Are you a “sugar mama”? Do you get a sugar “high” from your food and drink? Is it difficult for you to go without some form of sugar for even a day? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you may need to drastically curb your sugar consumption to escape the “sugar blues” and live a healthier and happier life.
So, you ask, what are the “sugar blues”? The definition given by William Dufty, the author of the classic book of the same name, is that “sugar blues” consists of “multiple physical and mental miseries caused by human consumption of refined sucrose, commonly called sugar.” Symptoms include:
- Belly fat
- Brain fog
- Hungry right after eating
- Tired a lot
- Afternoon slump
- Uneven blood sugar
- Stiffness in joints
- Metabolic syndrome (a group of risk factors for chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and liver disease and that are directly related to the overconsumption of added sugars)
Do you see yourself in any of these symptoms? If so, read on!
Sugar consumption facts to remember
- A key equation to keep in mind is that 4 grams of sugar is equal to one teaspoon of sugar.
- Human bodies are designed to eat only about four to six teaspoons of sugar a day. Most of us, however, can easily get four times that amount at breakfast alone.
- The USDA currently recommends that we consume no more than 10 teaspoons of sugar per day, yet most Americans eat about one pound or 30 teaspoons of sugar per day. That’s three times the liberal recommended daily value.
- The average American now consumes about 150 pounds of sugar and sweeteners per year. In contrast, Americans consume an average of about 8 pounds of broccoli per year.
- Nearly 70% of Americans and 1.5 billion people worldwide are overweight. More than a third of adults in this country are obese, and one in 11 has diabetes. Excessive sugar consumption is a major factor in this health crisis.
Why it’s important to cut sugar consumption
- Sugar leads to obesity, the dreaded and dangerous belly fat, and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Obesity (not just being overweight) has risen from 9% to 36% of the population since 1960. It’s projected to hit 50% by 2050.
- Sugar has a uniquely negative effect on the body, in that it causes the liver to accumulate fat and prompts the body to pump out insulin.
- Sugar creates an acidic state in the body. It ages the body; suppresses the immune system (so we’re more susceptible to flu, colds, and infections); causes wrinkles and hair loss; and can spike your blood sugar level.
- Sugar enters swiftly into the bloodstream and wreaks havoc on your blood sugar level, first pushing it sky-high—causing excitability, nervous tension, and hyperactivity—and then dropping it extremely low—causing fatigue, depression, weariness, and exhaustion. We often don’t realize the emotional roller-coaster ride that accompanies this process.
12 ways to cut sugar consumption
So, how do we get our sugar consumption under control? Here are 12 proven methods that can get you on track to a sugar-lite, if not sugar-free, life.
- Meet real sugar needs legitimately. Choose sweet vegetables (carrots, sweet potatoes, beets); low-sugar fruit (berries, plums, apples, pears) and healthy sweeteners (stevia, organic maple syrup, and monk fruit).
- Eat real food rather than processed or junk food. Even a nutrition bar that boasts “no added sugar” can be full of dried fruit, which is up to 70 percent sugar. Similarly, fat-free or low-fat packaged snack foods contain high quantities of sugar to compensate for lack of flavor and fat. Don’t be fooled!
- Read food labels (remember our 6 teaspoon daily limit) and select foods that are low in sugar. For example, most breads (even whole wheat and multigrain!) are high in sugar. High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is abundant and cheap and is added to many food products. It is toxic to the body. Look for it on labels and cut it out!
- Introduce more healthy fats, such as nuts and seeds, avocados, guacamole, as well as healthy animal protein like lean organic turkey or chicken and wild caught fish.
- Alkalize your body through food! Choose to eat more spinach, broccoli, avocados, carrots, garlic, and apples.
- Reduce or eliminate caffeine. Caffeine creates a roller coaster of ups and downs, including blood sugar swings and dehydration. This can cause you to crave something sweet to level off those swings.
- Stop drinking fruit juice. A glass of juice can often contain as much sugar as a can of Coke.
- Avoid low-fat products. The makers of low-fat processed foods typically replace the fat with sugar, so an individual container of plain, natural low-fat yogurt can contain up to six teaspoons of sugar. Go for full-fat instead—you’ll eat less overall, and your body won’t have all of that excess sugar to convert into fat.
- Drink more water. Sweet cravings can be a sign of dehydration. Reach for water or organic green tea instead of a soda. Infuse water with fresh fruit or herbs.
- Get physically active. Simple activities like walking or yoga can help curb sugar cravings. An active lifestyle helps to balance blood sugar levels, boost energy, and reduce tension.
- Get more sleep, rest, and relaxation. When overtired or stressed, you are more likely to reach for something sweet because it’s a quick energy boost. Stay well rested and you won’t be tempted.
- Experiment with spices. Coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and cardamom are tantalizing flavors that will naturally sweeten your foods and thus reduce cravings.
Are you suffering from the “sugar blues”? Which of the 12 suggestions above are most doable for you?