Most people are eating a lot more sugar than they realize. Added sugar is concealed in nearly 70 percent of packaged foods as well as in bread, snacks, yogurts, sauces among others. The average American consumes about 17 teaspoons of added sugar a day, that’s without counting the naturally occurring sugar in foods like fruit and dairy products. The recommended limit for men is nin teaspoons while for women it’s six teaspoons. For children, the limit should be about three teaspoons and no more than six, all depending on age and caloric factors. Limiting added sugars doesn’t mean dieting or depriving yourself of good food. Actually, when you cut back on the foods with added sugar, you’ll replace them with better tasting foods. Don’t worry, it doesn’t mean you can’t have dessert either.
Regardless of your weight, you can benefit from reducing sugar from your diet. It’s a concern about metabolic health, not just obesity. Sugar turns on the aging process in your body. The more sugar you eat, the faster you age. Eating high amounts of sugar can double the risk of heart disease, even for people who aren’t overweight. People who are normal-weight can suffer the same problems associated with too much sugar. There’s the implication of an increased risk for Type 2 diabetes, stroke, cancer and even Alzheimer’s. Too much sugar can also damage your liver, similar to the way alcohol does.
Fruit vs. Fructose
The counter-argument promoted by the sugar industry is the debate between fruit versus fructose. The difference is when you eat a strawberry or another fruit, you are eating fructose in its natural state which comes with several micronutrients and fiber that slows absorption and the rate in which the sugar enters the bloodstream. The fructose found in processed foods and drinks, however, is concentrated from corn, beets and sugar cane with all the nutrients and fiber removed. Without the fiber to slow down the process, your body gets a heavy dose of fructose that isn’t considered natural.
The purpose of the 7-day sugar challenge is to gradually adopt new habits that are beneficial to your health. The challenge will deliver new strategies every day to help cut added sugar. Cutting sugar from breakfast is a good first step, as it’s usually the sweetest meal. Reducing sugary beverages and consuming whole foods instead of packaged foods really makes a difference in sugar intake as well. If craving dessert, go for a bowl of fruit instead of a bowl of ice cream and cake. When grocery shopping, read the labels and recognize the sugar in disguise: “brown sugar,” “beet sugar,” “agave nectar,” and “honey.”
While the challenge will take some self-control, especially the first few days of cutting sugar once the cravings kick in, the more determined and self-control the easier the process will be and the cravings will eventually fade. Just 10 days into cutting down on added sugar, your metabolism will be able to tell the difference through improvement in blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar.