By Nicki Strovinskas, RDN

Now that the holidays are behind us, we are looking forward to a new year filled with healthier habits. One of the easiest habits we can start is reducing our sugar intake. Excess sugar can be hidden in almost every processed food item and beverage! Before you know it you have exceeded the recommended daily intake with just a few items or even just a few bites or sips.

So what is the big deal?

It’s just a little extra sugar right? Well, actually excessive sugar intake can have an affect on almost every area of your body. We are going to explore why one small habit we can start now that can lead to a healthier you for years to come!

The average adult in the United States consumes 17 teaspoons of added sugar per day. Added up over the whole year can be close to 60 lbs of sugar per person!

The recommendation is to only have 6 teaspoons of sugar a day.

So on average adults are consuming 3x the amount. For example, one popular soda brand has over 9 teaspoons of sugar in just 12 ounces.  It is easy to see how fast you can triple the recommended intake with a 32 ounce soda. Recognizing common high sugar items can be easy, but added sugars are found in more than just sugar sweetened beverages, cakes and candies. When looking at a food label it can be hard to identify the added sugars, mainly because there are more than 60 names for sugar. This can be confusing and difficult for the consumer. Some examples of names you may see are sucrose, glucose, evaporated cane juice, and high fructose corn syrup. Checking the ingredient list of packaged items is a great start to reducing your overall sugar intake.

Look for foods with less than 10g of sugar per serving.

Our bodies need carbohydrates just like they need fats and protein as part of a healthy diet. The problem with sugar intake is often the source and that it is consumed in excess. We mentioned how quickly you can consume above the recommended amount, now we will discuss why this could be bothersome. Sugar can lead to obesity, deplete essential vitamins and minerals (Did you know it takes 58 molecules of magnesium to metabolize 1 molecule of sugar?), suppress your immune system, and lead to overall inflammation which is at the root of every disease state.

When you eat sugar your body typically metabolizes it quickly to glucose and then insulin takes it where it needs to go. The trouble often comes with an excess sugar intake, sedentary lifestyle or overeating processed foods. This leads to increased glucose and insulin in your body, which can cause cellular resistance. This resistance can cause weight gain, inflammation, hormone imbalances and more. The Weston A Price Foundation states that the main killer diseases are linked to sugar imbalances: Diabetes, Cardiovascular Disease, Cancer, Alzheimer’s (referred to as Diabetes Type 3).

Metabolic health conditions that lead to these disease states are all related at some point to the effects of excess sugar and the body’s ability to metabolize it properly: hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), ADHD, adrenal gland fatigue, brain fog, candida overgrowth, poor sleep, depression/anxiety and many more. Have you ever noticed that after you have a sweet treat you may feel good for a little while but then it seems like you crash? You then may reach for an additional sugar item to feel better. This up and down process can affect your blood sugar regulation and even your energy and mood. Keeping your blood sugar stable throughout the day helps keep energy levels up, helps keep your mood stable and supports a healthy weight. Especially this time of the year it’s important to limit sugar to keep your immune system strong. When we replace whole foods with highly processed sugar foods we often lack the nutrients our bodies need to stay healthy.   

Now that we understand how to look for added sugars and why they are important to avoid, let’s take a look at what you can do on a daily basis to reduce your intake of sugar.

  1. Consume nutrient dense foods: Clean proteins (grass fed meats, pastured eggs, wild caught fish), Natural fats (avocados, nuts, coconut oil, olives) and plenty of fiber (leafy greens, vegetables, fruits, sprouted grains) are all essential to reducing our added sugar intake.
  2. Focus on whole foods: one of the easiest ways to reduce added sugars is having an apple versus apple sauce or apple juice. Eating the whole food provides fiber and additional nutrients that you can miss when the food is processed. Natural sugars found in berries and other fruits can add sweetness to your meals/snacks without the additional calories or risk of inflammation. Once you start exchanging natural sugars for processed sugar, you may notice that your taste buds change too. You will find the sweetness of fresh or frozen berries is enough to satisfy your sweet tooth.
  3. Exchange for natural options: Use natural sugars in cooking or in your beverages is to replace them with raw honey, coconut sugar, stevia or even monk fruit. Simple switches in a recipe or grabbing a piece of fruit in place of a candy bar can have a big impact on your overall health. It is amazing the vitamins, minerals and rich flavors that God has designed in the foods He has created for us to enjoy! Not only do the foods provide what our body needs, but we get to enjoy the amazing flavors and sweetness from the whole foods. 
  4. Stay hydrated! Often times we crave sugar when we are actually thirsty. Drink 1/2 body weight in ounces a day – max 100oz – of pure water. Add a tiny pinch of sea salt or sugar free electrolyte – like Ultima – for added minerals and increased absorption. Cutting out sodas, sweet tea and replacing them with Zevia for example (or other non-sugar/artificial sweetener filled soda or tea) is a simple exchange that makes a huge health impact.

Jumping into a new year by being aware of what you are eating and how it is affecting your overall health is an amazing way to continue your health journey. The foods we consume can provide healing and strength or can have a negative impact. If you are still unsure about the best way for you to start eliminating sugar or if you are interested in ways to incorporate more whole foods into your diet, the coaches at Eureka are here to help! Clients receive customized eating plans to best fit their current needs.

Our Phase 1 Reset – 4 Week Detox protocol is a great starting point for eliminating sugar or other inflammatory foods. Connect with us to learn more! 

Articles Referenced: nutrition/sugar-alert-references/

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