Diets cycle and fitness fads fade, but the talk of added sugar in our foods hasn't gone anywhere. Articles, books and cover stories are popping up in publications from National Geographic to Time, as dietitians and nutritionists explain their issues with the sweetener.
Nutritionists like Australian Sarah Wilson and physicians such as Dr. Robert Ludwig have warned people about the addictive nature of sugar and explain how it affects both the body and brain. If this is a topic on which you are interested in learning more, I highly recommend reading "Sweet Poison" and watching Dr. Ludwig's YouTube lecture (here), which explain how the body breaks down and stores sugar in digestible (pun intended) terms. Their issues isn't with naturally occurring sugars, like those found in fruit, but the added sugar found in products such as salad dressing, tomato sauce and processed and pre-packaged foods.
A few years ago, Michael Moss released a book titled "Salt. Sugar. Fat." which takes the reader through the history of the food industry's love with the ingredients: salt, sugar, fat. The creation of the TV dinner, high in added salt, came about in the 50's, when more women started working outside the home. Then, the low-fat craze of the 80's, when manufacturers catered to the public's desire to lose weight, by lowering the fat in their products. But, to meet consumer demand and produce low fat food items that tasted good, sugar was added. Lower in fat, yes, but way more sugar than the higher fat items.
Segments and articles have been written often about "added sugar" and recently the World Health Organization introduces new guidelines for everyone to lower their daily recommended doses. The once recommended 10% of your daily calories can come from added sugar as been decreased to 5% of daily caloric intake, making a can of soda too high in sugar for a daily recommended allotment. According to the USDA, the average American consumes about half a pound of sugar each day. The new guidelines want us to change that to 25 grams or six teaspoons of sugar each day. To give you an example, one tablespoon of ketchup has four grams of sugar (one teaspoon) and a single can of soda contains 40 grams of sugar (10 teaspoons). While honey and agave may have greater nutrient density, your body still recognizes and metabolizes them in the same way as sugar.
What about fake sugar? Artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, sucralose and saccharin, aren't better. Sure, they don't have the calories of sugar, but your body secretes insulin because it thinks it's preparing to metabolize the " fake sugar" but it finds there's no sugar in your blood, so it just sits there. Increased insulin in your blood is a precursor to diabetes. It also by changes the composition and function of the gut microbiota – the naturally occurring population of (healthy) bacteria residing in our intestines. Why does gut health matter? Because recent studies have shown that the gut flora of people with obesity and type-2 diabetes are different to those of healthy lean individuals. (This Dr. Oz video talks about other issues the fake sweeteners can cause)
So, what do you do? The tough part of cutting back is, that sugar tastes good AND it's addictive; but it's not a substance, like water, that we need to survive. Some research claims that sugar, unlike fat or other foods, interferes with the body's appetite meaning the more you eat, the more you want, ultimately creating an insatiable desire to carry on eating sugar. Sugar "disables" an off-switch (a hormone) that tells you when you're full. Whoever eats sugar wants more and more, even when they are no longer hungry. If you eat eggs or an avocado, you'll stop eating when you're full. But replace that with cookies and most people will eat on even when your stomach hits it's place of fullness. Some research has suggested that sugar is more addictive than cocaine which makes it tough to simply go cold turkey.
Tips: Make sure you're getting enough sleep, throw the sugary treats away -- if they're not in the house, you won't eat them. Try a square of dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate or making your own salad dressing a home (olive oil + balsamic vinegar + mustard is delicious). Eat protein and fat with each meal, so you feel satiated. Eat a tablespoon of coconut butter (this is my favorite!) Move your body, go for a walk and make sure you're hydrated and drinking enough water. If you want more information, I suggest Dr. Ludwig, Sarah Wilson, read Mark Hyman's "The Blood Sugar Solution: 10 Day Detox) or the movie Fed Up for more information. Trust me, it will change the way you look at sweets.
Do you have any tips for cutting back on the sugar in your diet? Please share them below!