For a lot of people, there seems to be a deeply rooted, universal resistance to quitting sugar.
Firstly, you’re biologically tuned to seek out sweet things because in nature, the only truly sweet foods are fruit and honey, which are seasonal and hard to find but also packed with important nutrients and vitamins, so your body is hardwired to crave them.
But these days sugar is everywhere, and not just the nutritious kind. Ice cream, sugar in salad dressing, and high fructose corn syrup are just a few examples found in various food and drinks.
So many of us also grow up emotionally and physically attached to sweet foods, from the moment we’re given our first glass of orange juice as a child, or take home our first bag of jelly snakes from a friend's birthday party.
If you feel tangible fear at the thought of not being able to turn to something sweet when you're feeling low, tired or bored, or as a way to celebrate a victory or milestone, you're not alone - it's something a lot of people really hold on to.
But if giving up your sweet treat ‘reward’ trigger means you may be rewarded with a clear mind, lean body, increased focus and more stable emotions, instead of a few seconds of something sweet in your mouth, isn't it worth a go?
Quitting sugar can have several benefits, including reducing the risk of heart disease, eliminating sugar cravings, and potentially leading to weight loss. Some people turn to artificial sweeteners as a way to satisfy their sweet tooth without the gram of sugar and its associated side effects on blood sugar levels. However, it's important to be mindful of the potential health impacts of artificial sweeteners as well.
Give me the hard facts! Why should I eat less sugar?
Sugar isn’t necessarily Dr Evil, your body needs it to survive and generate energy, but that doesn’t mean you need lollies, biscuits and cake to survive ;)
A lot of really healthy, natural foods are broken down into sugar in the body, including vegetables and fruits, complex carbohydrates and sometimes even proteins, a process which happens slowly and gives your body time to use the energy as it’s breaking it down.
The issue with refined sugars and processed carbohydrates is they provide a pretty extreme amount of energy that is rapidly delivered to the body, and any time you’ve filled your body with more fuel than it needs, excess fat storage occurs.
That’s not so bad every now and again but if you’re consistently swallowing sugary treats, your body will consistently be storing fat and never burning it, which not only sabotages your body goals but can increase inflammation in your body and make you feel fatigued, which encourages more sugar cravings as you try and ‘pick yourself back up’.
And it’s not just body shape can be affected by a sugar-rich diet. Your appetite hormones can become confused, your heart disease risk goes up, energy levels and the ability to focus and be productive take a dive, while mood swings are more common and PMS more intense.
To break free from the cycle of sugar dependence, many people turn to sugar-free alternatives or reduce sugar from their diet. This can help regulate blood sugar levels and reduce the weight gain associated with excessive sweet stuff consumption. However, it's essential to be mindful of the side effects of sugar substitutes and the presence of hidden sugars in various food and drinks, such as ice cream, salad dressing, and high fructose corn syrup.
So how much sugar is too much sugar?
According to national guidelines, this is what you need to know:
- Daily sugar recommendations are based on “free sugars”, which include added sugars, those found in refined sugars and processed foods, but also natural sugars found in things like honey, agave and other syrups, as well as fruit juices and concentrates. Not included are the sugars found in milk (called lactose) or vegetables and whole fruits.
- Women should have no more than 6 teaspoons of free sugars (about 25g) per day. Men can have up to 9 teaspoons (around 35g) and for children the general recommendation changes depending on their age but ranges between 3 and 7 teaspoons (12-28g).
Pro Tip: One teaspoon of sugar is roughly 4 grams.
How to read nutrition panels
Learning to decode nutrition information for any packaged food product is critical. Here’s your guide to getting it right when it comes to sugar…
Read the per 100g column, not the per serving column
This is because the serving column is determined by the manufacturer and is therefore not consistent. For example, many cereals reference a 30g serving size which is ridiculously small when you measure it out
Check the sugar content
Low sugar products like all our products have 5g sugar or less per 100g, medium is 6-10g, 11-15g is getting up there and 16g+ is very high sugar.
Do total carbs matter?
That depends on your goals. My opinion is that as long as you’re eating good quality, slow release carbs, it’s all good! But if your health professional has put you on a low carbohydrate eating plan, you’d want to aim for products with between 0-20g of carbs per 100g.
Don’t be fooled by ‘Low Fat’ products
The full fat, less tampered with products usually contain less sugar and more nutrients. They also help with feelings of fullness and help to regular your appetite.
Follow Libby on Instagram