Own Your Health: The Sugar Shift

Own Your Health: The Sugar Shift

Food Talk

An American eats an average of 150 pounds of sugar each year.  This far exceeds the newly recommended guideline from the World Health Organization (WHO) of only 5% of daily calories coming from sugar consumption.  If we each followed this recommendation, we’d eat no more than one small soda’s worth of free sugar calories per day.  Five percent of calories, on average, equal 25 grams of sugar per day, or 6 teaspoons.  You can easily hit this quota just by eating a yogurt in the morning, munching on a couple of granola bars or cookies throughout the day, or sipping on a soda with your lunch.  Sugar hides everywhere, and lurks in places you’ve never thought imaginable.

The WHO recommendations refer to consuming “free” sugars which include those added to food, as well as natural sugars in honey, syrups and fruit juice.  These forms of sugar are very upsetting to the balance of your blood glucose levels; they cause a cyclical pattern of cravings which keeps you wanting for more.  They exist in almost every prepackaged food and deplete our body of nutrients.

When you eat an apple, or sweet potato you are consuming a good amount of fiber as well as vitamins and minerals to support the digestion of the natural sugar found in the fruit and vegetable.  This is quite different than eating a prepackaged food with added sugar.  You see, the fiber slows down the digestion of the natural sugar when you eat the whole food and the vitamins and minerals nourish the body while the available phytonutrients help fight disease and keep you functioning at your highest level.

Prepackaged food is no longer in its whole form, it has been processed down and most likely has had sugars and other disruptive ingredients added to it.  It is likely void of fiber, vitamins and minerals and there are no phytonutrients left to speak of.  These convenience foods are nutrient-void, and end up pulling stored vitamins and minerals from your body to be able to be digested.  Prepackaged foods deplete our body of nutrients, cause large spikes in our blood glucose levels which in time can result in diabetes, and they create a vicious cycle of craving and addiction.

You may think to yourself that you’re doing okay, and that you eat “well.”  If this is you, I challenge you to read your labels, take a peek into your pantry and log your sugar intake for just 7 days.  I guarantee you’ll find places to improve.  We all need to do so!  I’ve been working on my sugar intake for 7 years and I still find surprises!

The best thing we can do is create snacks and meals from scratch, focus on whole foods that contain natural sugar, and stay away from “free” sugars all together.  If you are ready to make change with your sugar consumption, you may take one of two routes (one is much easier than the other):

  1. The easiest route: start integrating more whole foods that are naturally sweet into your diet while minimizing your intake of processed foods.  The introduction of the whole foods will naturally provide your body the sugar it desires, while keeping your blood glucose in better balance and decrease any cravings you would normally experience.
  2. Go cold turkey: this can be a very difficult route for many, but it is possible.  Beware that you may experience withdrawal symptoms such as headache, fatigue, and irritability as your body removes the sugar without replenishment in the first week.

It’s not the quantity of food that causes our body to gain weight and experience symptoms of illness; it is the mostly the quality of the food or the lack thereof.  Choose to feel well, choose to plan, prep and create whole nutritious meals for yourself, and choose to let go of the hold sugar has over you.  You can do it!

Cheers to your health and happiness,


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