Sugar is often linked to happy foods such as ice creams and cakes. The truth is, you probably have some kind of sugar in your daily diet, whether it is in your breakfast cereal or in the marinara sauce of your favorite cuisine. Sugar is sneaky, and you can find it nearly everywhere, in fruits, vegetables, grains, milk, cookies, or pastries. It is hidden in numerous foods and goes by a lot of names such as sucrose, glucose, corn syrup, maltose, raw sugar, dextrose, cane sugar, malt extract, molasses, or fruit juice concentrate.
So if sugar can be found in almost every food, what should you do to reduce sugar in your diet?
First, you need to understand that not all sugar is bad. Natural sugar is an important source of carbohydrates. It can be found in fruit and vegetables (known as fructose) as well as in dairy products (known as lactose), and it is said that natural sugar is less of a health issue. A high intake of it has even shown to reduce the risk of chronic diseases.
The kind of sugar you need to watch for and be extra careful of is added sugar. It comes from processed and pre-packaged foods to enhance the flavors or texture. You can easily find added sugars in almost every product in any supermarket aisle. It is in soft drinks, chocolates, sauces, a glass of lemonade, and even in non-fat yogurt. Like it or not, even the ones that claim to have “No Sugar Added” can contain tons of sugar with no actual beneficial nutrients. Those healthy phrases can possibly be just fancy buzzwords that savvy marketers use to sell their products, which can be very confusing if you are planning to cut down on your sugar intake and optimize your health.
It is undeniable that for most of us, sugar is delicious and it makes us feel good. While many experts agree that a certain amount of sugar is okay, having too much of it is one of the worst things you can do for your body. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the recommended limit for your daily dose of sugar should be under 10 percent of physical calories which equals a maximum of 10 teaspoons per day for the average adult, but many people consume way more than the recommended level.
Indulging in a small amount of sugar like in a spread of jam or a single donut is absolutely fine. But if you’re likely to binge and stuff yourself as soon as you get a taste of it, then you’re doing something terrible to your precious body. Consuming too much added sugar can mess with your metabolism, which can make you hungry and craving more sugar. Not only it will increase the risk of unhealthy weight gain, obesity, acne, and dental issues, but it will also increase your risk in dying from diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and other chronic illness.
Yes, sugar consumption is a very hard and tricky thing to control, but there are some diet tweaks you can do to stay healthy. The rule is to always stick to real, single-ingredient food and get away from processed foods that are high in sugar.
- Ditch sweetened beverages completely, including soft drinks and store-bought fruit juices. We all know how refreshing a can of soda is, but take note that one 12-ounce can of soda contains 9.75 teaspoons of sugar. Store-bought fruit juice is also not as decent as it sounds since it can be loaded with a lot of sugar. Instead, drink water and choose whole fruit.
- Limit your consumption of sweets and baked goods. Candies, cookies, and cakes tend to be made with a generous amount of added sugar. No, you don’t have to cut them all together, just limit them to at least once a week. For the rest of the week, if you have a bad case of sweet-tooth, satisfy yourself with dates or fresh fruit.
- Avoid low-fat or diet foods. Contrary to popular belief, foods that have had the fat removed are actually very high in sugar despite having lower calories.
- Know that savory food does not equal sugar-free because sugar is a flavor enhancer as well as a preservative. Dressings, mustard, tomato sauce, and chips can possibly have added sugar.
- Be a smart shopper. Don’t just buy whatever sounds healthy from the supermarket. Always read the ingredients or nutrition labels. Remember the many names of sugar, avoid packaged foods that contain sugar in the first 3 ingredients, and put down any packaged food that contains more than one type of sugar.
- Trade your refined sugar with natural sweetener but be aware that those fancy and healthier forms of sweetener are also sugar. Honey, maple syrup, and agave nectar are sugar. While it can be an alternative to refined sugar, don’t be tricked into thinking that having a high intake of something sweetened with honey is okay or good for your health.
The bottom line is that reducing sugar in your diet can result in a healthy, active, and happy lifestyle. It is important to figure out the right sugar intake for you since what works for other people might not work for you. At the end of the day, adjusting you’re eating habits can be very hard. So when you have some really bad sugar cravings, just remember that sugar might be sweet, but what it does to your body can be bitter.