By Dr. Sudip Bose, MD, FACEP, FAAEM
Cutting back on sugar will do more than shrink your midsection, it could save your life. Overindulging on sugar is a major contributing factor to the obesity epidemic. The connection between the rise in sugar in our diets and both illness and death is not coincidental. Some known side effects of overindulging on sugar are metabolic disease, type 2 diabetes, liver damage, fatty liver, abdominal obesity, high cholesterol, certain cancers, increased triglycerides, heart disease, tooth decay, increased cravings, mood swings, attention deficit disorder, skin issues, acidity and a lengthy list of list additional physical, emotional and mental ailments.
The consumption of fructose has increased by 600 percent in the past 25 years. Six hundred percent! If you were to remove all of the foods from the grocery store that did not contain added sugar, only 20 percent of the items would remain. The tricky part is that sugar is delivered to you in packaged products disguised by dozens of different names, from inulin to molasses, to agave nectar to maltose and diatase and the more well known high-fructose corn syrup.
The average American consumes 40 teaspoons of sugar a day. Your health in large part depends on what you buy at the store.
Kelli Calabrese, a Clinical Exercise Physiologist and Certified Nutrition Specialist, suggests that cutting out the obvious sugars such as candy, cake, diet soda, processed foods and desserts are a good place to start; however, sugar is hidden in places you might least expect it. Become a label reader and you will be surprised at the quantity of sugar in foods from ketchup and barbeque sauce to yogurt and orange juice. Even if you are young, lean and healthy you should minimally consume foods with added sugar. If you are overweight, added sugar should be avoided. Sugar doesn’t add any physiological benefit, can damage your metabolism and actually can take resources from your body to process.
The United States is one of the only countries that has a recommended daily allowance for added sugar. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), the maximum amount of added sugars you should eat in a day are:
- Men: 150 calories per day (37.5 grams or 9 teaspoons)
- Women: 100 calories per day (25 grams or 6 teaspoons)
To put that in perspective, one cup of vanilla almond milk and ¾ cup of Honey Nut Cheerios yields 25g of sugar. One PB & J sandwich and one 6oz low-fat yogurt yields 30g of sugar. A blueberry muffin is 36 grams of sugar, one 12oz can of Coke contains 140 calories from sugar, while a regular-sized Snickers bar contains 120 calories from sugar.
Sugar on a food label refers to the presence of sucrose or table sugar. If a nutrition label says 4 grams of sugar, that means it contains around one teaspoon of sucrose. However, other sugars are not listed the same way and are counted as part of the carbohydrate content despite being sugars, too. The average consumer is uninformed! Ms. Calabrese says, “The sugar industry wants us to believe that a calorie is a calorie and it’s simply a lie. Your body does not treat a candy bar the same way it does a piece of salmon with quinoa and green beans. The added sugars are formulated in the appropriate amounts to create a bliss effect so that it lights up our brain and we get a high, a blood sugar crash and begin the craving cycle again. You know over consumption of sugar is a problem when you become addicted and try to give it up. Withdrawal symptoms include headaches, interrupted sleep patterns, lethargy, aches and pains, mood swings, shakes, anger, depression, and flu-like symptoms. [But withdrawal is] worth it”!
Many of the added calories are coming from beverages. Soda, caffeinated cold and hot drinks, fruit juice, smoothies, green drinks, sweet tea, lemonade, chocolate milk – each can have any where from 8 to 30 grams per serving. Keep in mind most containers are 2 servings!
The good news is that by learning about the different kinds of sugars and how they are hidden in so many processed foods, you can be much more aware and in control of what goes into your body. You have lots of good options to wean yourself off of and cut out added sugar.
- Get rid of any triggers that cause you to eat sugar, and clean out your stash.
- Begin substituting whole foods, especially fruits and vegetables and lean protein.
- When you feel like eating sugar, have a glass of water, go for a walk, get out of the kitchen, journal or do something healthy that will get you past the craving.
- Consume a multi vitamin and mineral to ensure you are getting the proper magnesium and chromium.
- Become a label reader and find out where the hidden sugars are.
- Choose foods that are low on the glycemic index, and also consume nutritional super foods!
- Choose water as your primary beverage. Consider adding lemon and apple cider vinegar to a warm glass of water in the morning to help with cleansing and lowering your body’s acidity.
Your body is amazing. Once you cut the sugar out you will notice cravings begin to vanish, vitality increases, skin clears, mood is boosted, brain function improves, pounds are released and you can begin to reverse the damage for sugar overload. It’s worth it.
Challenge yourself to take the sugar out. Begin reading labels and tracking your daily sugar intake. Again, the goal for men is a maximum of 150 calories or 37.5 grams a day; for women, 100 calories or 25 grams per day and for those under 18 years old, less than 25 grams a day. Begin reading labels and share your hacks, recipe makeovers, frustrations, breakthroughs and questions with me at facebook.com/Dr.SudipBose.
Give your body a chance to release toxic fat, boost metabolism and perform better by eliminating added sugar. You’ll be amazed at how well it responds. You are worth it!