Sugar: The Good, the bad, and, the ugly: Part One

sugar-lips

How much sugar should people consume a day?

If you think you are consuming too much sugar (a sugar addict) I recommend  you try  a nutrition app like MyFitnessPal to track your meals for a couple days to gauge your sugar intake. My recommended daily intake is 32 grams.

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The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) advises adults who eat a 2,000-calorie diet to limit sugar intake to about 40 grams (10 teaspoons) of added sugar per day. Using this number as a guide no more than 8% of our daily intake should come from sugar. To give you an idea, Chobani’s Strawberry Greek Yogurt has 19 grams of sugar, 50% of your daily allowance, a Cliff bar has 21 grams again a little over 50% compared to Snicker’s at 30 grams 3/4 of your daily intake and a regular  12 oz can of Coca Cola contains a whopping 39 grams, just under 100% of your daily intake—–for one can!

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Why is this important?

If you are consuming too many of these foods (read Westernized diet and HFCS) that contain an excess of sugar it will trigger a spike in your blood sugar levels, your pancreas will be over-stimulated and release large amounts of insulin.  As a result, this excess insulin rapidly mops up the excess sugar in your bloodstream causing your blood sugar levels to dip quickly below normal, causing you to feel hungry once again. This process leads to a vicious cycle where the body requires more and more, yet is never fully satiated, hence creating a dependence and eventually a possible addiction. This may eventually lead to excess weight gain (more on this later,) certain kinds of cancer and, heart disease. This also causes the big surge in energy and the eventual crash.

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Alternatives:

I don’t recommend cutting sugar completely as you will only feel deprived; however,  try and be mindful of your cravings and find some healthy alternatives like fresh fruit–(I’m well aware this is  easier said than done.) Invest in some good quality cocoa powder, like Cellebaut or Valrhona and mix it in with some plain Greek yogurt, whey protein, a little nut butter, almond milk and Stevia–I got this great idea from http://muffin-topless.com/2012/06/22/decadent-chocolate-protein-pudding/

Smoothies with whey protein are also another great alternative as they provide additional lean protein and are usually quite sweet and you can find whey in various flavors like rich chocolate fudge and cookies and cream. The great thing I’ve found after a month or so of tracking and changing my habits, is that my cravings are slowly beginning to dissipate. It doesn’t happen overnight, so be patient.

picture below: processed foods

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Foods to avoid:

Although the following list may not contain sucrose aka  “sugar” in their ingredient list they may contain the following: corn syrup, dextrin, dextrose, fructose, fruit juice concentrate, high-fructose corn syrup, galactose, glucose, honey, hydrogenated starch, invert sugar maltose, lactose, mannitol, maple syrup, molasses, polyols, raw sugar, sorghum, sorbitol, turbinado sugar, and xylitol, which convert into sugar in your bloodstream.

  • white bread, bagels, white potatoes, white rice, white pasta, tortillas, soda, processed package foods like cookies, potato chips crackers, snack cakes etc., fruit juice, most fruit addes yogurts, jams and jellies, and dried fruit like rasins and cranberries, and salad dressings and condiments like ketchup and barbeque sauce,  and  beer and alcohol.

Foods you should be eating:

  • Vegetables, fruits (in moderation–apples contain about 19 grams of sugar,) whole grain pasta, brown rice, whole grain bread and tortillas, sweet potatoes, lean beef, poultry and fish like cod or tilapia, cereal–look for whole grain cereals that contain less than 10 grams of sugar–I like Barbara’s Puffins, only 5 grams, oatmeal, eggs, nuts,  nut butters,  beans and legumes, flax and chia seeds, lowfat milk, like almond or coconut also good, coconut, olive, and grapessed oil.

I decided to write about this topic because I think I am on my way to becoming a reformed sugar addict. I still drool when I see a Crumb’s cupcake and dream about my homemade peanut butter cups, but I’m finding some alternatives (sometimes iced coffee with cream and a little stevia does the trick) and trying to stay in tune with my body’s cravings instead of just hedonistically grabbing something and scarfing it down– but yeah that sometimes feels amazing, but only leads to guilt and another cardio session.

Where to begin:

1. Start tracking your sugar intake. You might be surprised at what you find and this will give you an idea of your typical daily intake.

2. Read food labels and pay close attention to the sugar grams and the percentage compared to calories.

3. Be mindful at parties with those fruity drinks; they often contain sugary syrups with lots of hidden sugar. An alternative: vodka, perrier, and a squeeze of lemon or lime.

4. Bring you’re own sweetener along with you for your tea and coffee. My sweetener of choice right now is Stevia, but there has been some recent, inconclusive developments on the glycemic index of this alternative sweetener–more on that later.

5. If you have a bad day–and you will–because you go over your daily intake, think about how you can do better the next day and just know you are on your way to beating your addiction.

My next post will cover how sugar converts into fat, (often in the belly region) some healthy alternatives to sugar and how they hold up in baking. Something worth noting is that this becomes markedly more important as we age, because of hormones (in women) and the slow down of metabolism.

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