Most of us know that sugar is ubiquitous in much of what we see on the grocery store shelves. That should be the first clue that most of the food that we eat should not come off of a shelf, but rather from a fresh produce bin, a cooler, or bulk aisle. The truth is if Americans followed one simple diet trend, it should be to cut the sugar out of their diets. Currently the average American consumes over 126 grams of sugar every day. That’s more than double the recommended intake according to the World Health Organization (WHO), which recommends no more than 50 grams of sugar daily.
What’s the big deal about sugar? Most of us may go straight to the link between sugar and diabetes, which, yes, eating too much sugar may increase our risk of type 2 diabetes, but it goes well beyond that. Over-consuming sugar triggers inflammation, weight gain, tooth decay, and increases our risk for heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, gout, brain fog … the list goes on. And the tricky part is that manufacturers often sneak sugar into their products under the guise of sources like corn syrup, sucrose, fructose, dextrose, glucose, cane sugar, cane juice, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), agave, honey, maple syrup and more. Though sweeteners like honey and maple syrup are “natural” sources of sweetness and sugar, they still “count” towards our total daily intake, gram-wise, when it comes to sugar consumption.
So, if you’re confused by the myriad of diets out there – Paleo, Grain Free, South Beach, etc – consider making just one adjustment to your diet. Cut the sugar. You’ll feel better and you may just live longer. Commit to at least 30 days and your cravings will decrease and you will begin to feel so much better.
Here are 8 strategies:
1. Shop the Perimeter – Most grocery stores are laid out similarly with produce on one end of the store, meat, fish, and dairy along the back wall or other end of the store. Load your cart or basket there. If you need to stock up on grains, hit the bulk aisle if available. The fewer boxes in your cart, the less chance for added sugars sneaking into your world. Avoid those aisles altogether where you think willpower may fail you. And don’t shop when you’re hungry.
2. Skip the Soda – If you’re still drinking it, time to consider calling it quits. Soda makes up a large percentage of America’s sugar consumption. Time to embrace water, whether sparkling or still, water is the way to go. Don’t bother transitioning to diet soda – the stuff is poison.
3. Coffee is Fine, Frou-frou coffee drinks are not. If you love your coffee, okay – just stop adulterating it with syrups, sugars, whipped cream, and sugar crystal toppings. Adding a little cream is fine, but leave it at that. No more additives.
4. No More Flavored Yogurt – The amount of sugar in fruited or flavored yogurts has gotten a bit crazy. In many cases, there are more grams of sugar in your favorite yogurt than your favorite ice cream. And you thought yogurt was “good for you.” Yogurt has potential health benefits due to the probiotic strains and cultures, true. But, plain, whole milk, Greek-style yogurt is the only way to go. Add your own fresh fruit and nuts.
5. Go Dark – If your sweet tooth revolves around chocolate, consider going darker and read labels. A good 72% (or higher) cacao can be a relatively good choice, just make sure to stick to the serving size (about 1.5 ounces) and make sure the sugar grams are under 12 per serving.
6. Read Labels – Even on non-suspect foods like bread, you may be surprised that your favorite loaf contains six different kinds of sweeteners. Condiments like ketchup and salad dressing are also guilty. Pasta should not contain sugar. Buyer beware. Educate yourself.
7. Stop buying baked goods – Yes, they smell and look delicious, but those muffins, scones, cookies, and cakes are a menace to our health. Commercially prepared baked goods tend to contain a high amount of sugar (and other undesirable ingredients). Best to make your own goodies (if you must) where you can control everything that goes into the batter.
8. Get more sleep – What? Yes, when we are sleep deprived we tend to crave more sugar, so sometimes the solution is to get more rest. A well rested body and brain allows us to have better judgment and make better choices.
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