I have a love-hate relationship with sugar. Of course, I love the sweet taste of baked goods and treats. Those who know me are well aware I have great difficulty turning down a chocolate chip cookie or blueberry muffin.
The trouble with sugar is that it provides absolutely no nutritional value and actually can make you hungrier.
You’ve heard of the sugar rush. You eat a bunch of sugar and your energy goes sky-high. It’s why endurance athletes drink sugary energy drinks and sodas during competition: to give them energy bursts.
But what happens after your sugar rush? The dreaded sugar crash. And it can happen pretty quickly. You feel exhausted and hungry. And your body craves more sugar because you want that sugar rush back.
So consuming sugar actually makes you crave more sugar!
And is this really so bad? If you learn how to handle the sugar rushes and crashes, then maybe sugar is ok to consume, right?
The short answer is no.
A study published last year in the Journal of American Medicine Association, says eating too much sugar raises your risk of dying of heart disease.
Also, the consumption of sugar causes weight gain. Sugary foods tend to lack nutrients and more importantly fiber. Fiber helps us feel full, while the quickly digested sugar makes us hungrier. This causes overeating and an increased calorie consumption, leading to weight gain. And being overweight increases your risk of developing heart disease, diabetes and certain types of cancers.
It is hard to avoid sugar. Sugar and artificial sugars (which are just as bad as the original version) are in many of the foods we consume on a daily basis. Sugar consumption has grown exponentially throughout the years. In 1816, the average person consumed 15 pounds of sugar a year. In 1990, the average person consumed about 180 pounds of sugar a year. Sugar is now between 10-35% of the Average American diet. The American Heart Association recommends only 5% of our diet should be from sugar, about 5 teaspoons total a day.
Foods such as store-bought salad dressings, fruit flavored yogurt, frozen dinners, ketchup, canned fruits and non-dairy creamers are loaded with sugar. A can of soda can have 11 teaspoons of sugar.
Other seemingly healthy foods, such as applesauce, Jello fat-free pudding, weight watchers muffins, nutri-grain cereal bars, flavored instant oatmeal and Kellogg’s Smart Start cereal all contain a lot of sugar!
When shopping for food, check the ingredient label for words such as sugar, syrup, sweetener, fructose or glucose. All these words mean sugar. You want to avoid foods with these words, especially if they are listed early in the ingredient list. Ingredients are listed in order of volume. The higher up on the list an ingredient is, the more the product contains.
Here are a few ways “sugar” is listed in an ingredient list:
Limiting sugar in your diet can be quite difficult. It may take lots of research and time spent in the grocery store to find products that are low in sugar. But it’s worth the effort!
Today take 5 minutes to look at your favorite foods in your fridge and pantry. Look at the ingredient list and see if they are high in sugar. If they are, take a few extra minutes the next time you are at the store to see if you can find a better choice for that food. Instead of buying cinnamon graham crackers, try the honey graham crackers that have less sugar. Buy plain yogurt instead of fruit flavored yogurt and mix in fresh or frozen fruit to flavor. Buy plain rolled oats and add in cinnamon instead of flavored packaged oatmeal. Make a few healthy swaps at a time, and you will be on your way to better health!