FitFriday #12: Sugar: Some Things You Should Know

In the past week, I have decided that I need to eliminate unnecessary sugar in my life. And let's face it, not much of it is necessary. sweetenough

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This isn't the first time I've tried to get rid of sugary substances. There have been a failed attempt or two, but it's all about picking yourself up and trying again.

I've had a problem with having too much sugar in my diet for a LONG time. The first time I really realized it, was my senior year of high school when I did a week long food log for a college class I was taking and had to send it in to my professor. One of the only comments she had, "Limit your sugar intake."

Its no secret that I have sweet tooth...or 5. Someone made brownies? I'll eat half the pan. I'm making cookies, well of course I need to test the dough and the cookies for every batch. A random piece of chocolate sitting around, why wouldn't I pick it up?!

I am not a licensed dietitian or nutritionist, but here are a few things I've learned and tried for limiting sugar in my diet.

Before I go any further let me explain more about sugar. It's everywhere. Just a few examples:

  • Baked goods
  • Candy
  • Beverages (Milk, juice, soda, tea)
  • Fruits (Especially dried fruit)
  • Canned foods
  • Granola bars
  • Processed foods

There are many different types of sugar (glucose, fructose, sucrose, and lactose).  There is so much science I could go into on this topic but I feel like it would get wordy and confusing real quick! If you want more information on that side of things, this post does an awesome job of explaining what I touch on and more.

Why is sugar bad?

  • Causes problems with blood fats, increasing risk for high cholesterol and  heart disease
  • Sugar can be used for energy, BUT it can also be stored as fat depending on genetics and the body's physiology
  • Too much sugar at one time leads to a difficulty in the body to balance sugar levels with insulin and glycogen...and the condition of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) is possible
  • Other health conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, dementia and more are caused by increased sugar in the diet

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We don't want to cut all sugar out of our diets. Things like fruits that contain natural sugars, as well as other vitamins, minerals and fiber, can be good for us (if we don't eat too much)! Its the processed and refined sugars that really gotta go. And even saying that, I am not telling you that you're never going to be able to eat dessert again.

This year for lent I gave up sweets; mostly candy and baked goods. For me, this wasn't easy and when Easter morning hit I started binging on candy. My body (especially my stomach) was NOT happy about this. That being said, it's okay to treat yourself once in a while. Just be aware of what you're putting in your body, how much, and how often.

If you decide that you want to try limiting sugar in your diet, define what "sugar" is to you. Are you going to... do away with candy or other sweets? Be aware of sugars in your drinks? Monitor the sugar content in your snack foods? You have options.

If you're trying to decide if you're eating too much sugar, think of it this way; your sugar intake should be 5-15% of your diet. For a 2000 calorie diet that would be 100-300 calories daily from sugar; this is approximately 25-75g per day. This number also includes your natural sugars. A medium size apple can contain about 19g of sugar while a banana isn't far behind at 14g. Added sugar, or the sugars that are added to processed foods, should be a smaller portion of this figure; no more than 25g for women and 37.5g for men daily.

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If the numbers are confusing and overwhelm you, don't worry. If you think there is too much sugar in your diet, just try cutting out some of the candy and baked good or foods you know are highly processed. Keep in mind the 25-75g and take a peek at the nutrition labels of what you're eating to see how the numbers compare. Making small changes is a great start to a healthier you.

So, now that you know that sugar is an issue and you know a little more about what kind of sugar and how much you should be taking in daily, how do you take care of those darn cravings?!

The cravings are the thing that really get me when giving up sugary foods. Like I said, I have a sweet tooth. I have been trying to figure out how to get it under control for a while now and I've come across a few tips that I think will help!

  • Don't keep these foods in your house
    • Clean out your cupboards and get rid of the "junk food" you find tempting you
  • Drink more water
    • We need water anyways, like a lot of it (at least half of our body weight in ounces daily). Keep yourself hydrated and keep drinking water. It's great to refresh and detox. Add lemon for even more detox benefits.
  • It's okay to treat yourself!
    • For the first few weeks you may wish to avoid these "treats" in order to let your body know who's boss. We all know that, long term, completely avoiding sugar-filled treats is unrealistic. So, maybe once a week, enjoy a treat. I recommend still trying to stay away from anything that is highly processed.
  • Be sure to fuel your body.
    • Just because you're limiting sugar doesn't mean you can't eat anything. Focus on protein, good fats (avocado, nuts), and good carbs (beans, whole wheat, fruits and veggies). Listen to your body, if you feel you aren't getting enough of what you need, reassess. Also, talk to your healthcare provider before making drastic diet changes.

I'm no expert, but I have learned that an overabundance of sugar, especially refined sugars, is never good. An increased amount of sugar in the diet can be linked to so many health issues, and it's something we should all be aware of.

That's all I have on my lecture on sugar ;)

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Thanks for reading, have an awesome weekend! :)