Here's your wellness challenge for today:
Eat less than 25 grams of sugar.
The topics of obesity and sugar intake go hand in hand. As a matter of fact, there is a direct link between the overconsumption of added sugars and diseases such as Type 2 Diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and certain forms of cancer. Americans consume about 22.2 teaspoons of added sugar every day, which is 300% more than recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). I know what you’re thinking: How could you possibly be consuming that much sugar in a day? Let’s take a look at our diets…
In the early 1980s processed food consumption began to spike. This was due to the fact that companies were beginning to sweeten their foods with high fructose corn syrup after sugar started to get a bad rep.
If anything that you eat comes out of some type of packaging or box, then it has most likely been processed in some way. Whether it’s labeled ‘low-calorie,’ ‘no added sugars,’ ‘natural,’ or ‘low-fat,’ chances are it’s still riddled with high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, man-made sugars, and other sweeteners that are known to have the same disastrous effects on the body.
How Much Sugar Do We Need?
According to both the American Heart Association (AHA) and WHO, it is recommended that the daily amount of sugar that an adult man should consume is 9 teaspoons (36 grams), adult women should consume 5 teaspoons (20 grams), and children should consume 3 teaspoons (12 grams).
So while sugar should not be completely taken out of the diet, added sugars should be kept at a bare minimum and naturally occurring sugars should be used instead.
What Sugar Does to the Body
The over-consumption of sugars is harmful to the body in more ways than we know. As a matter of fact, there are studies linking high sugar consumption with memory loss and hindered learning skills (UCLA 2012). Apart from being the primary cause of dental plaque and tooth decay, sugar is actually source of energy for the brain and the blood cells. However, when consumed in high dosages, the sugars can cause blood sugar levels to spike which is what causes diabetes to develop. Also, when sugar is not burned off as energy through exercise and moderate activity, the body will then store it as fat in order to be used as energy later.
Another thing that many people don’t know is that it creates very intense cravings. Shown to have the same effect on the brain as cocaine, sugar is a highly addictive substance. Sugar signals the brain to release what is known as dopamine or the ‘feel-good’ hormone, stimulating that pleasurable feeling you get when you’re eating. The problem that we’ve run into is that the consuming too much sugar causes dopamine to release too often, resulting in other problems such as addiction and an increased sugar tolerance. It has also been shown that rats who consumed too much fructose had damaged synaptic activity in the brain, causing the communication among brain cells to become impaired.
How to Reduce Your Sugar Intake
1. Cook from Scratch & Bring Your Meals to Work: This is the best way to cut down your sugar intake. Consuming fresh fruit, vegetables and grains not only energizes your body with natural sugars that are actually good for you, but you will be able to track exactly how much sugar you consume per day since you’re the one making your food. Also, avoid drinks such as soda, fruit juices, candy, fruits canned in syrup, low-fat/ diet foods and baked goods.
2. Check the Label: Always check the labels of the processed food you’re buying in order to see how much sugar the product contains. The many names for sugar include: sucrose, high frustose corn syrup (HFCS), dehydrated cane juice, fructose, glucose, dextrose, syrup, cane sugar, raw sugar, corn syrup, molasses, fruit juice concentrate, malt sugar, maltose, and etc. If sugar is one of the first 3 ingredients, then the food should be avoided completely
3. Portion Your Food Correctly: The easiest way to eat too much sugar is by consuming too much food. Consume up to 4 fruits and 3 cups of veggies per day in order to properly balance your sugar-to-fiber ratio.
4. Avoid Processed Food: This is a no-brainer, right? Processed food makes up the majority of the added sugar responsible for America’s over-consumption of sugar, so why not avoid it altogether? You won’t have to worry about checking labels, and you’ll be able to learn how to make the healthier version of your favorite foods. Processed foods include but are not limited to: fruit flavored yogurts, sweetened almond milk, frozen meals, breakfast bars, breakfast sandwiches, all fast food, iced coffee, sweet cereals, bread, nut spreads, flour tortillas, candies, and etc.
5. Track It: Writing down and tracking what you’ve eaten for the day can give you good idea of how much sugar you’ve consumed. There are many tools, apps and websites that you can use to keep track of your sugar consumption in order to see if you need to dial back. You can start tracking you sugar today at MyFoodDiary.com.