Wellness Wednesday: Eating Less Sugar
Wellness Wednesday is a series where we focus on topics that benefit our well-being. Wellness has many meanings and many routes to achieve. As always, listen to your body and do what's best for you.
Everyone's talking about eliminating sugar from their diets lately and for good reason. A few years ago I mentioned an article in JAMA that detailed how the sugar industry sponsored research to downplay negative health effects of sugar consumption. This research fundamentally shifted the U.S.'s nutritional policy for over 50 years-- where blame for obesity and weight-related diseases was placed on fat and cholesterol ( the poor egg!). In 2016, the FDA announced the change in the nutritional facts panel we are used to seeing on packaged foods-- a big step forward in nutritional policy. The new facts panel features an additional line for added sugar, or sugar that does not come from naturally occurring sources, like fruits).
Knowing what we know now about the effects of sugar on our health, reducing the amount of sugar consumed makes sense.
When I talk about "sugar", I am specifically talking about refined sugars, like white sugar and high fructose corn syrup. I find having small amounts of naturally occurring sugars, like fruits, maple syrup and honey, works for me. We should also take a minute to talk about carbohydrates. When consumed, carbohydrates break down into sugar. The key with carbohydrates is how they are processed by the body and affect blood sugar, known as glycemic load-- some carbs break down very quickly and others are absorbed slowly. Here is an article from the Harvard School of Public Health explaining the difference between carbs plus a recommendation for low-glycemic load foods.
How can I reduce my sugar intake?
The New York Times' recently published a great guide on how exactly to do this (and why). Here are a few take-aways plus some ways I've lessened the amount of sugar I am eating each day.
- Rethink your breakfast. Breakfast is such an easy time to consume so much sugar. For breakfast I try to focus on getting protein+fat+carb+fiber in to fuel up for the day. That could look like an egg+avocado+toast, pb+honey+ground flaxseed+toast or oatmeal+coconut butter+ground flaxseed+maple syrup. I also like to make my own breakfast treats so I have to option to control how much and what type of sugar is added. Lately, its been Banana Bread Skillet Cookie and Breakfast Cookies.
- Eat Your Whole Meal. This is a new one for me. I use to eat smaller amounts at meal time, leaving room for dessert or a snack. I now focus on filling my plate (and belly) with healthy foods (again focusing on protein+fat+carb+fiber) at meal time. And guess what, I often don't need or crave a sweet after eating a full meal. And if I do, I know it must mean I really want it.
- Sneaky sugar. Sugar can be found in everything. Taking time in the grocery store or before you go shopping to look at ingredients and nutrition labels can help eliminate added sugar from your diet. For things like salad dressing, hummus, and tomato sauce when I can, I try and make my own.
Have you reduced sugar in your diet? Eliminated it completely? Any recipes for refined sugar free baked goods? I feel like I am making strides in the past few months as I've started to reduce sugar and my cravings have definitely lessened. With all that being said, I still enjoy refined sugar now and then but try to make it worth it like ice cream on vacation or waffles at the diner.