12 Months to a Healthier You (Month 9)
Month 9, Cut the Sugar!
It’s no secret that most of us eat more sugar than we should. Whether it’s the occasional ice cream after dinner or Starbucks coffee on a cold day, we all love it. Sugar is a quick source of energy for the body and the brain. We are biologically primed to enjoy the taste of sugar. For our ancestors, this was an advantage because sugar was not as accessible as it is today. For them, sugar was most abundantly available from fruit, which was only available during certain seasons of the year, specifically, the end of summer. When they would eat the fruit, they would store up excess energy (as fat), which would sustain them over the winter. In the United States today, refined sugar is added to almost all processed foods. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the average American consumes between 150 – 170 pounds of sugar per year, which equals up to a half a pound of sugar per day!
Does that seem unbelievable? Let’s do the math. One pound equals approximately 454 grams; therefore, a half of a pound would be 227 grams. How does one eat 227 grams of sugar in one day? Let me give you a breakdown of some of our favorite foods and the amount of sugar in each:
As you can see, it’s not just our favorite dessert items that have added sugar in them. Processed foods in the United States are typically made from cheap ingredients that have been processed and refined. To make these ingredients taste better and to keep taste consistent, food companies add sugar. Typically they are adding a cheap source of sugar called high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) rather than cane sugar.
To decrease the amount of sugar you are consuming here are a few strategies that I will recommend:
- Read food labels! Look at the amount of added sugar in the foods you are consuming. Choose brands that have little or no added sugar and the source of that sugar is cane sugar rather than HFCS.
- Be mindful of the number of servings you are consuming. Ketchup might only have 4 grams of sugar in it, but if you consume 5 servings of it, that’s a whopping 20 grams of sugar!
- Don’t drink your sugar. Beverages are a significant source of added sugar and because we are drinking them versus eating them, we tend not to be as mindful about the amount of sugar.
- Prepare your food from scratch. If you prepare your food at home, you can limit the amount of sugar you use. Most recipes you can cut the sugar in half without noticing a difference in taste.
- Try using sources of sweeteners in recipes that are lower on the glycemic index such as honey, maple syrup, xylitol, and stevia.