A couple of weeks ago I got the diet death sentence. As many of you know I have some issues with being hypoglycemic. Lately, I have been having stomach aches and my colon is acting up again. During a recent check-up, I was diagnosed as having a leaky gut . So, my doctor put me on a very restricted diet. I can no longer eat foods with gluten, dairy, corn, peanuts, or processed sugar for a minimum of 3 weeks to 6 months. The hardest part of this diet, believe it or not, is not eating processed sugar, which is dangerous for your health. It is in everything from salad dressing and ketchup to tomato sauce.
The American Heart Association advises that women should have no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar daily (100 calories;) whereas, men should not have more than 9 teaspoons of sugar daily (150 calories.) Unfortunately, the average American eats 22 teaspoons a day.
After reading labels for several weeks, I can see how people over consume sugar.
The Dangers of Sugar:
The Mayo Clinic spells out how damaging overconsumption of sugar can be for your health. Listed below are some reasons to stay clear of the candy machine when you are feeling that afternoon low.
1. Poor Nutrition. Do you drink regular soda? Eat a candy bar every day? If you fill up on sugar laden products, you will be skimping on nutritious foods that contain essential minerals and vitamins.
2. Weight Gain. Yep, the two most dreaded words in anyone’s vocabulary–weight gain. High fructose corn syrup and fructose stimulates appetite, as reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Products such as honey, sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and agave contain high levels of fructose. (Honey contains 50% fructose and agave can contain anywhere from 55 to 90% fructose. On the other hand, sugar contains 50% fructose and high fructose corn syrup contains 55% fructose.)
3. Risk of heart disease. Eating excessive sugar can increase triglyceride levels, which may increase your risk of heart disease.
4. Tooth Decay. The more you snack on foods with added or natural sugar, the more likely you are to have tooth decay especially if you don’t practice good oral hygiene. Chronic exposure to fructose can lead to fatty liver disease and thereafter, insulin resistance and chronic diseases such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes.
Bottom line? Sugar is simply addicting.
Refined Sugar versus Natural Sugars
After being given my sugar walking papers, I was perplexed by my holistic doctor’s recommendation to use Vermont maple syrup if I needed to sweeten food. Pure maple syrup contains 35% fructose. To be honest, I always believe sugar is sugar whether it is from honey or refined sugar. So why would it matter if I used maple syrup versus refined sugar?
Table sugar causes gut issues. A 1991 German study found that
“significant changes of gut transit, of fermentative colonic bacterial activity,and of intestinal bile acids in healthy subjects fed a diet high in refined sugar.”
Moreover, refined table sugar is heavily processed and therefore empty calories. According to Columbia Health, “processed foods containing granulated sugar high in fructose convert to fat stores more easily than honey.”
Quick Note about Agave
What about agave? Agave is one of those products that people either love or hate. It has been hailed a saint in the diet world due to its low glycemic properties. On the other hand, critics state agave is simply like high fructose corn syrup dressed up to look healthy.
Dr. Weil states, “agave has a higher fructose content than any other common sweetener.” In fact, Professor Roger Clemens, a professor at University of Southern California and a spokesman for the Institute of Food Technologists concluded,
“… the agave you can buy ranges from 90% to as little as 55% fructose (similar to high-fructose corn syrup), depending on the processing…”
What Can You Do?
It is easy for me to say make your own foods and ditch the processed foods. I recognize that this can be very difficult if you have a busy lifestyle. During the next couple of months, I will include on Green Talk recipes that I enjoy for those who want to start making their own food. Listed below are some tips on how to avoid added sugar in your products:
- Look at the labels. If you see the following words: “sugar, cane sugar, crystallized evaporated cane juice, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, honey, syrup, molasses, or agave nectar,” the product contained added sugar.
- 4 grams of sugar equal 1 teaspoon of sugar. When you look at labels, look at the amount of sugar per serving size and divide by 4. Follow the sugar golden rule listed above. (Max: 6 teaspoons–women and 9 teaspoons –men)
- Buy organic fruits in season or frozen fruit. (If organic is too expensive for your budget, then at least buy organic fruits and vegetables listed on the dirty dozen plus.) If you can only buy canned fruits, then choose fruit in water rather than syrup.
- Carry nuts, seeds, or air popped popcorn so you don’t reach for the candy bar. I carry almonds in my car to ward off that jittery feeling when I am too hungry for words.
- Say no to soda and drink seltzer water instead. Want a flavored version? Try Stacey’s suggestion of 8 drops of liquid stevia to one glass of seltzer water.
- Columbia Heath suggests to experiment with spices to reduce your need for sugar such as mace,cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, and coriander. Before my diet sentence, I put a teaspoon of vanilla in my plain yogurt to give it flavor. In addition, lemon and cinnamon are the key ingredients in my crockpot no sugar applesauce.
- Stay away from the commercial baked goods. They are high in sugar. Again, read the labels.
- People suffering from irritable bowel should avoid sweeteners with high fructose such as agave and honey. Use of maple syrup is acceptable under the FODMAP diet, a diet for people suffering from irritable bowel syndrome.
The key is moderation.
Join the Conversation:
- What are your tips to avoid sugar?
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