up on taste.
- Exercise regularly – Recent research suggests cardiovascular exercise increases self-control and helps you resist cravings, leading to smarter food choices.
- Outlast your cravings – Cravings only last about 15 minutes, so distract yourself with a quick walk or a glass of water to avoid giving in.
- Eat foods rich in fiber and healthy fats – Foods like olive oil, nuts and avocados help keep your blood sugar steady and stop cravings in their tracks.
- Get enough sleep – You are more likely to crave sugar and cave to cravings when you are sleep deprived.
- Avoid artificial sweeteners – Artificial sweeteners cause intestinal distress and may alter the way your body metabolizes sugar, causing confusion between the gut and the brain. And since you are still eating sweet foods, you will continue to have sweet cravings.
When you understand the biochemical effects of eating sugar and where you are getting most of your sugar, you can stop beating yourself up over a lack of willpower and start taking steps to enjoy treats on your own terms.
Train your taste buds and use natural sweeteners to reduce the sugar in your food without compromising flavor. Eat a diet rich in healthy fats and fiber and get regular exercise and adequate sleep to stop cravings in their tracks. These simple steps help you reduce your sugar intake without giving up the pleasure of enjoying sweets in moderation. This may be one of the most important health decisions we will ever make.