With the obesity rate in the US becoming a national epidemic, it’s time to really understand the role that sugar plays for maintaining good health. Take the French, for example, and notice how they have a diet much higher in fat but their sugar consumption is 5 ½ times less than the American diet. And yet the French have minimal issues with obesity, cardiovascular disease and even diabetes. Did you know that excessive sugar consumption is linked to more than 60 ailments/diseases? Let’s look at a few of these in greater detail.
Sugar & Cardiovascular Health
The more sugar you eat, the more insulin your body produces which also increases your triglyceride levels. Higher triglycerides translates into higher cholesterol levels. Also high insulin levels is also linked to a lower HDL (good) cholesterol, high blood pressure & obesity.
Sugar & Cancer
Cancer cells LOVE sugar so the more sugar you eat, the faster those cancer cells grow. High insulin levels are one of the biggest risk factors for breast cancer. In fact, it carries a 283% higher risk. My sister is a breast cancer survivor and I witnessed firsthand the challenges she faced to fight that disease. Keeping my sugar intake to a minimum seems like a small price to pay if you ask me.
Sugar & Obesity
High fructose corn syrup accounts for more than 40% of sweeteners added to food and drink products today. This sweetener is a laboratory modified blend of fructose/glucose and the body is not designed to absorb this refined sugar mix so it goes straight to your cells where it is stored as fat. It is also absorbed into the cells without the production of leptin which is a hormone that regulates appetite so you stay hungry and continue eating which means you eat the whole bag of cookies….not good!
Tips for Reducing Sugar Intake
- Eat foods low on the glycemic index (between 0-40) Reference www.glycemicindex.com for a helpful guide. These foods raise blood sugar slowly helping you avoid the dreaded sugar crash.
- Eliminate refined table sugar NOW. If it’s in your pantry, get it out. Substitute raw honey or agave nectar if you must use it.
- Eliminate processed carbohydrates (white pasta, breads, bagels) and go to whole grain pastas and breads or brown rice. These can all be found at your local grocery store.
- Be your own food detective. Read labels carefully. Look for whole grains and be sure to read the sugar levels on containers. Between 20-40 g of sugar is all that is needed in a given day. Any more and you can put yourself at risk for those diseases above and fluctuations with energy levels and your mood in general.
- Beware of fat-free or low fat foods. In many cases, to reduce the fat content, the manufacturer simply adds sugar. A good example is yogurt. A container of plain yogurt contains 6g per serving while its ‘fat free’ cousin contains 13g. Ironically, the fat-free food can make you fatter.
- Listen to your body. When you eat a food that gives you a buzz but then you feel cranky or find yourself reaching for another sweet food a few hours later, pay attention to what your body is trying to tell you. Think about the foods (natural whole fruits and veggies) that give you sustained energy throughout the day. Those are the foods you should be eating to keep you balanced.
- Eat balanced meals regularly. This really expands on the point above about listening to your body. Each meal should be a balance of protein, complex carbs and high quality fats. Think about the colors of the rainbow and how you can incorporate those colors onto your plate for each meal. And for many people, that may mean 5-6 small meals per day.
Reducing (or eliminating) sugar from your diet does not mean you have to go into starvation mode, ready to kill anyone you see eating a cookie. In fact, by keeping your meals balanced, especially with lots of fruits and vegetables, your cravings will reduce drastically and your energy will increase. It’s a win-win for everyone!