Almost every diet, even non-healthy fad diets, focuses on eliminating or restricting sugar intake. Why? Because it works. If you want to get healthy and lose weight, you have to reduce your sugar intake. It’s as simple as that. Sounds easy, right? Wrong!
Sugar hides in just about everything you eat, and it can be difficult to find it. Even people who read food labels religiously have trouble calculating how much sugar is in their food because sugar has more than 60 names. Who can possibly memorize all of those names for sugar?
Fortunately, new food label guidelines are being implemented that will help consumers spot the total amount of sugar in their food quickly and easily. However, food manufacturers have a few years until the new laws take full effect. Till then, it’s as it has always been…
And you’ll have to learn how to find hidden sugar and eliminate it from your diet on your own. This article will help you do just that so let’s get started.
Why Sugar Is so Bad for You
Before we get into the particulars, let’s take a moment to talk about why sugar is so bad for you and learn a little bit about how it’s sabotaging your weight-loss goals. If you’re trying to lose weight, you’re probably counting calories.
However, not all calories are created equal. If a good portion of your calories are coming from sugar, you’re going to have a hard time losing weight.
Sugar makes fat – If you eat a lot of sugar, the insulin levels in your blood stream may stay elevated. When this happens, your body starts taking energy from the foods you eat and automatically stores it as fat.
Sugar makes you hungry – When you eat sugar, you aren’t satisfied. You want more food. This is due, in part, to a chemical overload in your brain of leptin. After a while, your brain stops seeing leptin, a chemical that tells your brain that you have plenty of energy and your stomach to stop growling. When your brain stops seeing leptin, it thinks you’re starving and increases your drive to eat.
“A recent study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that we’re downing more than three times the roughly six-teaspoons-per-day max recommended by the American Heart Association. That’s roughly 300-plus extra calories from sugar each day! “Our overconsumption of sugar is an epidemic,” says Kristin Kirkpatrick, R.D., of Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute. – Women’s Health
What’s more, sugar does not make you feel full like protein does. Your stomach quickly breaks it down and starts looking for its next meal. Protein, on the other hand, takes longer to break down and makes you feel fuller, longer.
Sugar and the FDA’s Dietary Guidelines
The FDA says that you should not get more than 10-percent of your daily calories from sugar. For the average person, that equates to approximately 50 grams or 12.5 teaspoons of sugar per day. Sounds like a decent amount of sugar, right? It’s not. If you drink one 20-ounce bottle of Coke, you’re at your limit for the day.
And sugar is in everything you eat, not just foods that are considered sugary. Sugars are added to just about everything that you purchase that comes in a package. Additionally, sugar is found naturally in a lot of the fresh foods you eat.
The average american consumes between 150 to 170 pounds of sugar annually, which is equal to 60 teaspoons of sugar per day. That’s nearly five times the limit set forth by the FDA.
The Many Names of Sugar
As mentioned, sugar has more than 60 names, most of which are used on food labels. If you don’t know all of the names, you cannot find all of the sugar in your food. Some of the names aren’t disguised very well and you can ferret them out quite easily due to the fact that they contain the word sugar, such as brown sugar, yellow sugar, and invert sugar.
Others are not as obvious but are pretty well known. For example, corn sweetener, honey, fructose, glucose, and sucrose are all widely accepted terms for sugar. Complicated names for sugar are more difficult to spot. Following is a list of some of the more common terms for sugar regularly seen on food labels:
- Agave nectar
- Fruit juice concentrate
This is not a comprehensive list of all the names that sugar goes by. There are simply too much of them to cover in this short article. However, you can find a comprehensive list online. Study it so that you can learn to spot hidden sugar when you’re inspecting food labels.
How to Reduce Your Sugar Intake
If you want to reduce your sugar intake, you have to learn how to read food labels and make healthy decisions based on the information contained in them. The following tips will also help you reduce the amount of sugar you consume.
Avoid Packaged Foods- Nearly 75-percent of packaged and processed foods contain added sugars. These are sugars above and beyond what the ingredients have naturally. For example, applesauce is always going to have some sugar content because sugar occurs naturally in apples. However, manufacturers also add sugar to the mix, elevating the overall sugar content. To avoid added sugars, eat fresh whenever possible.
Eat More Protein- Protein-based foods, such as chicken and eggs, have very little sugar to no sugar. Plus, they are filling. If you eat more protein, you will stay fuller, longer and take in less sugar overall. It’s kind of like killing two birds with one stone.
Use A Tracker- If you have trouble tracking all those grams of sugar, don’t worry. There are apps that will do it for you. Simply download a nutrition tracker to your smartphone and start tracking. The app will tell you when you’ve had enough sugar and even tell you how much more sugar you can have for the day.
Sugary Foods that Masquerade as Healthy Foods
Many people who think they are making smart choices and eating healthy actually aren’t doing that great of a job. That’s because food packaging can be misleading. Also, there is an ingrained belief that many sugary foods are healthy for you.
For example, a container of yogurt can contain as much as 30 grams of sugar. It’s yogurt. You think you’re eating healthy, but it contains as much sugar, if not more, than a leading chocolate bar. Other foods can be misleading as well:
Cereal Bars– Cereal bars, protein bars, and energy bars can contain a lot of sugar, as much as 25 grams.
Dry Cereal- Some healthy cereals contain a lot of sugar. Raisin bran, for example, has 20 grams of sugar per serving. That’s before you put more sugar on top.
Natural Juice- Some natural juice products that are advertised as healthy, aren’t really that healthy. The package may say “no high-fructose corn syrup” and similar claims, but there may still be as much as 30 grams of sugar in the bottle.
As you can see, food packaging can be misleading. Your ingrained beliefs may also mislead you. That’s why it’s so important to always read food labels. It’s the only way that you will know that you are making healthy decisions and eliminating or reducing the amount of sugar you consume.