Ever tried to cut back- or even eliminate- sugar? It’s not so easy.
Nature gave us a sweet tooth for a reason- and it wasn’t just to frustrate our diet efforts!
We humans – unlike other animals- don’t make our own vitamin C. Vitamin C is most abundant in fruits. So nature gave us taste buds that would make these relatively sweet tasting foods desirable.
Unfortunately the whole system has become deregulated since just about everything you buy now has sugar in it, and there’s a huge disconnect between the purpose of our original wiring- to make sure we got enough vitamin C- and the way that wiring is used today (to make sure we get enough Krispy Kreme donuts!)
Giving up- or cutting back- on sugar is no picnic. But the rewards are tremendous. Eliminating (or even reducing) sugar can benefit your health in more ways than you can imagine.
Here’s a list of my Top Ten Ways to Start Reducing Sugar, taken directly from my “Diet Boot Camp” program.
1. Don’t add it to foods. This is the easiest and most basic way to immediately reduce the amount of sugar you’re eating. Biggest targets: cereal, coffee and tea.
2. Don’t be fooled by “healthy sugar” disguises. Brown sugar, turbinado sugar, raw sugar, agave nectar … it’s all pretty much the same thing as far as your body is concerned.
3. Make a real effort to reduce or eliminate processed carbohydrates. Most processed carbs — breads, bagels, most pastas and snacks — are loaded with flour and other ingredients that convert to sugar in the body almost as fast as pure glucose. That sugar gets stored as triglycerides, which is a fancy way of saying fat.
4. Watch out for “fat-free” snacks. One of the biggest myths is that if a food is fat-free it doesn’t make you fat. Fat-free doesn’t mean calorie-free, and most fat-free snacks are loaded with sugar.
5. Shop for color. The more your grocery basket looks like a cornucopia of color, the better. It usually means you’re getting more fresh vegetables and low-glycemic fruits such as berries and cherries.?
6. Become a food detective. This tip is from author and nutritionist Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, who adds, “To reduce sugar, you have to know where it is first.” Start reading labels.
7. Beware of artificial sweeteners. Unfortunately, they can increase cravings for sugar and carbohydrates. They can also deplete the body’s stores of chromium, a nutrient crucial for blood-sugar metabolism.
8. Do the math. Look at the label where it says “total sugars” and divide the number of grams by four. That’s the number of teaspoons of sugar you are ingesting. This exercise alone should scare the pants off you.
9. Limit fruit. (Notice I didn’t say “eliminate.”) Fruit has sugar, but it also has fiber and good nutrients. Just don’t overdo it. For weight-loss purposes, keep it to two servings a day and try to make most of them low-glycemic (grapefruit, apples, berries)
10. Eliminate fruit juice. It’s a pure sugar hit with none of the fiber and less of the nutrients that are found in the fruit itself. Possible exceptions: “Pure” pomegranate juice or any of the other “Just Juices”- but only if you’re not “sugar sensitive”
Given that there’s added sugar in almost everything you buy commercially- from French Fries to yogurt- you may not be able to totally eliminate sugar from your diet. But to the extent that you can, your body- and your brain- will thank you! You’ll be giving your health a tremendous boost!
Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS is the author of the Poliquin Manual for Nutrition. He's a board certified nutritionist, a nationally known expert on weight loss, health and nutrition, and the best-selling author of 8 books including “The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth”. Visit him at www.jonnybowden.com