Most people are trying to cut back their sugar intake, but it’s not easy. I know, I’ve got an extremely sweet tooth!
Granted, sugar can have a place in a healthy diet, but you may want to reduce your intake a bit, so what’s the secret?
I’ve found that focusing on eating healthy, whole foods most of the time, helps me avoid eating too much. I think the 80/20 rule works prety well. If you follow that, you’ll probably find you’re also avoiding unhealthy amounts of sugar.
So, let’s take a closer look at this beloved substance…
Dietary sugar comes in 3 forms, these are:
- Monosaccharides: simple sugars (glucose and fructose found in fruit and honey, etc.)
- Disaccharides: complex sugars (sucrose, lactose and maltose found in table sugar, milk and beer)
- Polysaccharides: complex sugars (starches from plant sources found in grains, legumes and vegetables)
When you eat sugar, your body breaks it down into glucose, and eventually energy for your body to use.
Glucose is the body’s preferred source of fuel, and hence why carbohydrate foods are important in the diet, despite what low-carb activists will tell you.
Much of the hype surrounding carbohydrates (sugars), has led people to believe carbs are completely evil. But in truth, they are not fattening at all — although what you put on them is often questionable!
The problem comes when your portions are too large. But, this is the same with any food, what the body doesn’t need will be converted to fat and stored.
Granted, not all carbs are created equal. So, if you sit around all day munching on Twinkies (think refined sugars), you probably are fat, or very soon will be!
Also, if your diet is really high in refined sugar, you are probably missing out on important nutrients, which you would be getting from a diet rich in fruits, vegetable and wholegrains, etc.
So, are you eating too much sugar?
It’s good to remember that sugar isn’t just contained in the foods you’ve added it to. Many foods and drinks contain sugar — in quite high proportions —which you may not have realised.
Here are a few to look out for:
- Breakfast cereals and muesli
- Granola bars
- Special coffees, such as mocha
- Bottled iced tea
- Ketchup, salad dressing and other condiments
- Peanut butter
- Canned foods, such as baked beans
If you’re unsure what to look for, check your food label per 100g. If it states 10g of sugar, or more, per 100g, that’s a lot. A small amount of sugar would be 2g of sugar, or less, per 100g.
Sugar is often “hiding” in your food, so check labels for terms such as:
- White sugar
- Brown sugar
- Icing sugar
- Demerara sugar
- Invert sugar
- Maple syrup
- Corn syrup
- Brown rice syrup
- Demerara sugar
- High fructose corn syrup
- Cane juice
- Fruit juice concentrates, for example apple and pear
- Names ending in “ose” such as dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose and sucrose
Here’s another article on 50 names for sugar.
I also think that if you’re trying to cut sugar from your diet, replacing it with sweeteners only adds to your sweet addiction.
Personally, I believe it’s better to wean yourself from liking the taste of super sweet foods, by gradually reducing your consumption, rather than replacing with something equally as, if not more, sweet.
Here are some of the artificial sweeteners and a few of their brand names to look out for:
- Saccharin — Sweet ‘N Low
- Stevia — Truvia
- Acesulfame Potassium — Sweet One
- Aspartame — Equal
- Sucralose — Splenda
- Sugar alcohols — sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol
As I said above, it’s better to try to kick your sweet addiction.
But, if you really must have something sweet perhaps agave nectar would be an option (I’d say avoid eating in excess as we’re unsure yet if it has any specific health effects). Another option is brown rice syrup or unsweetened applesauce, where suitable.
Do you try to avoid sugar? What advice would you give for those seeking healthy sugar options?