The Sugar Fix, Fix

The Sugar Fix, Fix

by Diana Risell

We have a sugar fix, and it needs fixing.
Two hundred years ago, Americans ate six pounds of sugar per year, on average, per person. By 1999 we were eating 100 pounds, and today we top out at more than 130 pounds. It’s like consuming a whole person made of sugar every year! The average has been trending downward in recent years, but the amount of sugar in our diets would need to drop another 40% to be in a ‘healthy’ range.

Sugar plays an essential role in our diet: all carbohydrates break down into glucose, a form of sugar, to provide energy for our bodies. And sugar appears naturally in nutritious foods like fruits, vegetables (carrots), and dairy products (plain yogurt), which are also full of fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants. This is sugar that our bodies like, and it appears in minimal amounts, is part of a balanced food source and, while these foods can be overeaten, that’s not a problem for most of us. “Stop! You’re eating too many vegetables,” said no mother ever. Instead, we overeat the sugars in our diet that are not beneficial and offer zero nutritional value. We overeat the sugars that have been ADDED to our food – added by manufacturers, often straight out of labs, to appeal to our now over-sweetened taste buds and to add volume and moisture, enhance texture and extend shelf life, none of which sound very appetizing.

With over 60 different names from honey to maltodextrin, added sugars now appear in 75% of all food items in the US. It is the most added ingredient to food. It’s a recent phenomenon, a byproduct of the mid-twentieth century’s no fat/low fat craze when manufacturers removed fat, convincing us that fat made us fat. Sugar is now in everything from obvious items like soda, cake, and cookies to the less obvious pasta sauce, salad dressings, chicken broth, ketchup, cereal and ‘health’ bars. And that should scare us. Added sugar is so ubiquitous that we’re stuck in a vicious cycle of sweet cravings.

So, what to do with our sweet tooth? Here are 12 actions to fix your sugar fix.

READ labels.
Today’s nutrition label shows a single amount of sugar, but new ingredient labels coming out this year have to separate out the amount of added sugars. Sweet!

I bet you’re curious: How much-added sugar are you eating every day? As the ingredient labels get smarter, it will be easier to track. But that’s not an excuse to wait. Use online or app-based food trackers like My Fitness Pal and Fooducate with its very cool bar scanning capability. Get a baseline for yourself. 50g/day (~12 teaspoons) is an excellent initial goal. Less than 25g/day (6 teaspoons) is where you really want to be.

DIVERT your attention.
Cravings last 15 minutes. What can you do for 15 minutes to tame your sugar fix? Have a plan because cravings are coming.

You decide what goes into your food. Choose primarily single/low number ingredients items. Eat in color.

SUBSTITUTE with fruits and spices to sweeten, add flavor.
Tea or carbonated water stands in for soda. No, it’s not the same, but in a few short weeks, you’ll have pushed through the worse part of the change. My 6-9 cans of cola per day became a lot of sweet tea and then a lot of unsweet tea and now lots of water. It didn’t happen overnight, but patience and consistency win the day.

Weak for ice cream? Then it’s never in your home. You have to get in your car and go to the store for it. So how badly do you want ice cream? Sometimes, you will get in your car but most times you won’t. And know that 95% of taste satisfaction comes in the first three bites. Don’t eat past the satisfaction!

Eat a BREAKFAST rich in protein and fiber to fill you up and set yourself up for a healthier day.
Eggs, plain Greek yogurt, plain oatmeal with a scoop of protein powder, nuts, and berries. Don’t forget the veggies! Exercising in the morning has the same benefit.

Manufacturers aren’t adding sugar so you can lead a longer healthier life. They are using it as a cheap filler and causing you to eat more. That should make you angry. Food is big business in America. Reject advertising hype.

ISOLATE choices.
I had a salad for lunch so I can have cake for dessert, right? Evaluate each food choice individually and ask yourself ‘Is this choice consistent with my health goals?’

Some of us make better choices about the gas we put in our cars than the fuel we put in our bodies. Upgrade to premium.

30 days without added sugar will change your life or at least reset the taste buds. Berries on your oatmeal never tasted so sweet.

NO BLAME, Action!
Know that you are not weak. Sugar has been shown to have an addictive effect on the brain. Sugar causes the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter which gives you the warm fuzzies – and who doesn’t want that happy feeling? Broccoli doesn’t create a release of dopamine in the brain. Cake does. Life isn’t fair.

Here’s to your best health.

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