5 Tips for Reducing Sugar

Why is sugar so bad for you? Basically, excessive sugar intake over time puts you at risk for obesity and chronic diseases such as: diabetes, heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease. One of the main reasons for this is that it creates inflammation in the body. Inflammation is a major factor in the development of many chronic diseases. Sugar also tends to raise blood pressure and affect insulin sensitivity. In addition, when we have too much sugar, the body stores some of it as fat.

The American Heart Association recommends limiting your daily intake of added sugar to these amounts:

  • Women: 25 grams or 6 teaspoons
  • Men: 36 grams or 9 teaspoons

Unfortunately, the average persons’ sugar consumption is double or even triple these amounts. To put this in perspective, 1 can of soda contains 8 teaspoons of sugar. So, just 1 can is more than the recommended amount of sugar for an entire day for an adult woman. We eat an incredible amount of sugar compared to 100 years ago—when sugar was considered a luxury. Our ancestors would be shocked!

How can you begin reducing your intake of sugar? First, you need to get an idea of how much sugar you’re getting from the foods you typically eat. For processed/packaged foods, you can check the nutrition facts labels and ingredients listed on the package for evidence of added sweeteners. Some of the newer nutrition labels include a section for “Added Sugars”. However, some older labels don’t – in that case, any added sugar will be included in the “Total Sugars” section.

One way to sleuth out if sugar has been added is to become familiar with alternative words for sugar. Many words ending in “-ose” are sugars; for example, sucrose, glucose, maltose, dextrose. Other sweeteners that you want to avoid or limit include: high fructose corn syrup, corn sweetener and any phrase containing the words “syrup” or “sweetener”.

Now, armed with this knowledge, you can start to understand where the sugar in your diet is coming from and what the worst offenders are. The tips below may also help – do any of these sound familiar?

5 Top Tips for Reducing Sugar:

  • Beverages:
    • Soda, fruit drinks, energy drinks, sports drinks, sweet tea: all tend to be very high in sugar and very low in nutritional value
    • Coffee and tea: try to decrease or eliminate the sugar or honey you add; each teaspoon added is about 5 grams of sugar; if you drink multiple cups a day, that can really add up!
    • Beverages with no added sugar: water, sparkling water, milk, black coffee, unsweetened tea—black, green or herbal
  • Breakfast: sweets abound in the break room, but you are strong – stay vigilant!
    • Avoid/minimize: donuts, blueberry muffins, pastries, flavored yogurt, flavored oatmeal, cold cereal
    • Choose: whole foods low in added sugar
      • Whole grains: filling and fiber-rich!
        • Plain oatmeal
          • Sample meal: plain oatmeal with sunflower seeds, chopped fruit
        • Whole wheat or sprouted wheat bread products (bread, English muffins, buns)
          • Sample meal: whole wheat toast with 2 eggs
      • Plain yogurt (regular or Greek)
        • Sample meal: plain yogurt with berries and chopped nuts
      • If plain is too plain for you: lightly sweeten with 1 teaspoon of sugar, honey or maple syrup
  • Sweets:
    • Portion size makes all the difference
      • If you enjoy having sweets every day, limit it to 1 small serving per day
        • Example: have 1 regular-size cookie rather than 2 cookies
          • One oatmeal cookie might have 13 grams of added sugar (below the daily limit); if you double that, you’re pushing it!
        • Dark chocolate: has some health benefits, but also has added sugar (8 g for 1 ounce of 70% dark chocolate), so limit portion to ½ ounce – 1 ounce per day
    • Enjoy fruit for dessert
      • Fruit in season at the peak of ripeness is a sweet, guilt-free, healthy treat – shhhh, don’t tell anybody…
  • Sauces
    • Condiments with added sugar: jam/jelly, ketchup, BBQ sauce – add sparingly
    • Salad dressing: many bottled dressings contain added sugar
      • Try instead: vinaigrette (oil and vinegar-based) or homemade dressing
    • Sauces with added sugar: teriyaki, sweet & sour, peanut sauce, pasta sauce
      • Compare labels to discover brands that are lower in sugar
  • Home Cooking/Baking:
    • Many restaurant/take out foods are high in added sugar – often from sweet sauces
    • Make your own: allows you to control and reduce the amount of sugar added
      • Bonus: Less expensive and you can make it exactly the way you like it!

Protect your health by making changes now to reduce sugar in your diet. Review the list above and start with something that would be fairly easy but would have a large impact. Your body will thank you in the long run!

Copyright 2022: Lisa Henderson, RDN / Vitalita Health

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