This page offers ideas on how to reduce your added sugar intake over a specific time period, in this case it was 40-days to coincide with the Season of Lent. Upon completion of #nosugar40, the craving for added sugar will be reduced and improved eating habits “cemented” into a new lifestyle. One of the most important take aways from this challenge was the need of a good nutritional tool to help, in my case it was the use of an app called MyFitnessPal.
The average American consumes too much added sugar on a daily basis. Americans currently eat about 76 pounds of different forms of sugars every year. Even though we have seen a 15% decrease in added sugar consumption since 1999, according to government data, the typical person still eats about 94 grams (or 375 calories) on a daily basis (U.S. Department of Agriculture). Some publications have reported added sugar should make up less than 10% of your total daily caloric intake while other reports say that’s wrong and it should be more like 5% – which I agree with. In that line of thinking, I believe there is value in putting yourself on what I like to call an added sugar budget.
The goal for men is to consume no more than 150 calories a day (38 grams) of added sugar while women should have a goal of 100 calories a day (25 grams). To clarify, you should limit your added sugars not natural sugars. Added sugars can “hide” in more than 60 different forms (see infographic below) and it’s hidden in just about everything, from tomato paste, to yogurt to (sadly) sports drinks like Gatorade (i.e. HFCS). Your best bet is to avoid it altogether when it comes in a bag, out of a can, in a box or from a carton. Your first step is to start reading all food labels. Natural sugars, like those that come from fruit, contain fructose, but are packed with plenty of fiber, have an abundance of nutrients and contain lots of water, so it gets released slowly into your bloodstream. As a result, your blood sugar level does not spike as it would with foods with a high sugar content. The net result, your body avoids a big release of insulin from the pancreas. Here are some tips that you can try to help decrease your added sugar on a daily basis and more importantly, help keep it in under check long-term.
- First step, you will never be able to manage something if you don’t measure it – so with that said, determine your % body fat, jump on a scale and record your body weight, maybe take a waist circumference or a hip measurement (see WHR). You now have a starting point and this will help to motivate you when in a few weeks you take one or all of these measurements again and look at the delta. Remember, you don’t “own it” until you write it down.
- Now that your measurements have been recorded, it’s time to put yourself on a strict daily sugar budget. Get to know all about food labels, read everything. Think of yourself as an athlete, if it can’t help with improving your performance, don’t eat it. Avoid everything that comes out of a bag, box, carton or can. Do some research on the types of added sugars that are contained in drinks and food.
- You’re now a week into following this new sugar budget of yours. Think about how added sugar has found its way into your diet the last few days. Now you need to tighten things up on that front. You should be recording the number of grams of added sugar your eating with all meals/snacks. If you feel more hungry than usual or craving sweets, it’s your body’s way of telling you what you’re currently eating is not filling you. Try eating more protein and drinking more H2O, this should help keep you satiated between meals.
- Don’t beat up yourself if you end up having a bad meal just get back on track with the next snack or meal. If, for example, you have a couple of slices of (plain) pizza – you now know it has about 4 grams/sugar/slice. Avoid it next time. It is very easy to accumulate 100+ grams of added sugar over the course of a day without even realizing it. Become more cognizant of what you’re putting into your body. Educate yourself, when you eat something, like pizza, go online and find out the amount of added sugar it contains.
- Use technology to help bridge the gap between you and weight-loss. Having access to certain apps like MyFitnessPal, LoseIt and Fooducate, three of my favorites, will not only motivate you to do better each day but it enables you to have a better picture of how healthy your nutritional intake really is. Keeping track of things like your added sugar helps keeps your eye on the prize and keeps it top of mind. You need to be more aware of the types of foods you’re eating and slowly begin to change things by cutting back on things like added sugar. You need to “own” your health because no one else is going to.
- After using an app like MyFitnessPal for a few days you begin to realize just how much added sugar can seep into your diet. Its very easy to take in 100+ grams/added sugar/day. Some reports have stated that it’s not unusual for adults to typically consume a cup or more (about 774 calories) of sugar a day. Think twice about downing that can of lemonade or super-sized Coke. You will not begin to get this under control until you first own it by recording it for a few days or a week.
- I read a good review this week comparing two nutrition apps that I have previously mentioned, LoseIt and MyFitnessPal. For the full story, originally published on Lifehacker.com click here. You need to hold yourself accountable when it comes to recording your daily food intake. These particular apps will give you great insight into your current eating mindset.
- Dr. Robert Lustig, author of Fat Chance, and his colleagues have shown, through their research, that every additional 150 calories of added sugar consumed above daily requirements, was associated with a 1.1 percent increase risk of type 2 diabetes.
- Cutting back on added sugar will help have a positive impact on not only your waistline but on the health and function of your muscles, nerves, brain, eyes, liver, heart, kidneys, and intestines.
- One study showed subjects who got 17-21% of their calories from added sugar had a 38% risk of dying from cardiovascular disease compared to those who consumed 8% of their calories from added sugar. The risk was more than double for those who consumed 21% or more of their calories from added sugar (D’Adamo, 2015).
- The fact is that a brain hijacked by a diet high in sugar and flour blocks weight loss. It does this in three ways: (1) sugar and flour raise baseline insulin levels far past what our bodies were designed to handle. The elevated insulin not only sets us up for diabetes, but it turns out its blocking the brain from recognizing a critical hormone: leptin. (2) after eating the average American amount of sugar for just three weeks, 22 teaspoons, the brain’s pleasure receptors do something called “down-regulating.” Essentially, to cope with the excessive stimulation, the brain takes some of its receptors offline. (3) willpower isn’t a dimension of your personality, something some people are born with and others simply lack. Willpower is a cognitive function and we all have about the same amount, fifteen minutes, give or take. Meaning any successful diet MUST expect that your willpower will fail AT LEAST once a day and work anyway (source: Susan Pierce Thompson, PhD).
- “Fat (in our diet) is not the problem,” says Dr. Walter Willett, chairman of the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health. “If Americans could eliminate sugary beverages, potatoes, white bread, pasta, white rice and sugary snacks, we would wipe out almost all the problems we have with weight and diabetes and other metabolic diseases.” Research from Harvard University published in the New England Journal of Medicine followed subjects over a twenty year period and determined that the food most often associated with weight gain was you guessed it, white potatoes (NEJM, 2011).
- “Overconsumption of added sugars has long been associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD).” However, under the old paradigm, it was assumed to be a marker for unhealthy diet or obesity. The new paradigm views sugar overconsumption as an independent risk factor in CVD as well as many other chronic diseases, including diabetes mellitus, liver cirrhosis, and dementia which are all linked to metabolic uneasiness involving dyslipidemia, hypertension, and insulin resistance.
- Take from Laura Schmidt’s invited commentary in JAMA (174 (4), April 2014), titled New Unsweetened Truths About Sugar. “In contrast to sodium, Trans fats, and other dietary additives used to increase the palatability and shelf life of processed foods, the U.S. government provides no dietary limit for added sugar.”
- What should keep you motivated along the way, in addition to your new waistline, is the fact that you set out and completed a short-term goal that will ultimately have many positive effects on your overall health. Continue to use the tools that helped you get started.
- Congratulations on completing the first step of the #nosugar40 challenge. You probably had some ups and downs over the course of the last month and a half. Remember that this habit is now beginning to take hold. It will always be a challenge for some, a continuing battle for others, when it comes to trying to reduce then control the amount of added sugar one consumes on a daily basis. Continue to work the plan.
Thompson SP (2017). There Is A Reason You Can’t Lose Weight
D’Adamo P.J (2015). The Many Consequences of Sugar Imbalance
Rourke M (2016). Just How Much Sugar do Americans Consume? It’s complicated
Kowitt B (2017). The Hunt for the Perfect Sugar
Mozaffarian, D, Hao T, Rimm EB, Willett WC, and Hu FB, (2011). Changes in Diet and Lifestyle and Long-Term Weight Gain in Women and Men, New England J Med; 364:2392-2404.
Marni Jameson, (2010). A Reversal on Carbs. Los Angeles Times, December.
Watts G. (2013). Sugar and the Heart: Old Ideas Revisited. BMJ. 346(7891):e7800. doi:10.1136 /bmj.e7800.
Caprio S. (2012). Calories from Soft Drinks—Do They Matter? N Engl J Med. 367(15):1462-1463.
Lustig RH, Schmidt LA, Brindis CD. (2012). The Toxic Truth About Sugar. Nature. 482(7383):27-29.
Schmidt LA. (2014). New Unsweetened Truths About Sugar. JAMA Internal Medicine, 174(4): 525-526.
Pomeranz JL. (2012). The Bittersweet Truth About Sugar Labeling Regulations: They are Achievable and Overdue, Am J Pub Health, 102(7).
Shanahan C (2017). Deep Nutrition (2nd Ed.)
Taubes G (2016). The Case Against Sugar
Fitzgerald M (2015). Diet Cults
Ludwig D (2016). Always Hungry?
Freedhoff Y (2014). The Diet Fix
Duffy W (1986). Sugar Blues
Lustig, R (2012). Fat Chance