Sugar — How Much Should You Really Be Eating?

Feeling run-down, moody, and irritable? It might just be the sugar that you eat every day. Whether you eat sugary treats for a hit of energy during the day, or you have a fairly healthy diet, sugar is everywhere. It‘s sneaky and in almost everything.

I’m talking about added sugar — the kind that doesn’t occur naturally (like in fruit), but is added during food processing, preparation, or at the table.

The American Heart Association recommends that women limit their sugar intake to 100 calories (25 grams), or around six teaspoons a day. Men should limit their intake to 150 calories (37.5 grams), or nine teaspoons.

You are probably aware that candy, cookies, and soda are loaded with sugar, although how much sugar may come as a surprise. But most of us don’t think of things like hamburger buns and crackers, or canned fruit and pasta sauce when it comes to foods full with sugar.

So what’s the big concern about eating too much sugar anyway?

Eating a lot of added sugar is linked to almost every bad health condition you can think of. Okay, maybe not everything, but it certainly has a big effect on things like:

Excess weight, especially near your waist

Low HDL or “good cholesterol”

High blood glucose levels and/or insulin resistance

High levels of triglycerides (energy stored in fat cells) in your blood

Increased risk for high blood pressure

Increase risk for heart disease and stroke

General feeling of crappiness (no, I don’t have any medical studies to back this one up, but it’s true)

And because sugar only provides calories, with no other nutritional value, eating sugary foods and beverages can displace nutrients that are necessary for the body to function at its best.   

What are the biggest sugar culprits?

Regular soft drinks: 33%

Candy: 16.1%

Cakes, cookies, pies: 12.9%

Fruit drinks (fruit punch and fruit juices): 9.7%

Dairy desserts and milk products (ice cream, sweetened yogurt, sweetened milk): 8.6%

White Grains: (white bread, toaster waffles/pancakes): 5.8%

Big benefits — small actions

Added sugars have no nutritional value other than calories, and many of us can reduce our risk of disease and get to that healthy weight by decreasing the amount of sugar in our diets.

Don’t worry, I am not going to tell you to cut out all sugar, or do some sort of crazy detox or cleanse. The reality is that restricting yourself to the recommended limit might be difficult, since one 12-ounce can of soda has about 130 calories, or eight teaspoons of sugar. (On average, Americans consume 355 calories, or more than 22 teaspoons, of sugar a day, the equivalent of two cans of soda and a chocolate bar.)

You don’t have to eliminate all sugar from your diet, just use your allotment wisely. Know your daily numbers and make trade-offs that you can live with.  A friend of mine lost 30 pounds in just a few months by simply cutting out all soda – nothing else.

Here are some tips that everyone should be able to follow.

Use fruit to add a sweet flavor to cereals, yogurt, as dessert, and for snacks.

Cut back on candy, cookies, etc.  and sweetened sodas, teas, and flavored waters.

And read labels always. Know where hidden sugar hangs out.

Most importantly, help your kids learn that so much sugar is not necessary. Train their palates when they’re young to enjoy less sweet food.

And you can still have small amounts of sugar (even desserts), but only with your meals. Eating a full meal helps slow sugar delivery, which will help with any sugar withdrawal, and moodiness or irritability after the sugar high starts to crash.

Become aware about what you buy and eat, so you can make smart decisions both in and out of your home.

Are You Drinking Fat?

Drinking soda is the same as drinking fat. Sounds disgusting, but sugar is the new fat, and many of those soft drinks are literally like downing a can of fat. You hear it all the time now-a-days: Sugar makes you fat!

One can of soda contains between 150-300 calories, and that’s empty sugar calories that get stored in your body as fat! Even healthy sounding fruit drinks, like orange juice, apple juice, etc. are loaded with sugar calories.

Water is the best choice.

I know it’s hard to go cold turkey, so start cutting down on your daily intake of sugary drinks by alternating. Either alternate water, sugar drink, water, sugar drink each day, or try drinking water and sugary drinks on alternate days all together. That can cut your sugar intake in half.

And for the guys out there who love their soda, there’s new research that shows in addition to promoting fat storage, sugar adversely affects your manlyhood.  Sugar reduces testosterone levels. Testosterone is the (male) hormone that promotes muscle growth (and fat loss), gives men their facial and body hair, and keeps that sex life crackling! So, a reduction of testosterone means that you could potentially have less muscle and a not so sizzling sex life.

Is sugar really worth the side effects?  I’m not saying live without sugar, but many people don’t think that beverages (especially juice and soda) can make them fat or unhealthy. So keeping your sugary drinks in check can make a huge difference.  And if you are looking to get more fruit in your diet, skip the juice and eat an orange!

Juice is not a great choice for kids either. Don’t let your kids drink too much. 

Easy Ways to Reduce FAT-SALT-SUGAR from Your Diet

Lowering the saturated fat from your diet and reducing added salt or sugars is an easy place to start on your way to a healthier way of eating. If you have been in the habit of eating packaged foods, your pallet has been trained to crave all the “wrong” things. So it is important to find a way to make healthy foods taste great, so they become your “go-to” foods. Make them delicious without all those addictive additives that often resemble a science experiment gone awry. Here are some great tips from Dr. Seymour Weaver.

FIVE Tips for Reducing Fat in Your Diet Without Compromising Taste:

1.Use water, wine or low fat, sodium free stock in place of oil or butter when sautéing. You will not miss the flavor since the oil or butter is usually only used to keep whatever you are cooking from sticking to the pan. If the liquid evaporates just keep adding a little more until the food is cooked.

2.Instead of putting butter or margarine on your potatoes, top them with a dollop of fat free sour cream instead. Sprinkle with a little chives or your favorite herbs or spice blend and you will never miss the butter.

3.Skip the butter when making sandwiches and go with fat free condiments like your favorite mustard or fat free mayo instead. Most of the time we reach for the butter by habit rather than necessity and you will never miss it.

4.Replace cream or whole milk with skim milk in all of your favorite recipes. If the recipe calls for butter, substitute it with a healthier alternative such as olive oil.

5.Buy only the leanest cuts of meat and trim away any fat and skin from chicken. Marinade the meat to tenderize it and replace the flavor of the fat. Whenever possible, bake instead of frying and if you do have to pan fry something, use non-stick cooking spray or brush the meat with lightly with olive oil rather than adding oil to the pan. Making sure you pre-heat the pan will keep the food from sticking.

FIVE Tips for Reducing Sodium in Your Diet Without Losing Flavor:

1.Replace the salt shaker on your table with a sodium free spice blend. Most of the time we reach for the salt shaker out of habit rather than because our food needs it. A spice shaker on the table will satisfy that “shake” habit and add flavor to the food. There are tons of ready-made spice blends available or you can create your own custom blend using your favorites.

2.Trick your pallet. Sour and salt are recognized by the same group of taste buds. Instead of adding salt to your foods while they are cooking, try adding a splash of lemon or lime juice or flavored vinegars instead. Balsamic vinegar is particularly good to cook with as it adds a ton of flavor.

3.Read the labels. If you must purchase any packaged or canned goods, get in the habit of comparing labels for sodium levels. Chances are pretty good that a different brand may be a healthier alternative to the brand you are used to buying.

4.Add aromatics such as finely diced raw onion, scallions or shallots, roasted or raw garlic, fresh ginger or fresh herbs to foods as a hit of flavor instead of salt. Not only do these add flavor, they also bump up the nutritional value of your foods.

5.Make your own salad dressings. These are super easy to make and they taste much better than store-bought dressings. Balsamic vinegar, olive oil, Italian spices and minced garlic are a sodium free dressing that is packed with flavor. Experiment and find combinations you and your family will love

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