Do you have a firm grasp on the amount of sugar you consume? Most people do not. It’s been said that the average person consumes more than 40 pounds of sugar in a calendar year, but I found more updated information indicating that the average amount is actually closer to 150 pounds — quite alarming, don’t you think?
When we think of sugar, sweet desserts such as cakes, donuts, candy, and cookies come to mind immediately. But there are tremendous amounts of sugar hiding in everyday things we consume, and when we consume them regularly, they add up fast.
One of the most prominent sources of added sugar is soda and sweetened beverages. An average 12-ounce can of soda contains about 8 teaspoons of simple sugar. It only takes four 12-ounce cans of sodas to equal 1/4 pound of sugar! For some people, drinking this amount in one day is not a difficult task to accomplish. Would this be you?
We know what sugar does in our mouths. What does it do in our bodies? Here are just a few problems:
- Sugar suppresses your immune system – an effect which lasts for several hours. If you are eating sugar several times a day, your immune system is suppressed long term.
- Sugar promotes inflammation – excessive inflammation actually promotes aging and disease.
- Sugar raises insulin levels – your pancreas responds to increased blood sugar by releasing insulin. Frequent spikes in blood sugar can tax your pancreas and lead to diabetes, not to mention aging your cells and organs.
Making a few mindful tweaks can make all the difference. Here are a few of my favorite ways to keep added sugar at an absolute minimum in my life:
Choose real fruits. It takes no extra time to grab an apple rather than a pre-packaged fruit cup or applesauce. It’s just as easy and doesn’t contain any of the added sugar the pre-packaged items have. So, choose something fresh from the produce stand instead, and skip the fruit juice which is essentially a sugar infusion. Better to eat the fruit with its pulp.
Focus on the power of fiber and protein. Fiber-rich foods will fill you up and keep you that way for longer so you’ll be less likely to eat something when you’re not hungry. Protein-packed foods have the same benefit. Combine both of these for delicious ways to stay satisfied throughout the day, and you’ll be less likely to seek out sugar.
Phase out added sugar bombs. If you’ve put sugar in your coffee every morning for the last ten years, start decreasing the amount little by little until you no longer use it. You can also try kicking the habit on the spot if you’re ready for it.
Study labels before you buy. Is your pantry brimming with pre-packaged, processed foods? It’s time to learn to live without these. And when you do, commit to reading all the labels of every packaged food item you buy from now on. Added sugar is in some of the most unsuspecting places – ketchup, flavored yogurt, pasta sauce, canned soup, salad dressing – so read every label before putting anything into your grocery cart.
Drown out cravings with water. If you’re a soda drinker, you can cut out quite a bit of added sugar by ditching your soda habit. Sometimes, we think we’re hungry when we’re actually thirsty — and other times, a stressed day makes us reach for desserts. Whatever the case, a glass of water can solve the problem. Drink one down and then wait 15 to 20 minutes. The craving will usually be gone but if not, choose a piece of fruit to satisfy the urge.
It takes time to get used to life without added sugar in it, but your taste buds will adjust and you’ll soon feel better than ever. Finding the perfect sweet treats that aren’t harmful to your health is a powerful way to get past the urges and learn to adapt to your new lifestyle without processed sugar.
My favorite sweet treats are baby carrots, jicama sticks, apple slices with nut butter, and occasionally an ounce of extra dark chocolate. What alternate sweet treats will you explore?
Break free from the hold of sugar on your life and you will energize your cells and your immune system.