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            Why should you care about cutting refined sugar from your diet? On top of being associated with diabetes, obesity, arthritis, cancer, osteoporosis (body loses too much bone, makes too little bone, or both and they become brittle), Alzheimer’s, depression, and cardiovascular disease… foods containing refined sugar also tend to be void of essential nutrients. But as one of the most-addictive legal substances in our society, sugar can be a pain to kick. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to accomplish this more easily.

***Fruits and vegetables containing natural sugar along with fiber aren’t bad for you, and actually tend to be very nutritionally dense. *** 

Step 1: Read Nutritional Content Labels

            Knowing what’s in the food you’re eating is probably the most important step towards cutting added sugars from your diet. The important parts are: the serving size, which is listed at the top (just under “Nutrition Facts” you can see this serving size is 1 tablespoon), and the sugars content (just under the “Carbohydrate” heading  {in the middle of this label} you can see the sugars per serving are 1 gram). With this information we can see that for each tablespoon of this food (peanut butter), there is a gram of sugar that you’re consuming. This is actually a very low-sugar content peanut butter, and it’s a good idea to keep the fiber content either equal to or greater than the sugar content (Here it is 1g fibre for 1g sugar).

***Note: not all foods are created equally. The sugar content will vary, even between foods that are similar.***

            Another important piece of the labelling to pay attention to is the ingredients list. Brown sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, fruit juice, malt syrup, or organic cane sugar all sound better, but they’re just clever variants of the refined sugar that we’re trying to avoid.

Here, the ingredients are meant to be listed in order of highest concentration. High-fructose corn syrup (an unhealthy added sweetener) and sugar are both in the top 5, so this would be a good food to avoid. In fact, it’s a good idea to avoid ingredients with the suffix “-ose” like glucose, maltose, dextrose, galactose, sucrose, and fructose, as that’s the suffix used to describe sugars in chemistry.

Step 2: Beware Artificial Sweeteners and “Zero-Sugar” Claims

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            Notice the fourth ingredient… Aspartame... When learning about how to avoid sugar, many people turn towards “zero-sugar” substitutes. Many of these contain artificial sweeteners like aspartame. This chemical makes it much more difficult to get rid of your sweet-food cravings. Constantly placating your sweetness addiction, but without the essential nutrients it wants (micronutrients and calories) your body will try to get you to consume more of the nutrient-poor foods, in the hopes of getting the real thing it craves, but isn’t present. These artificial sweeteners may also increase your cravings for sugar and refined carbs, as well as depleting your body’s chromium stores. These are a few of the reasons that artificial sweeteners are highly correlated to weight-gain. Don’t be fooled by zero-sugar substitutes being better. They fool your body, in a way that is detrimental to your health goals.

Step 3: Figure Out What Foods You Have Trouble With

            Each of us most-likely has one main food that is the majority of our sugar problem. Just from reading this you’ve probably had at least one come to mind. Maybe it’s a fruit juice or pop that you have with your lunch each day, or ice cream after making it through another long session at work. For me, the treat that I had to kick was beer. Yes, alcoholic beverages are high in simple sugars as well (part of the fermentation process), and even having a couple beers at the end of each day adds up quickly. Try to envision these treats as something tying you to your sugar addiction. Getting rid of these chains is a good idea. Take a look at the foods (and drinks) you consume over the course of the day. Make small tweaks and improvements. Give your self a thumbs up in the mirror that you started and are in the race to becoming healthier. Take the stairway to health one step at a time. 

Step 4: Removing Excess Sugar from Your Home

            An important exercise for this weekend (45 minutes): Go through your fridge, your pantry, and any snack storage places to identify and place on your kitchen table everything that contains added sugar (examine the labels to determine this). Donate these if they’re non-perishable, or give to someone who will eat them. Yes, that means your cereals, snack bars, and fruit juices will be sitting on the table.

            Surprised? A single glass of fruit juice contains the sugar of multiple fruits, with almost all of the important fibre removed. The combination of concentrated sugar with no fibre is bad, it results in a rush of sugar from the stomach (No fibre to control the movement of sugar) to the blood stream, and this results in an insulin surge—do this enough times in a day, over an extended period, and you will develop diabetes!

A glass of fruit juice actually contains as much sugar as a can of soda pop!

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            If you remove the temptations from your house, you won’t give in to them in moments when you’re feeling weak. After a hard day, it can be difficult to say “no” to your cravings. Another good thing to check, as they can be discreetly sugar-filled, are all of your condiments and sauces. Ketchup in particular, can be as high as 20% sugar! Save yourself from temptation and clear out the sweets and sauces.

Step 5: Just Start… One Teaspoon at a Time

            It doesn’t matter if you’ve spent your whole life addicted to sugar, or if you feel that you’ve been pretty good, you can always do a little more for your health. It’s important to take this on in small steps. It’s completely okay if it’s not a “cold-turkey” change for you. Just make minor changes here and there. Do a monthly check-up on what you store in the house, read the labels and recognize the choices you make. Checking on yourself every once in a while improves the choices we make, as we recognize what not to bring home. It’s a journey, not a destination. If you’re having difficulty kicking sugar, or have any questions, feel free to contact me at kyle@goget.fit

References:

1.       Erin Mosbaugh. Cut refined sugar: here’s how to get started. Live Strong. https://www.livestrong.com/article/13716250-cut-refined-sugar-heres-how-to-get-started/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=040319_m_wed_editorial&c_crid=cta1 Published December 2018. Accessed April 1, 2019.

2.       Lacey Baier. How to quit sugar: the 7 steps I took to finally quit sugar and how you can too. A sweet pea chef. https://www.asweetpeachef.com/how-to-quit-sugar/ Published March 2017. Accessed April 1, 2019.

3.      Lugavere M, Grewal P. Genius foods: become smarter, happier, and more productive while protecting your brain for life. New York: Harper Collins; 2018. Accessed April 1, 2019.

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