I’ve been practicing a fat adaptive diet for the past 3 months and the biggest (and most surprising) awareness I’ve had is how much sugar is in everything we eat, naturally and added. And what also became clear is how oblivious most people are with how much sugar they consume every day. The American Heart Association recommends consuming no more than 6 teaspoons for women and 9 teaspoons for men, yet the average American adult consumes 22 teaspoons every day.
Most people have a general awareness that sugar is bad for you but might not know the severity and detrimental impact it’s having on the health of people today. The statistics show that leading causes of death include disease such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes but what might not be as apparent is the impact sugar has in the development of these diseases. Part of the problem is not seeing the impact eating sugar has on our bodies in the moment. Instead, we finally notice the impact eating sugar has on our health over the course of time, once it’s too late.
How do you measure up?
Sugar surrounds us in almost every aspect of our lives – from our personal dwellings to office settings to social gatherings to even fitness events. It’s almost impossible to escape – almost!
Most people have a hard time escaping sugar because they might not necessarily know where it’s hiding. Being able to identify the different forms of sugar is step one. Sugar can be found in processed foods (think cereals, snack bars, baked goods) and in whole foods (think fruit, dairy, honey). It can take on the name of many: glucose, sucrose (table sugar), lactose, fructose, high fructose corn syrup, ethanol (drinking alcohol), artificial sugar (including sucralose) and sugar alcohols just to name a few.
Check out this list of the different names of sugar that might end up on the ingredients label of the foods you eat:
Start becoming more familiar with where sugar hides. Here are some obvious culprits to avoid:
- Fruit Juice, Soda, Alcohol
- Cakes, ice cream, chocolate, desserts
- Muffins, pastries, cereals
- Jams & Jellies
Here are some not so obvious culprits to avoid:
- Fruit filled yogurts
- Unnatural Peanut Butter (think Jif or Skippy)
- Salad dressings
Aside from identifying where sugar hides, the next step is kicking the habit and minimizing the cravings that make you seek it out.
We have all experienced the mid afternoon or late night sugar cravings at some point. But did you know how and what you eat may be the culprit to these cravings? Without getting into the science of blood sugar regularity, just know that when you go too long without eating, haven’t eaten enough or have eaten a sugary meal/snack, it affects your blood sugar levels. When your levels spike or crash your body is constantly working to stabilize it. When you start craving sugar its most likely because you are experiencing a crash in your blood sugar level, creating the need to spike it back up. The fastest way to do that is with sugar, hence the craving for carby and sugary foods.
Some tricks to keep those sugar cravings at bay and reducing your daily intake:
- Eat nutrient dense, complex carbs to fulfill on your sugar needs (sweet potato, quinoa)
- Eat balanced meals that include proteins and fats with your carbs
- Eat consistently throughout the day – know your limit of how long to space out your meals before you get too hungry (usually 3 hours)
- Pay attention to your daily life triggers – do you routinely come home and go straight to the pantry for a sugar treat? Do you find yourself snacking on sugar foods out of boredom? Do you slip into a sugar comma to deal with life stresses? – and break the pattern. Replace these sugar inducing triggers with healthier options, such as, going for a walk, not having your favorite treats available, or eating something else in it’s place (carrots, chewing gum, water)
Take it on for a week and see how you do. You can use food tracker apps like myfitnesspal.com to calculate your total sugar per day. If you’re a woman, shoot for 24g of sugar (6 teaspoons) or less and if you’re a male shoot for 36g (9 teaspoons) of sugar. Send me a message (firstname.lastname@example.org) sharing with me how you do!