One of the best things you can do for your health is to kick your sugar addiction. Chances are, you’re probably eating too much–way too much. Statistics show that the average American consumes about 150 to 170 pounds of sugar in a year. From Think Eat Move Thrive.
Sugar isn’t sweet when it comes to our skin or looking, feeling, and being vibrant. You can Botox your way out of a few wrinkles, but if you continue to over-sugar your life, wrinkles will eventually win out. Enjoying too much sugar encourages something called advanced glycation end products (AGEs), and these sweet villains are all about driving disease and premature aging. AGEs are formed when sugar mixes with amino acids. This creates the perfect environment for inflammation, disease, aging, and premature death. The formation of AGEs has been linked to an increased risk for (you’ve guessed it) heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease. When you limit and avoid sugar, you starve the AGEs formation process. And guess what else happens? Beauty increases, energy increases, life expectancy increases, and thriving happens!
Of all the molecules that can inflict damage on your mind and body, sugar is one of the worst. Sugar encourages fat deposits around your vital organs (this is a keynote of heart disease and type 2 diabetes); and it drives inflammation, which increases insulin and leptin levels while decreasing the sensitivity to both of these vital hormones. As this insensitivity becomes chronic, we fast-forward the aging process and increase the risks for metabolic syndrome, obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
It is normal for blood sugar levels to rise a bit after a meal; however, it is not normal—or healthy—to have blood sugar levels remain elevated for a long period of time afterward. Too many Americans have created a situation where their blood sugar is chronically and permanently elevated. This chronic elevation makes us overweight, tired, depressed, and sick. Are you ready to feel better and kick the sugar addiction?
Kicking the sugar habit is a life-giving, life-changing decision. What is your why for letting go of sugar? Notice when you tend to crave sugar. Is it when you are you watching TV, hanging out with certain people, doing things that you do not enjoy? Be mindful of how sugar finds its sneaky way into your daily routine, and watch for the subtle triggers that initiate its desire.
Your best bet when it comes to cutting down on sugar in the diet is to stick to fresh vegetables and fruits, and steer clear of added sugars— especially packaged foods and processed sugars (including corn syrup and high-fructose corn syrup). Sugar has insidiously found its way into every packaged good on the shelf. One teaspoon of sugar, or 4 grams, equals approximately 16 calories. To figure out how much sugar is in one serving of whatever you are eating or drinking, just do the math: if the product lists 20 grams of sugar, then that means it contains 5 teaspoons of sugar, or 80 sugar-derived calories. Aim to keep total sugar for the day at or below 10 percent of your total caloric intake. So if you are consuming 1,800 calories daily, no more than 180 calories (45 grams) are sugars.
It is challenging to keep your daily sugar at or under 10 percent, so you may want to write things down at first to keep track. Again, remember the math: for every 1,000 calories you consume, no more than 100 calories (25 grams) should come from added sugars. That’s less than the amount of sugar found in a tall Starbucks Caramel Frappuccino, which contains 45 grams of sugar! Many sweetened yogurts, cereals, juices, smoothies, and snack bars contain a lot of sugar, so if you aren’t already reading nutritional facts on product labels, it’s time to start!
How to Maintain a Balanced Sugar Level
• Do not skip meals.
• Eat a small meal or snack at least every three hours to maintain balanced blood sugar levels.
• Healthfully and proactively manage stress, as stress drives sugar cravings. Chronic stress decreases serotonin and, in turn, encourages the desire for sugar, and processed and refined carbs.
• Always have a protein-rich breakfast, and eat within thirty minutes to an hour of waking up. This will help prevent binging later in the day.
• Exercise religiously. Strength training increases insulin sensitivity (drives sugar from the blood into the muscle), which decreases sugar cravings and encourages fat metabolism, lean muscle building, overall sustained energy, mental clarity, and high-level well-being.
The Multiple Identities of Sugar
Sugar comes in many disguises and goes by many different names. There are literally dozens (if not hundreds) of names for sugar that you will commonly find on ingredient labels. Here is a short sample: brown rice syrup, maple syrup, honey, agave nectar, dextrose, sucrose, glucose, corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, fructose, cane sugar, barley malt, galactose, maltose, molasses, maltodextrin, dehydrated cane juice. Start reading labels and look for foods that you eat regularly that may contain hidden sources of added sugar.