Tips to Ditch Your Sugar Habit

sugar habit

Added sugar is the single worst ingredient in the modern diet. It provides calories with no added nutrients and can damage your metabolism in the long run. Eating too much is linked to weight gain and various diseases like obesity, cancer, type II diabetes and heart disease.(1)

Too much added sugar can be one of the greatest threats for your health!

But how much is too much? Can you eat a little bit of sugar each day without harm, or should you avoid it as much as possible? According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, people older than 2 years should keep sugars to less than 10% of their total daily calories. For example, if an adult consumes 2,000 calories a day, no more than 200 calories should come from added sugars. (2) 

Tips to find those hidden sugars:

>>Read labels: Sugar sometimes hides behind words such as syrup and anything ending in –ose (such as sucrose).

>> Choose unsweetened varieties: Almond or soy milk, nut butters, and baking chocolate could all contain sugar, but many brands offer an “unsweetened” option.

>> Go sugar-free, not fat-free: Healthy fats, such as those found in avocados, nuts and nut butters, seeds, and olive or coconut oil will curb your hunger to make you feel full longer—thus decreasing sugar cravings.

>> Add your own spice: Ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla all pack a potent profile to enhance your food with not only nutrients, but also good taste.

10% or less: The amount of our total daily calories that should come from sugar, according to the Dietary Guidelines. For the average adult, this percentage equals about 9 teaspoons—less than the amount found in a typical can of soda.

Multiply the grams of sugar in a product by 4 to find the amount of calories from sugar in that product. For example, a food containing 10 grams of sugar has 40 calories from it—if you eat 2,000 calories a day, that’s 2 percent.(3) 

Buzzword: Glycation Sugar you digest may attach to proteins such as collagen and form new molecules called advanced glycation end products, or AGEs. These AGEs allegedly degrade collagen and elastin, causing them to harden and lose elasticity—i.e., making skin dull and wrinkled.

Are Added Sugars Different from Total Sugars?

Total Sugars include sweeteners that  are naturally is present in many food and beverages, such as in milk and fruit. Generally we’re not as worried about this kind of sugar because these foods have other components in them that slow down how quickly it is digested according to wellness dietitian Lindsey Wohlford. 

Refined/added or processed sugar should be limited. Avoiding these foods as much as you can because they contain a lot of processed sugar. Candy, cookies, cakes and other sugar-based foods can contain almost all or in some cases more than the recommended daily amount of it according to Wohlford. One candy bar or piece of cake can contain around 30 grams of added sugar. Eating these foods regularly leads to weight gain and other problems. (4)

What about healthy food options?

Many common foods that seem to be a healthy choice can pack in the sugar. Foods that are vegan or gluten-free baked goods fall in this group. Having a vegan or gluten-free baked good or cookie seems healthy, but they still contain a decent amount of sugar, This is because vegan simply means no animal products are used in the product, and gluten-free is typically a similar nutrition profile as another baked good with gluten — the flour is just made from a gluten-free source. In both cases, there’s plenty of room to add sweeteners to recipes and label them “gluten-free,” “vegan,” or even “organic,” so don’t be fooled by wellness buzzwords that are often labeled on processed, packaged foods or baked goods. 

Tips to avoid a sugar overload

Emphasize variety and balance from healthy foods for all of your meals, but do so especially on a day where you know you’ll be at a gathering with rich foods and a plethora of sugary temptations.  Some people skip meals in advance of the “big” holiday meal, but this can lead to overeating later in the day.  Studies show that those who eat breakfast tend to eat less total calories in a day than those who skip breakfast. 

At gatherings, survey the offerings and fill your plate with healthy options first.  Using MyPlate as a guide, make half of your plate vegetables and fruits and look for lean meats.  As the space dwindles on your plate, you’ll be forced to have small portions or maybe even just a bite or two of higher fat and calorie foods!

Many people consume more sugar than they realize. It’s important to be aware of how much sugar you consume because our bodies don’t need sugar to function properly. Added sugars contribute zero nutrients but many added calories that can lead to extra pounds or even obesity. That can reduce heart health.

(1) Relationship between Added Sugars Consumption and Chronic Disease Risk Factors: Current Understanding
(2) Know Your Limit for Added Sugars
(3) Added Sugars
(4) Natural versus refined sugar: What’s the difference?

by Andrew Ellis

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