Today I want to talk about a culprit that lurks into our foods and makes us think it’s good because it tastes so good but is also one of the worse things we consume- artificial sugar.
Artificial sugar is a tricky ingredient because it goes by many names: cane juice, dextrin, dextrose, fructose, maltodextrin, sucrose…and the list goes on and on. In fact there are about 61 different names for added sugars. I don’t necessarily have a huge sweet tooth, but I also can’t say I never had cookies as a meal. When I went into this journey of wanting to live a healthier lifestyle I went into it knowing I would have to change a few things but the biggest and most important one was definitely cutting artificial sugar. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), women should only be consuming 6 tsp (25g) of added sugar, men 9tsp (38g), and children 3-6tsp (12-25).
In America, however, the daily percentage value of sugar has been kept from our labels for decades. This allows companies to keep adding it into foods and beverages to sweeten them up and make it taste better but it also adds a lot of calories and absolutely no nutrients. Excitingly, the FDA has announced that new labels are finally coming and will be required on most packaged foods by July 2018. This of course will facilitate how we shop for our foods and allow us, as consumers, to make more informed decisions on our well-being. Until then, however, I urge you all to pay more attention to the labels when you are grocery shopping and read the nutrition values as well as the ingredients. This may take a little more time and it may mean switching out old favorite foods with new more nutritious ones- but if in the end it means being much healthier then it’s very much worth it! Also remember that certain foods do use natural/real fruits which of course will be sweet but as long as it comes from fruit and not artificial additives, then it is perfectly okay. If you go back to read my post Step 01, I explain why sugar is so bad for us 🙂
Below are a few things I did to help my own transition:
- First, I started to read labels** and actually write down how many grams of added sugar I was consuming. I began a little dramatic in only trying to eat 10g a day. This went on for a pretty solid month and then the holidays came around and I allowed myself the 25g the AHA recommends- sometimes more. Some days are better than others, but for the most part I would say I consume about 20-30g.
- I began to buy more fruits – this is especially important if you have a sweet tooth- always have frozen fruit handy!
- I began to drink more fruit smoothies and added fruit to my hot oatmeal instead of brown sugar, overnight oats, cereal, and a nice fruit bowl never gets old
- If you love chocolate switch to cacao – Cacao is full of flavonoids which act as natural antioxidants, it’s rich in magnesium (increases energy, decreases anxiety), great source of sulfur (hello strong nails, shiny hair and a nice healthy liver), and raw cacao is an aphrodisiac, in other words a mood enhancer.
- Chocolate actually makes my rosacea much worse so switching to cacao was very nice for my skin too. I’m not a huge fan of chocolate in general but one of my favorite things to do is add a pinch of cacao powder to a strawberry-banana and almond milk smoothie.
- I cut soda years ago, but if it is something you drink, cut it. Just one can of soda or sweetened tea increases the chances of Type 2 diabetes by 18%! Instead opt to drink more water with lemon if you need flavor and switch to sparkling mineral water with no sodium and no sugar, of course.
- remember even juices and teas can contain a lot of artificial sugars so they are not always better than soda
I know cutting sugar is not an easy thing for most of us – especially if you have a monster of a sweet tooth – but trust me in that it is possible. Start small in paying attention to how much you eat a day and start looking into alternatives that will work for you. The biggest thing is realizing you are in control of your choices and it is okay to have cheat days but if you fall off the track a little bit get back on and keep going. Sugar is extremely addictive so our bodies will naturally keep craving it in the beginning but once we get over that hump and begin to feed our bodies real ingredients, it’ll know the difference.
Please email me or comment below if you have any tips as well or any specific snacks you want to cut and I can try and find you an alternative.
** I know counting grams may seem a little extreme and very difficult. Please keep in mind this is only if you want to have an idea of how much added sugars is in the daily foods you consume. Once you have an idea and start switching to natural sweeteners (from fruits) then of course there is no need to keep track of it so vigorously – especially if it is something you find tedious and unnecessary. What works for me may not work for you, and that is okay! It’s all about making small changes that amount to a bigger-better healthier lifestyle. Do what works best for you!