Many grocery store items such as yogurt, ketchup, salad dressings, cereals, soups, and drinks contain hidden sources of sugar. Even nut butters may have sugar added to them. Why? Because food manufacturers want us to buy more of their products.
As consumers we need to understand the food industry ploys. Be sure to check labels and try not to eat foods with more than five ingredients or 10 grams of sugar per serving. The American Heart Association recommends limiting your calories from sugar to no more than half of your discretionary calories. For most women in the US that should be no more than 24 grams of sugar or 100 calories from sugar per day. For men it is 36 grams of sugar or 150 calories from sugar per day.
Consider everything you eat and assess whether it is healthy for you. If a person primarily eats processed food, the body does not get the proper nutrients it needs. We need to consume God’s foods similar to what comes off the farm.
If you can’t pronounce an ingredient, your body probably won’t recognize it as food either. Simplify the foods you consume. Eat fresh vegetables and fruit, which cost less and are better for you than processed, sugar-laden products. Farmer’s markets are great venues to find fresh, locally grown fruit and vegetables. It is best to eat locally grown fruit and vegetables. Eat foods closer to the form they were in when they came out of the garden.
Sugar-sweetened products raise blood-sugar levels and predispose a person to diabetes, a chronic health problem in the US. Heightened blood-sugar levels cause the release of insulin. In turn, blood-sugar levels plummet, and you feel wiped out. The body releases adrenaline to counteract low blood sugar, and this causes anxiety and even panic attacks. Could that be why the incidence of anxiety disorders has increased in our society? Blood sugar fluctuations also cause a person to be irritable and short-tempered.
The excellent documentary The Sugar Film shows what happens to a person’s body after consuming 40 grams (average sugar consumption) of sugar every day for two months. This film claims 80 percent of grocery store items have sugar added to them.
Sugar is addictive! Watch this five-minute Ted-Ed video, “How Does Sugar Affect the Brain?” by the neuroscientist Nicole Avena, Ph.D. This video explains how we get hooked on foods with a high sugar content. Dr. Avena’s research revealed rats binged on sugar when it was offered. She said highly processed foods, such as refined flour, may be as problematic as sugar. Her study found that pizza, chips, and chocolate were some of the most addictive foods for the human body. Wheat and sugar comprise a large part of the American diet.
Sugary products cause the release of dopamine from the same brain receptors as opiate drugs. On a Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scan of the human brain, the same area of the brain lit up when an obese person ingested sugar and an addict received cocaine. (To see the imaging results, click here.) As a result, many Americans become addicted to sugar, especially when consumed from a young age.
Avoid high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which is an inexpensive alternative to sugar. In the late 1970s, HFCS was introduced into the American food system to keep manufacturing costs down, and that is when obesity rates began to rise. In fact, on a graph, HFCS increased use mirrors the rapid increase in obesity in the US. High-fructose corn syrup is a significant contributor to disease in this country because chronic diseases began rising after its introduction.
Do not use artificial sweeteners. People who frequently consume sugar substitutes may be at an increased risk of excessive weight gain, type-2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Artificial sugar substitutes cause a person to crave sweets. The Time magazine article, Artificial Sweeteners are Linked to Weight Gain—Not Weight Loss discusses weight gain associated with the consumption of artificial sweeteners.
One of the biggest culprits containing artificial sweeteners is diet soda. Unfortunately, many people think it’s healthy to substitute diet drinks for sugary drinks, but research shows that artificial sweeteners increase sugar cravings and contribute to abdominal fat. Check out this article, 4 Dangerous Effects of Artificial Sweeteners on Your Health.
To help you decrease your sugar intake, clean out your pantry and refrigerator. Remove the following unhealthy items:
- Sugar-sweetened drinks—like soda, fruit juice, Gatorade (Flavored waters with no calories are okay to keep and finish, but after they are gone it is best to drink water. If you need to, add a slice of lemon and stevia to your water.)
- Sugar—white sugar, high-fructose corn syrup—remove any item with greater than 10 grams of sugar per serving.
- Artificial sweeteners—saccharin, aspartame or Equal/NutraSweet, sucralose or Splenda (It is okay to keep these natural sweeteners—honey, maple syrup, agave, stevia, xylitol, coconut sugar, and monk fruit sugar.)
A low-glycemic diet does not raise blood sugar or insulin levels. Foods high in refined carbohydrates such as white flour cause a release of glucose into the bloodstream and a corresponding rise in insulin. Therefore, avoid the following high-carbohydrate foods: cakes, crackers, sugary cereals and drinks, flours, bread products, jellies/jams, and refined potato products. These types of foods are addictive as they release dopamine from the same brain receptors as opiate drugs.
You may ask, “What can I eat?” You can eat vegetables, beans, meats, nuts, seeds, and low-sugar fruits (berries, cherries, plums, pears, grapefruit, and green apples). This change in your diet may feel radical and seem limiting, but God gave us an incredible variety of food to enjoy and sustain our bodies, including over one hundred vegetables and fruits.
Natural Sugar Substitutes
Substitute sugar with a natural sweetener. One example is stevia, which is an herb. Make sure the stevia you purchase does not contain dextrose or other forms of sugar. I use a powder form of stevia for baking. Another option is local honey. However, use honey sparingly as it raises blood sugar levels. Monk fruit is another natural sweetener with zero calories that rates zero on the glycemic index.
In the following list I rank natural sugar substitutes based on their glycemic index:
monk fruit sweetener-0
Choose a natural, low-glycemic sweetener that you can live with and use it sparingly.
Don’t tell yourself, “A little bit of food with sugar will curb my appetite.” Instead, sugar will open up the floodgate for you to binge on that sweet food item. A friend said she would eliminate high-sugar foods for a while, but as soon as she ate one item with sugar, she started craving it all over again. She is completely right. Therefore, do not eat anything with more than 10 grams of sugar in one serving, or 24 grams for a woman or 36 grams for a man per day.
If you need support with breaking the sugar habit, please join my private Facebook group, 7 Steps to Get Off Sugar, Carbs, and Gluten, and check out my Amazon #1 best seller, 7 Steps to Get Off Sugar and Carbohydrates.
Once you eliminate sugar you will develop an aversion to it. Items you ate before will be too sweet because your God-given palate will return. You will prefer to eat God’s provision versus the food manufacturers. Your body will thank you as you naturally lose weight and unwanted symptoms subside.