Depending on your diet, reducing sugar can be a seriously hard task BUT the benefits of that decision are huge. The impact of high added sugar in your diet links with so many medical conditions including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, & of course, dental health to name just a few.
OK, so why is it hard to give up? Sugar affects the brain’s reward system & that reward system helps us to survive but the downside is that same mechanism is linked with addictive behaviour. Basically, it is a vicious circle – eat more sugar, want more sugar, need more sugar to get the same feeling, & repeat.
The WHO (World Health Organisation) recommends the equivalent of 6 tsp./day for women & 9 tsp./day for men. According to ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) the current consumption in Australia is sitting around 14 tsp./day – that is more than double for women. OK, you can see it is not ideal, but you may need some ideas to assist with cutting down that added sugar load – try these.
Read the labels.
Try doing a bit of detective work when you shop. It is startling (or appalling, whatever adjective you want to use) how much sugar is hidden in things. My suggestion is to flip the packet & check the ingredients list. It will start with the highest amount & ends with the least amount, so if sugar is in the top 5 – forget it! OR even better, opt to choose products with no sugar listed in the ingredient list.
Also, remember that sugar goes by a lot of other names. Some common ones are dextrose, fructose, glucose, golden syrup, honey, maple syrup, sucrose, malt, maltose, lactose, brown sugar, caster sugar, maple syrup, raw sugar, sucrose.
Lastly when it comes to label reading & this tip is super important, (seriously, I cannot stress this enough), sugar is often added to many manufactured products (THINK bread to BBQ sauce, & everything in between). My point – don’t just stop at removing sugar from your coffee, look at your WHOLE day of eating.
Don’t drink your sugar!
Another great starting place for sugar elimination – cut out the soft drink, processed fruit juices, & sports/energy drinks. Oh, & don’t forget to look at what you add to your tea or coffee, or even how much alcohol you are consuming. Seriously, sugar in your drinks creeps up quickly! Try keeping the alcohol to 2-3 times a month (& not a sundowner celebration every day, tempting as it is). If you are thirsty, go for water.
Aim for an anti-inflammatory diet & lifestyle.
The most famous anti-inflammatory diet of all, is the Mediterranean diet (big fan here)! Load up on oily fish, loads of fruit & vege, & extra virgin olive oil; these are a pretty key within the diet. Another important part of the Mediterranean diet is exercise. Aim for regular & consistent exercise, even a 30-minute walk daily is a fabulous addition to your lifestyle. Honestly, the standard western diet is very high in inflammatory foods, so this type of lifestyle change can assist with reducing inflammation & sustaining that reduced level of inflammation.
Add in some tummy loving ingredients.
Bottom line, sugar absolutely wreaks havoc on the gut. So, add in some foods that are rich in nutrients which promote healing the lining of the gut. OK, like what? Look for foods high in zinc (THINK beef, capsicum, pumpkin & sunflower seeds); vitamin A (THINK sweet potato, green leafy vege & even add in some cod liver oil capsules); & glutamine (THINK most proteins & dairy products, cabbage, even rolled oats). Your gut also loves fermented foods because they are rich in probiotics (THINK kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, or yoghurt), so add these in too.
Reduce that stress level.
Often when we are stressed we reach for something which is sugar laden (hello, chocolate, glass of wine or bag of jelly snakes) but that relief is only temporary. Why? Because it makes you more reliant on sugar & increases your risk of obesity PLUS other related diseases. Additionally, stress exacerbates symptoms of so many common issues (THINK upset tummies, poor sleep habits, even your hormones can get out of whack, to name just a few). The solution is to find a stress buster that YOU enjoy doing & then do it regularly. Maybe walking, yoga, deep breathing, meditation, swimming, bush walking or hula hooping, whatever, as long as you love it ‘cos then you will do it.
Cold turkey vs the taper down.
OK, you have made the decision to cut the sugar – fabulous! Go you! I would advise you to also be prepared for the sugar detox because depending on your current sugar intake it can be brutal. Symptoms can include bloating, headaches, nausea, cramps & fatigue. Honestly, sugar is incredibly addictive, so be patient as it will take a couple of weeks to create this new sugar free lifestyle habit but seriously – it is totally worth it.
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