I am a sugar addict! Seriously. Give me chocolate and I will love you forever. I really don’t care for chips, or breads or cheeses…but get me around brownies, cookies, chocolate…and I have a hard time containing myself. I seem to have it under control right now, and thankfully I have learned enough to reel it in when I need to. I thought I would share some information that I found to help you understand WHY and HOW you should reduce your daily sugar intake.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) advises adults who eat a 2,000-calorie diet to limit sugar intake to about 40 grams (10 teaspoons) of added sugar peris no definitive answer to the question, but 40 grams is the recommended amount for non-diabetic people. This refers to added sugar, which is anything that is put into foods, not the natural sugar occurring in things like fruit. A teenager who follows a healthy diet can have about 18 teaspoons of added sugars, according to USDA. (The average sugar intake of a typical teenager is about 34 teaspoons of sugar per day.)
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends slightly different levels and breaks it down a bit more:
- Recommended Daily Sugar Intake for Men: 36 grams or 9 teaspoons
- Recommended Daily Sugar Intake for Women: 20 grams or 5 teaspoons
- Recommended Daily Sugar Intake for Children: 12 grams or 3 teaspoons
So, the USDA tells us our LIMIT and the AHA tells us the amount they recommend for optimal health. Make sense?
High Sugar Foods
Using 40 grams as the Daily Value for added sugars might reveal how much sugar per day is ideal for our body. For example, a cup of regular ice cream contains 60 percent of the proposed Daily Value for sugar, a typical cup of fruit-flavored yogurt contains 70 percent, and a 12-ounce soft drink or quarter-cup of pancake syrup contains 100 percent.
High Sugar Diets and Obesity
High sugar diets, or high glycemic index diets, can cause obesity and a host of other diseases and ailments. If you eat a high glycemic food it triggers a rapid rise in blood sugar levels, the pancreas is over-stimulated and releases large amount of insulin. Result? This large quantity of insulin rapidly hooks on to the excess sugar in our bloodstream, causing our blood sugar levels to dip quickly below normal, which makes us feel hungry once more. The never ending cycle. See the problem here?
**Want some good documentaries to watch with the whole family? They will REALLY open your eyes to the problems we have as a sugar addicted society. We have watched these during some of our family movie nights and wow. You can find both Sugar Coated and Fed Up on Netflix.
Why is the amount of a daily sugar intake important?Sufficient daily sugar intake will ensure that our body functions properly. However, if you are like most people, you are most probably having more than what you should each day. High sugar intake will therefore lead to consequences like low energy and weight gain. In addition, high daily sugar intake will also increase your risk of heart disease by damaging your blood vessels and increasing the level of your cholesterol. Moreover, it may even chip away at your memory and cause an increase in the risk of certain cancers.
Avoid foods such as:
- White bread (includes any bread with white flour in it)
- Pasta, unless whole grain
- White rice
- White flour, and products made with it such as cake, cookies, crackers, pretzels, doughnuts, bagels, and muffins
- Potatoes and potato chips
- Corn and corn chips
- Sugar and products with added sugar, e.g. canned fruits in syrup
- Jams and jellies containing added sugars
- Ripe bananas (green OK)
- Salad dressings and sauces with added sugar, such as Teriyaki sauce
- Condiments with added sugar
- Fruit drinks containing added sugar
- Sugar-sweetened soft drinks
- Sugar-cured meats (e.g. ham is often cured with salt and sugar)
Foods with low glycemic index:
- All other vegetables and fruits (see low carb fruit and vegetable lists.)
- Whole grains, such as brown rice and oatmeal
- Whole grain flour
- Products made with 100% whole grain flour (note that “wheat flour” is NOT whole grain – it has to say WHOLE wheat), as long as they have no added sugars
- Sweet potatoes
- Lean meats (remove skin from poultry, trim lean cuts of beef, pork, and lamb) Nothing sugar-cured. (Low saturated fat meat list)
- Fish and seafood (not breaded)
- Nuts and nut butters
- Flax Seeds
- Olive and canola oils
- Low fat milk and other dairy products such as unsweetened almond milk, cashew or rice milk
How to decrease your sugar intake to a healthy level?
- Cold Turkey. You could go cold turkey. Some people can, and don’t mind the withdrawal symptoms. I prefer to go cold turkey, since I know as soon as I add chocolate back in- it’s hard to stop. When going cold turkey, expect to feel ill for the first few days, headaches, mood changes, nausea.
- Cut Back slowly. Can’t go cold turkey? Instead, if you normally have two candy bars a day, cut to one a day. Then next week, one every other day. The following week, one every three days, until you’re down to just one a week. If you normally take 2 teaspoons of sugar in your coffee, use the same routine, cutting down to 1 1/2 teaspoons for a week, then 1, then 1/2. Eventually, get to the point where you’re drinking your coffee black. The more sugar you eat, the more you’ll crave.
- Grant yourself a daily sugar “quota,” and use it on foods where it matters most. For most of us, that means desserts. I used to buy special dark, expensive chocolates and would allow myself one per day. I looked forward to my little treat. Don’t waste it on dressings, spreads, breakfast cereals, and soda.
- Instead of drinking sugary-sweet drinks like lemonade, make your own “sun tea.” Steep decaffeinated tea bags in water and set the pitcher in the sun for a couple of hours. Add lemon, lots of ice and enjoy the natural flavor of the tea.
- Remember these words used for sugar found on ingredient lists.
- Look for hidden sources of sugar. Cough syrups, chewing gum, mints, tomato sauce, baked beans, and lunch meats often contain sugar. Even some prescription medications contain sugar. For a week, be particularly vigilant and scan every possible food label. You likely won’t forget what you’ll find.
- Choose the right breakfast cereal. Many of them are loaded with sugar. You want one with less than 8 grams sugar per serving or, preferably, unsweetened altogether (steel-cut oatmeal). Use diced fruit to sweeten your cereal. Stevia is a natural alternative if you really need to sweeten.
- Shakeology is amazing for curbing those sugar cravings! One of my vices for sugar cravings is Shakeology. I tend to crave sweetness in the evenings so lately I have been saving my shakes for the evening when I need something sweet! It has been doing wonders for me. I mix it with water or almond milk, ice, some peanut butter and a scoop of chocolate Shakeology! Plus its’ low glycemic index and doesn’t cause a spike in your blood sugar! It curbs my sugar cravings for sure! Love it!! You should give it a try if you struggle with cravings!