It’s Hard to Escape Refined Sugar
I want to tell you interesting story about hidden sugar…
That yummy spinach, apple, and goat cheese salad with strawberry balsamic dressing you pick up during your lunch may seem like the perfect addition to your healthy lifestyle—it’s a salad after all not a Big Mac.
What if I told you that this salad had as much refined sugar as a cupcake? Unfortunately, this is often the reality.
The truth is it’s hard to escape refined sugar, even when your intentions are healthy. This makes it annoyingly hard to lose weight and stay healthy. Hidden sugar is lurking everywhere, and closer inspection of your label reveals how easy it is to get caught this sugar-coated trap.
For me, cutting down on sugar has been a major challenge. Some of my college dinners consisted of downing half a pint of Ben & Jerry’s (Chocolate Fudge Brownie, yum!).
Trust me— if ME who dined on a regular basis with Ben and Jerry’s can do it, so can you.
What you will learn:
- The average American eats 156 pounds of sugar per year. What is this doing inside of your body?
- Sugar=Weight Gain: How sugar is packing on the pounds.
- The hidden sugar lurking in “healthy” foods.
- Food manufacturer’s deceptive labeling practices. How manufacturers sneakily label differently so you can’t assess foods true contents.
- How companies are using advanced marketing to trick you into eating sugary foods.
- Common Sweeteners to avoid at all costs.
Let’s get fit:
- How to obtain healthy sugar from high fiber foods like fruit.
- Some lifestyle tips that will help you reduce sugar intake.
- My one last big tip!
Average American Eats 156 Pounds of Sugar per Year
Americans eats 156 lbs of sugar a year. This is causing a weight gain epidemic in America. (via Forbes)
Sugar is messing with our biochemistry, causing SO many health problems. Sugar spikes the hormone insulin and raises blood sugar levels, causing our energy levels to rise and fall throughout the day. Excess sugar turns into fat, making us gain weight. Our body is constantly working in overdrive.
Eating sugary sweets occasionally is one thing, but eating them continuously throughout the day is another.
GOAL: We want our blood sugar label to stabilize.
Unfortunately, the rollercoaster of ups and downs in blood sugar seems normal to most of us. Excess consumption of sugar leads to lower energy, GI problems, foggy brain, no motivation, and always being hungry—a viscous daily grind.
Add More Sugar Please!
What if I told you that sugar consumption doubled in 1970s and that ironically, the sugar epidemic all began in our country’s attempt to be more health conscious?
In an attempt to make our country more healthy the United States began an anti-fat campaign promoting ‘low-fat’ and ‘fat-free’ alternatives to many popular, processed foods. For example, they began placing reduced-fat cheez-its, 99.5% fat free Yoplait yogurt and many more products that you now see on the shelves of your local grocery store.
Consequently, when foods had their fat removed they no longer tasted yummy. To keep ‘defatted’ foods desirable, manufactures simply added more sugar.
Interestingly the rise of sugar directly correlates to the obesity epidemic in United States. (via Authority Nutrition)
Technology increases, health decreases: You’d think that with all the technological advancements that have happened since the 1970s (i.e. the internet, not to mention whatever device you’re using to read this article) our overall health would improve.
Despite technological leaps, the U.S. remains one of the unhealthiest westernized countries in the world, and obesity and type 2 diabetes rates continue to climb. (via Business Insider)
What is the cost of all this sugar? Estimates suggest that 40% of the upcoming generation with develop Type 2 Diabetes. For most people, Type 2 Diabetes is totally preventable, yet 2 in 5 people will develop it. (via Medical News Today)
The “Healthy” Foods Full Of Hidden Sugar
Despite the facts about sugar’s harm manufacturers still lay it on thick and sweet… literally, and the stats prove it. For example:
- 70% of the food consumed by Americans is processed.
- Of the 600,000 processed food products 80% have added sugar.
Healthy processed foods should sound like an oxymoron to you and here’s why. Processing first strips the perishable nutrients from foods, then manufacturers replace them with sugar, fat, salt, preservatives, and additives.
This has an interesting affect on how you perceive your fullness. Consequently, because the main nutrients, specifically protein and fiber, have been stripped from the food you can endlessly munch on processed foods, yet never feel satisfied.
When you never feel full, you overeat, then you gain weight. It’s a vicious cycle.
It’s no wonder why you can’t lose weight when your ‘diet’ Special K bar has nearly as much sugar as a Snickers. Not to mention, you’ll want to eat 3 of them in order to feel satisfied.
Deceptive Labeling Practices
Manufacturing giants purposefully attempt to cover up hidden sugar on food labels. They use over 56 different sugar aliases.
Another sneaky trick is that labels will NEVER show a % daily value of sugar. That means it’s up to you to count how many grams of it to eat. Here are some suggestions on how much sugar you should have on a daily basis.
- Sugar should be 5-10% at most of your calories
- 10% is around 50 grams of sugar if you eating 2,000 calorie
>> Interesting tidbit: A banana has 14 grams of sugar
Avoid Common Sweeteners
In addition to the “sugar aliases” mentioned above. There are a few sweeteners you need to avoid no matter what.
Artificial sweeteners: Now that you know the harmful effects of sugar on the body you can just reach for that diet coke, right? I mean diet Coke has no calories and no sugar, yay! Not so fast, artificial sweeteners can be even worse for your health.
Weight Gain & Cancer: These sweeteners are made synthetically in a lab and have all sorts of nasty chemical you wouldn’t want to touch with a 10 feet pole. Many experts believe that these sweeteners can cause diseases like cancer and studies show that diet drinks increase your appetite and make you gain weight. (via Huffington Post)
Here’s a list of artificial sweeteners from Health.com to get rid of now!
- Aspartame: Equal, NutraSweet—found in packaged drinks, gum, yogurts, and cough drops
- Splenda: found in fruit drinks, canned fruit, often written on front of package
- Saccharin: Sweet’N Low—found in drinks, candy, often added to tea and coffee at restaurants
- Acesulfame potassium: Sunett, Sweet One—found in soft drinks, gelatins, chewing gum, frozen desserts
- Neotame: Found in some drinks, dairy products, frozen desserts, puddings, yogurts, and fruit juices
If there is one sweetener you need to look out for more than any of the others it is:
High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is why you can’t lose weight, it’s everywhere! Although it contains real sugars (unlike the aforementioned sweeteners) it should be avoided at all costs. Producing HFCS is dirt cheap because it is highly subsidized by the government. (via Environmental Working Agency)
HFCS interferes with the body’s natural production of leptin, the “I feel full hormone.” Foods containing HFCS interfere with satiety sensors in the brain, making them especially hard to put down and exceptionally easy to over consume.
Now cutting back on sugar and its copycats is easy, right? Well it would be a heck of a lot easier if manufactures hadn’t became experts at marketing it to us.
Advanced Marketing Tricks
Sugar is not just hidden in our favorite foods, it is tempting us everywhere we look.
If you have ever like you literally can’t stop eating, here’s why.
Imagine you just took a bite of the most delicious cake you’ve ever tasted. The first piece is amazing. The second piece is even better, but when you get to the third, you start getting sick of it and put it down.
Food manufacturers don’t want you to put down the cake! They want you to eat more! And they spend millions of $$$ in labs creating cake that you won’t get sick of. By manipulating the salt, sugar, fat, texture, and color manufactures find the optimal combinations of each ingredient until any additional amount of an ingredient leads to no improvements in taste.
This is what Michael Moss in his book Salt, Sugar, Fat coined, the “Bliss Point”.
Sugar addictive like cocaine: Americans are addicted to sugar. Some studies have even shown sugar to be as addictive as heroin and cocaine.
This may be why Coca Cola sells 80% of its product to 20% of its drinkers, who they call “heavy users.”
Marketing Tactics: Marketers spend BILLIONS of dollars on food packaging, making us subconsciously reach for the processed crap. A happy skinny woman on the front of a box of ‘healthy’ (but secretly sugar-coated) chocolate granola bars is super appealing.
Grocery Store Configuration: Intensive market research determines the best configuration to sell the processed foods that make up 70% of most grocery stores. Unless it’s a health store, you’re unlikely to see the fruit and vegetable sections right when you walk in.
Sweets in unlikely places: You’ll also notice that sweets are everywhere we look. Last Saturday I was out running errands and stopped by a Fedex Kinkos and a car wash. Not only did these businesses stock the expected office supplies and sponges but also tempting displays of chips and candy bars calling my name.
Does This all Mean I Can’t Eat Fruit? Why Sugars in High Fiber Foods like Fruit are Better.
There is a big difference between how your body processes sugar in fruits vs. refined sugar.
Fruit contains nutrients, fiber, and ‘healthy’ sugar: Natural fruit (in moderation) has many health benefits:
It contains antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and water—nutrients refined sugars lack. These nutrients help prevent all types of diseases.
The fiber found in fruit also helps to slow down the absorption of glucose, preventing that blood sugar spike and the aftermath cycle of harmful effects.
Processed foods are chock-full of hidden sugar: By choosing fruit over processed foods for a healthier snack alternative, you’ll already be cutting down on lots of hidden sugar without compromising your health.
Half a cup of strawberries is equal to 3.5 grams of sugar while half a cup of strawberry ice cream has 15 grams of sugar. This means you could eat four times as many strawberries and still consume less sugar than the the ice cream.
Tips for Reducing Sugar Intake
Besides swapping out strawberry-flavored treats for the real fruit, there are many other healthful, easy tips you can do RIGHT NOW to cut back on sugar:
Tip #1: Have a date with your pantry! I’ve been into this no processed sugar thing for a while. When I began I scoured my kitchen for refined sugar and threw it all out, or so I thought! Until one day I was glancing down at my favorite organic tomato and basil marinara sauce from Trader Joes and right before I poured it onto my noodles I discovered SUGAR.
So it’s time to have a serious conversation with your pantry and throw away or donate all your super sugar laden food. Trust me, these little amounts of sugar add up and keep you from reaching your goals.
Besides, you want to save your sugar splurges on something REALLY good, like your favorite cake or ice cream—not pasta sauce.
Tip #2: Change your grocery store. The best way to start eating healthy is to start eating REAL food. Eat food products that only have a few ingredients instead of a list of weird words you can’t pronounce. One of the best ways to start doing this is to change where you shop.
My personal favorite place to shop is Trader Joes . Unlike some other grocery stores that I like (Whole Foods, Fresh Market) Trader Joes is actually in my budget and has a wide variety of healthy products. But just like my pasta sauce example above, you still need to double check labels in order to cut out processed sugar
Tip #3: Eat often. You should never skip a meal. Eat at least 3 meals a day with 2 snacks. This should include a spectrum of whole foods including whole grains, healthy fats, fruits, and vegetables. (Check out my grocery list! )
>> If you have are having intense sugar cravings, you are probably missing out on some key nutrients in your diet. I find when I have an intense craving, I probably haven’t had enough whole grains and good carbs—so I’ll have a few tablespoons of brown rice and a small sweet potato and this usually helps!
Tip #4: Water. A whopping 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated. You can live without food for 30 days but you can only live without water for 7 days. H2O is essential for every part of your body to function effectively. Increasing your water intake to at least half your body weight in ounces (If you’re 140 lbs, drink 70oz) tremendously decrease your sugar and hunger cravings.
I personally need even more water than this, drinking on average 3 liters of water a day—depending on how active I am. Make your water bottle your new best friend and carry it around with you EVERYWHERE. Just remember to find one that is BPA free!
CUT OUT SUGARY DRINKS: One of the main sources of sugar consumption in America are from sodas, power drinks, teas, etc. that are laced with sugar and in no way make us feel full. Just replacing soda with water can make you lose more weight that you ever thought imaginable. I know this can be so hard. If you can’t go cold turkey, gradually wean yourself off.
Handy Sugar Alternatives
If you’re going to use sweetener, there are some delicious and healthier options to satisfy your craving. Moderation is key here— remember, these are still sugars. Here are 2 of my favs that I use all the time:
Raw Honey: I am in love with raw honey. It is my go to sweetener and a little goes a long way. I dab a little bit of this liquid gold on my oatmeal or on an apple when I really crave that sweet taste. Raw honey is best because its is unprocessed and unheated so it retains all its nutrients.
Unlike refined sugar, fake sweeteners, and HFCS, raw honey has been used for centuries and has all kinds of fabulous vitamins, minerals, enzymes, antioxidants, and phytonutrients. It also has antifungal and antibacterial properties that help cleanse the body. Definitely my go-to sweetener!
Stevia: For people trying to ween themselves off of sugar, stevia is an amazing all-natural 0 calorie sweetener alternative. It you just can’t help from putting sugar in your coffee, or adding sugar to cereal in the morning, give stevia a try. It is actually an herb that has a history going way back (like thousands of years) being used medicinally in South America.
It’s 300x sweeter than sugar so you can barely add any and a little will go a long way. Make sure you go with a reputable brand like Sweet Leaf.
>>Do you usually enjoy a few cokes with dinner? My favorite alternative for soda is soda water with lime. If you really need that sugary taste, you can add a few drops of stevia.
Use unrefined sugars to cook at home: organic coconut sugar, maple sugar, raw honey, black strap molasses, date sugar, and bacon sugar are great alternatives.
>>Try to make dessert at home instead of eating out, using the aforementioned unrefined sugars. Who knows what restaurants and different stores are hiding! Have some go to recipes like the banana ice cream is essential in making sure you don’t go down to the store and buy a pint of ice cream for dinner (haha my ben and jerry college days :/)
Here’s One Last Quick Tip!
Get through the first 3 days.
Like with anything that is addicting, the first few days are going to be a little rough. But once you get used to less sugar, your taste buds and cravings will totally change. Your gut flora, or the bacteria in your gut, actually biochemically changes and you will start to crave healthy food. I know, crazy right? Just stick it out for a few days and I PROMISE it will pay off.
What are you favorite tips for cutting out sugar? What are you going to do right NOW to make this change in your life. Let me know in the comments!