Did you know that the average American eats about 130 pounds of sugar per year or approximately 42 teaspoons every day?!
We are bombarded everyday with the latest, greatest nutrition information and it seems like there’s always a new superfood, today dark chocolate is good for you, tomorrow it’s bad for you, same goes for a glass of wine, etc. Education is one thing, trends and catchy headlines are another. So, let’s stop listening to all the hype about the next greatest diet plan, what’s good for you today and bad tomorrow and get to the nitty gritty (sorry but there’s no easy answer to this one). Let’s simplify it!
My philosophy on nutrition has 2 parts.
- No two people are created the same so what may work great for me, may not work for you. The best thing you can do is to look at your parents and siblings since this is your closest genetic match and chances are you may have similar dietary needs, allergies, and intolerance’s. For example, maybe your body hates gluten and dairy. Ok, well the first part is to acknowledge and accept that fact (which is hard trust me) and the second is to slowly start changing your daily routine or recipes to make your life easier. And yes I have tossed out every recipe that I can’t modify to fit my dietary guidelines and rarely buy any dairy or anything with gluten (much to Mike’s dismay since he can still have both). I have found alternatives, ghee, almond milk, coconut yogurt, gluten free wraps, etc. This took time and effort and yes I’ve slipped up a few times, on accident and because I chose too, however, I know the consequences and I hate them, so I have made the choice to feel good and rarely eat either anymore. We are all unique so the best thing sometimes is trial and error or an elimination diet to see what your body can handle and what it can’t.
- The second part of my philosophy is about balance and basics. We have a very hard time in society today remembering the basics of nutrition. Life is busy and crazy and it’s easier to grab packaged and prepared foods, I understand that as well. No matter what you find works for you, nutrition (and life are about a healthy balance). No one is perfect, so don’t stress out that change has to be sudden and dramatic. I eat out more than I would like because I just am not home to cook, I hate it, but I’m making an effort to plan and change that (moving back to OC). Now if we think back to even the early 1900’s we didn’t have microwaves, restaurants on every single corner, and massive grocery stores with packaged foods. Remember the basics: fruits, veggies, whole grains, proteins, and water. Unfortunately, there are many conveniences that make life easier for us today, but doesn’t necessarily make us any healthier. There’s no magic answer or superfood that you need to focus on, just think of the basics and start preparing and cooking food at home as much as possible.
So what’s the new information about sugar??
This isn’t a trend, but actual revisions made by the World Health Organization and FDA regarding sugar. My mom brought me the Nutrition News newsletter from Mothers Market that had a very interesting article on sugar and the new FDA and WHO guidelines. What’s in sugar that your body needs? Absolutely nothing, that’s why they are called empty calories. It’s true we need sugar to survive (sugar is converted into blood glucose), but that sugar is obtained from fruits and veggies that we ingest (hopefully) daily, not from added sugars.
I want to clarify a few things about sugar. First, it’s true there are naturally occurring sugars in many fruits and veggies. Some are higher that others and if you’ve heard of the glycemic index, which has a low, medium and high category, this will give you an idea of how much natural sugar is in each type of fruit and veggie. This is the kind of sugar we do need to survive. Then, we have added sugars and sugar substitutes. Added sugars are anything that is added to a product during manufacturing. Here’s a handy chart. This could be a fake sugar such as splenda, aspartame or xylitol or it could be a natural sugar such as honey, maple syrup and agave nectar. I’ve heard a million different things about sugar and my personal philosophy is that I try to limit the amount of added sugar as possible and refuse to eat fake sugar of any kind. If I use any type of sugar when I cook I will only use a natural sugar, honey and maple syrup are my go to for baking. When I eat out that’s another story and it’s almost impossible to stay away from sugar, so another reason why I try to cook and eat at home.
So what are the new guidelines, you ask? Well, here they are per the World Health Organization (WHO)
They have slashed the previous recommended daily intake from 10% of your total calories to 5%, so cutting your sugar intake in half!
For a normal adult that would be about 6 teaspoons or 25 grams per day. This is in line with what the American Heart Association’s guidelines have been at for awhile. Although, they do say men can do up to 9 teaspoons per day. Now I challenge you for one day track the amount of sugar you eat throughout the day and see where you’re at. Most of us would be way over the recommended amount, but sometimes it’s a good reality check and encourages us to take steps to change our habits.
Now what’s the FDA doing about this to help us know what we’re ingesting? Well they are proposing to change all nutrition labels to add a sub category under “sugars” called “added sugars”, so that we can make a quicker and easier decision about the food we are about to purchase. So those 25 grams of sugar per day should mostly be coming from natural sugars in our fruits and vegetables, not from added sugars.
If you need some guidance on how many sugars are in your food try one of the many websites or apps that allows you to log your food. If you’re not sure ask Kim or myself which one to use. Note that when you enter your information it will suggest somewhere around 40 grams of sugar per day as a goal. Track your sugar intake for that one day so you have a starting point and can see where it’s coming from in your diet. Then, start working on cutting it back to 25 grams or less. Long term change and adherence takes time so don’t expect this change to be easy or for you to be perfect, however remember that it’s about creating new habits and in time with some perseverance you will make a lasting change and will feel better because of it!
A diet high in sugar increases your risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, weight gain and other obesity related health issues. Sugar also creates inflammation in the body and allows a whole host of infections, bacteria and cancer to flourish because it feeds off the weakened and damaged cells in the body caused by the inflammation.
By the way did you know that your sense of taste will change after 2-3 weeks? So give it a few weeks with less sugar and you will notice that you don’t crave it and eventually a pastry or piece of candy will taste way too sweet to you.
No one has ever said they felt worse by cutting back on sugar, so what are you waiting for?
Want to read more?
This article was just posted on The Gaurdian and is extremely insightful. It’s a long read but very educational and informative.