Sugar wasn’t even available in the Western World until the 8th century, but now it’s too available and over used in our diet. There are three different sources of sugars; sucrose, dextrose, and lactose. Sucrose is the most widely used and comes from sugar cane, sugar beets, or sap from the maple tree.
Dextrose comes from grapes or corn. Lactose is sugar derived from milk. Sugar also comes in many different forms. There is granulated sugar(white sugar), brown sugar, castor sugar, powdered sugar, raw sugar, turbinado sugar, maple syrup, corn syrup, molasses, sorghum, and honey. (1)
Sugar adds sweetness to our world but we must be aware that too much sugar can be very dangerous to our health. Our sugar consumption worldwide causes us to eat 500 extra calories everyday! This can lead to obesity, specifically in the tummy, which comes with it’s own onslaught of other medical problems like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. In fact, too much fructose can lead to leptin resistance. Leptin is the hormone in our bodies telling us we’ve had enough to eat. So not only are we getting excess calories from sugar but sugar makes us eat more of other calories as well. (2)
Eating too much sugar can even cause heart problems for people who aren’t overweight. This heart danger comes from a molecule called G6P, or glucose metabolite 6-phosphate. (3) Sugar can even affect your ability to focus, help cancerous cells grow, be as toxic to your liver as alcohol, and even shorten your life. (2)
It doesn’t take much research to find out that sugar isn’t the best choice for your health. If you are trying to limit your consumption of sugar, good for you! Here is a little more information that can help you in your endeavor.
Good and Bad Sugars
Even though too much sugar in your diet can be disastrous to your health, our bodies do need some sugar. Some sources of sugar can be more disastrous to our bodies than others. Of course, the more natural the sugar the better it is for your health. For example, you can get sugar from fruits and vegetables, grains, and nuts. These are all great choices because they come with fiber and it slows the absorption of the sugar into your bloodstream.(4) Too quick of an absorption and blood sugar levels spike and that is where the danger lies. Most of these dangerous sugars are added into food that doesn’t naturally contain sugar.
Here is a list of 6 good sugar sources:
- Apples: These juicy fruits that contain natural sugars but also a special fiber called pectin that helps to control blood sugar levels.
- Bananas: These are sweet and will control your sugar cravings but also provide potassium, vitamin C, and plenty of fiber.
- Agave Nectar: This is a plant based sugar with a low glycemic index but still has a high sugar content so use it sparingly.
- Carrots: These sweet crunchy veggies can be eaten boiled, raw, or broiled and will also help fill you up with lots of fiber and water.
- Prunes: Not only is this a good source of natural sugar but prunes are also full of healthy antioxidants.
- No Sugar Added Yogurt: Plain yogurt is a good source of sugar and also has the added benefit of probiotics to help with digestion and bone strengthening calcium.
Here is a list of 9 sources of sugars to avoid:
- Candy: Most candies are just different types of sugars all rolled together. In fact, most candies are 75% sugar or more. The only exception to this rule would be a very dark chocolate.
- Sodas: We’ve been warned not to drink sodas for decades and for good reason. Even diet sodas are horrible sources of sugar.
- Powdered Drink Mixes: Powders like lemonade drink mix, chocolate milk drink mix, and even powdered sports drinks are loaded with added sugars. Even when diluted with water, these drinks are not a good choice to quench your thirst.
- Baked Goods: Everyone loves grandma’s pies, cakes, or cookies but although she loves us, her delicious baked goods aren’t good for us. The traditional recipes for these morsels use one or more sources of added sugar and are extremely high in calories. Many people have been trying to come up with healthier versions using applesauce, yogurt, and honey as sweeteners and these are better choices if you just gotta have a cookie!
- Cereals: Kids love their morning cereal but many of these are chock full of added sugar. Even some that are seemingly healthy have a high sugar content. Make sure you read the labels well and choose wisely.
- Jams and Spreads: There are fruit preserves that have no added sugar but most can contain up to 50% sugar. The worst of these being the chocolate-hazelnut spreads and jams.
- Fruit Canned in Syrup: Canned fruit that is floating in heavy or light syrup can be dangerously high in sugar, up to 50% high in sugar. Instead, opt for the fruit that is canned in their own juices with no added sugar.
- Ice cream: Most ice creams are over a quarter sugar, especially those containing chocolate, caramel, or candy pieces. Again, there are better choices here. Those being the no sugar ice creams and low carb ice creams. Don’t even think about adding caramel or fudge sauce!
- Condiments: Sauces like barbeque sauce, hoisin sauce, relish, steak sauce, and teriyaki sauce are all guilty of having a high sugar content.
How to Manage Cravings
We know that our sugar consumption should be very limited but that’s easier said than done. Because we all suffer from a little sweet tooth every now and then, but here are a few ways they found to help reduce your sugar cravings.
- Exercise: If your sugar cravings are a result of an imbalance in hormones, exercise is a great choice for you. Exercise releases endorphins to the brain that help to regulate your hormones and improve your mood. Exercise can also help to reduce your appetite as well, working as a double defense for your sugar intake.
- Avoid stimulants and artificial sweeteners: Stimulants such as caffeine in coffee or soft drinks, energy drinks, or artificially sweetened beverages can cause an imbalance in your body’s blood sugar levels. It is important to avoid these, at least keep them to a minimal because they can cause you to have sugar on the brain; not good for your ability to cut down on your sugar intake.
- Low GI diet: Carbohydrates on the high side of the GI (glucose index) cause a sugar spike in the bloodstream because they are turned into glucose and absorbed very quickly. This causes the body to fight back and lower the glucose levels in the body causing a roller coaster ride for your body’s blood sugar levels. This makes your body all out of whack, and in result, you have major sugar cravings. By keeping your carbohydrates to those on the low side of the GI, anything lower than 35, you can curb these crazy cravings(5). Good choices for your carbohydrates are vegetables, whole grains, brown rice and beans.
- Eat all regular meals: If you skip any meals throughout the day your blood sugar levels can become very low. When you do end up eating your choice of foods will go more towards the high sugar and fatty foods that you don’t want to eat for premium health. Regular intervals for your meals, which mean three meals a day and perhaps two snacks in between, will make sure you don’t break down and eat the wrong way.
- Supplements: There are supplements that help to support your blood sugar levels. Most of these involve a mixture of L-Glutamine, chromium picolinate, and a B vitamin complex. Magnesium is also a great supplement to curb cravings.(6) However, this is not an automatic fix. Taking a supplement can take up to three days to help curb your sugar cravings. Since it can take a while to take effect, other forms of blood sugar leveling should be implemented during that time.
- Emotional eating: Sugar cravings can also be from a simple mental attitude of thinking that we need sugar to make us feel better. We can break that habit of turning to food for comfort by redirecting our train of thought to something else. When we feel that urge to eat sweets coming, bypass it by getting busy with something else, whether it be a hobby, a walk around the block or a project that needs done. As long as it is something active that keeps your mind and body occupied you can successfully stop yourself from reaching for those cookies, pies, or cakes.
Be Careful and Eat Healthy
Sugar is all around us, even in some foods that you might not expect to find it. Even some crackers, breads, tomato sauces, and tonic waters contain sugar. The best way to avoid overeating sugar is to be careful, always read labels, and stick with natural food sources.
Be assured that any efforts you put forth trying to limit your sugar intake will be well rewarded in the years to come through a higher standard of health and vitality.