Let’s face it: we are seriously addicted to sugar.
Since the 1950s, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) informs us that our per capita consumption of sugars, like sucrose (table sugar) and high-fructose corn syrup, has increased 39 percent.
Each American consumes an average 152 pounds of sugar annually – the equivalent of 52 teaspoons of added sugars every day. That amount does not include naturally-occurring sugars found in fruit, vegetables, legumes and grains. While sugar manufacturers continue to feed off our addiction, claiming it is harmless—it’s not.
Here are some of the reasons why this highly-addictive white stuff is dangerous:
It has been linked to osteoporosis: In a study published in the medical journal Archives of Oral Biology, researchers found that sugar consumption caused osteoporosis andreduced bone strength in animals.
It has been linked to cancer: According to research in the medical journal Cancer Research, consumption of white sugar at levels comparable to the amount consumed in our Western diet led to increased breast cancer tumor growth and metastasis (movement of cancer throughout the body), when compared with a non-sugar starch diet.
It has been linked to more than other 100 conditions: According to Nancy Appleton’s research on sugar consumption in her classic work on the topic, Lick the Sugar Habit, sugar is linked to over 100 health symptoms or conditions, including: allergies, anxiety, depression, migraines, insomnia, infections, liver problems, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, weight gain, diabetes and of course tooth decay.
Sugar takes many forms, from white table sugar (sucrose) to high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) or sometimes just fructose. There is maltose, dextrose and many other “-oses.” If sugar is listed on the nutritional label of the foods you select, look for ingredients ending in “ose.” In addition to the many reasons to avoid sugar, high fructose corn syrup presents its own unique problems.
How to Cut Down on Sugar
Skip the soda: The fastest and most effective way to significantly cut your sugar consumption is to forego the soda. That’s because a single can of Coke contains 39 grams of sugar. Cutting just that one item out of your diet is a huge reduction in sugar.
Choose water or coconut water over sports drinks: Forget the artificially-colored and sugar-laden sports drinks that typically contain between 12 and 40 grams of sugar. Choose water or coconut water instead.
Don’t start the day with sugar: Breakfast is an essential meal, but it can be a sugar trap. Avoid muffins, granola bars, high-sugar yogurts, pastries or cereals. Check the nutrition label on any packaged breakfast item. And watch the serving size since many companies sneakily use extra small serving sizes to make their products appear nutritionally better than they really are. The typical muffin has about 20 grams of sugar. Compare that to 1 gram of sugar in one-half cup of plain, cooked oatmeal. If you need something sweet, add a spoonful of fresh or frozen blueberries.
Switch your latte to a regular coffee or tea (sweetened with stevia if needed) and you’ll save more than 40 grams of sugar every day. That’s because many beverages like the Starbucks Chai Latte contains 42 grams of sugar in a single, 16-ounce beverage. And the White Chocolate Mocha has 59 grams of sugar in a single, 16-ounce beverage.
Switch to the herb stevia: Keep a small bottle of stevia in your purse or pocket. Stevia is a naturally sweet herb that doesn’t contain any sugar. Use a few drops or a tiny amount of the powder in place of sugar in your coffee or tea and you’ll reduce your sugar intake by 4 grams for every teaspoon of sugar you normally take. That adds up over the course of a year. Pay attention to labels as many stevia manufacturers hide unwanted sugars and other additives in their stevia products.
Go Greek: Switch from flavored yogurt to plain Greek yogurt and you’ll save about 20 grams of sugar daily. That’s because most 6 ounce servings of yogurt contain 20 to 26 grams of sugar.
Scrap the Hidden Sugars: Sugar is hidden in many surprising places, including: bread coatings, hamburgers, canned fish, packaged meat and poultry, salt (shocking but true), luncheon meats, bacon, canned meat, bouillon cubes (and therefore soup), peanut butter, cereals, ketchup, cranberry sauce and other condiments. These hidden sugars add up every day and every year.
How to Kick Cravings for Good
When you eat sugar, you end up craving more thanks to the spikes and surges in blood sugar levels. By satisfying cravings or low blood sugar levels (such as those in hypoglycemia) with sugar, you set yourself up for a blood sugar and energy crash an hour or two later. And, of course, that crash means more cravings. Choosing healthier options that regulate blood sugar levels helps to nix cravings for good. Here are some simple ways to help give your cravings the boot:
-Snack on nuts or seeds between meals since they are high in healthy fats, fiber and protein, all of which help keep blood sugar levels stable. That translates into fewer sugar cravings. Choose raw, unsalted sunflower or pumpkin seeds, or walnuts, almonds or other favorite nuts.
-Drink water before satisfying any sugar craving. Many of my clients over the years have found that this simple trick often halts a craving in its tracks.
-Spice up meals with saffron: Research in the medical journal Nutrition Researchfound that an extract of the spice saffron (Crocus sativus) reduces snacking and increases the feeling of being full, thereby reducing cravings. Study participants used 176.5 mg of saffron extract daily. Follow package instructions for products you select.
-Power up with protein: Because protein foods tend to break down slowly, they gradually release energy to the body as needed, keeping blood sugar levels stable. Keep in mind that protein does not equate with meat, contrary to popular belief. There are many excellent vegan protein foods, including: chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans, pinto beans, cashews, almonds, walnuts, pecans, avocados, quinoa and many others.
-Monitor your chromium levels: Many people are deficient in the mineral chromium, which helps to balance blood sugar levels, mood swings and weight gain. Chromium is naturally found in many whole grains, romaine lettuce, onions, beans, legumes and ripe tomatoes, but supplementing with 200 to 500 micrograms of chromium daily may be needed to reduce cravings.
-Switch to Fruit: Grab a piece of your favorite fruit whenever you crave sugar. While fruit contains natural sugars, it also contains other nutrients that help boost your health and keep you full.