I'm no doctor, but you don't need a doctor to tell you this little tidbit: refined sugars are horrible for your health. They are high in calories, have no nutritional value, and they're addictive. The health hazards of too much refined sugar are many. This post will give you a few practical and easy ways you can reduce your refined sugar intake.
Besides being addictive (and delicious), the other thing about refined and added sugars is this: they're sneaky... hiding in foods that seem innocent. They don't just lurk in ice cream, candy, cakes, cookies and sugary drinks. They also hide out in ketchup, spaghetti sauces, breakfast cereals, and energy drinks. They even hide in seemingly healthy items like yogurt, granola, instant oatmeal and packaged fruit, which is why you should pay more attention to ingredient labels on packaged food. It's estimated that 74% of packaged food contains refined sugars. Here's a link to help you get familiar with some of the names sugar goes by, since it isn't usually listed as simply "sugar."
You may be wondering what exactly I mean by refined and added sugars. Simply put, this refers to sugars that do not naturally occur in the food you are eating, sometimes even processed to create a sweeter tasting ingredient. Not all sugars are created equal, so please know that I'm not talking about natural sugars. I'm not talking about sugars that occur naturally in fruit, vegetables, or dairy products. Those foods have nutritional value and the sugars in them occur naturally. Refined and added sugars do not occur naturally in the food they are in, and are high in calories without having beneficial nutritional value. See the difference? This is a generalization, but here goes. Fruit has sugars, but they are natural and fruit has nutritional value like vitamins and antioxidants. Candy bars have added sugars (that do not occur naturally) and they're high in calories without adding something beneficial to your diet.
Reading about added sugars and refined sugars is a complicated thing, so keep it simple and just remember that you really don't want a diet high in any added sugar.
One thing that may help you keep track of this is understanding the amount of sugar you're taking in. When looking at nutrition labels, remember this: there are approximately 4 grams of sugar in 1 teaspoon. When you can visualize how many teaspoons are in what you're considering eating or drinking, it may help you make a better choice.
For example: if a candy bar has 28g of sugar in it, and there are approximately 4g of sugar in a teaspoon, then eating that candy bar is like eating 7 teaspoons of sugar.
TIP! When looking at nutrition labels, remember this: there are approximately 4 grams of sugar in 1 teaspoon.
For the record, I'm a firm believer in moderation. If cutting sugar seems daunting or depressing to you, just start somewhere. Start with small changes in your diet and go from there (ideas below!). Treat yourself every now and then, too. As I write this, I'm about to go to my brother-in-law's birthday dinner. I have very high hopes that there will be Funfetti cupcakes there and I can't wait to eat one.
Anyway, here's why you clicked on this post. Here are 5 EASY ways to reduce your refined and added sugar intake.
5 Easy Ways To Reduce Refined Sugar
1. Drink more water and less sugary drinks.
I didn't say you had to give it up entirely. Moderation, remember? But cutting back is ideal. The USDA recommends no more than 32g of added sugar a day (or 8 teaspoons). According to this article, in 2008 the average American took in 19 teaspoons of added sugar per day. PER DAY. Yikes. According to the American Heart Association, women should limit their intake to around 6 teaspoons per day, and for men about 9 teaspoons. If you don't drink enough water, start there. Experts recommend (8) 8 ounce glasses of water every day, or 64 ounces. If that seems like a lot, buy a decent water bottle like this to carry around with you, so you can sip steadily throughout the day. Know how many ounces it contains so that you know how many times you should drink through it every day. For example, you should drink a 16 ounce bottle 4 times per day. Sip, don't chug, to help your body absorb it better.
2. Cut back on your own use of sugar
Obvious enough. Pay more attention to how much you put in your coffee, tea, oatmeal, baked goods, etc. It might surprise you. Start by simply noticing it, or even recording it. Then, try to cut it in half. That's a great starting place. If you get used to that, you might even want to cut it back more.
3. Use spices or extracts instead of sugar
Spices like ginger, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, etc., add a little flavor without extra sugar. I put a little cinnamon in my coffee every morning and it gives it a rich flavor without having to overload it with sugar. When reducing sugar in a baked recipe, use a little more extract to help you mask the reduced sugar as well.
4. Use natural fruit as a replacement
If you have a sweet tooth, try a bit of fruit instead of a candy bar, or whatever your go-to sweets fix is. I know. It's so not the same thing, but sometimes your body is craving sugar and that little bit of natural sugar may just do the trick. Breaking the cycle can be a powerful thing. You can also use this trick for things like cereal or oatmeal if you're used to adding sugar to them by topping them with fresh fruit instead. Start to think outside of the box when it comes to adding sweetener to foods. Instead of a sugary jam on your toast, add some fresh fruit. In many baked (sweet) recipes, you can substitute unsweetened applesauce for sugar by using the same quantity of applesauce that the recipe calls for sugar. A quick Google search can help you with the quantity for your recipe.
5. Cut back on processed foods in general.
Processed foods hide a lot of added sugars, as already stated above. Many reduced fat foods add sugar to compensate for the flavor that the reduced fat has sacrificed. Try to avoid processed foods as much as you possibly can.
To sum it up... eat fresh foods as much as possible, avoid processed foods, and drink enough water.
Love & Light.
Thank you for reading! Sign up for my FREE Monthly Newsletter here. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest & YouTube here:
Hi, I'm Blake. I love adventure, cooking, costume parties, wine, yoga, and reading...in that order. Follow my blog for yoga stuff, fitness tips, & healthy recipes...
• The Meaning of Namaste
• Confessions of a Self Care Hypocrite
• Living In The Age Of Social Media: Swapping Comparison for Gratitude
• My Exercise Manifesto
• 4 Exercise Hacks To Get YOU Moving