Minimizing refined sugar intake is an essential part of the journey on the road to health.
In this post, I share how I have done it. I am calling it a “curse” for two reasons.
One, sugar is very addictive, more so than nicotine and cocaine. And two, because in the United States, sugar is in nearly everything people eat, it’s omnipresence is like a curse that was placed upon us.
When I decided to change my diet, I knew that kicking a lifelong sugar habit wouldn’t be easy, but I was ready to take on the challenge.
First, I needed a baseline. For a few days, I documented the amount of sugar I took in with the help of nutrition labels. For the first time, I actually looked at how much sugar I was eating.
I did this for four days, then took an average, which came to 135 grams. The average daily consumption in the US is 126 grams.
The average of the three is over 124, so I find the 126 figure believable. Germany is second with 102 grams. India is the lowest with only 5 grams.
The recommended daily maximum is 36 grams for men and 24 grams for women. One sugar cube contains 4 grams of sugar.
A can of soda has 39 grams of sugar, a 20 oz. size has 65 grams and a 44 oz. Big Gulp contains 128!! grams of added sugar..
The sugar in question is the processed, or refined sugar that is added to food.
Processed sugar is linked to obesity, high blood pressure, headaches, diabetes, heart disease, stiffening of the arteries and cancer.
It increases inflammation in the body. More on that here: Inflammation: The Silent Killer.
In the 1970’s, the FDA was doing research whether sugar was even safe to eat.
But then, “Big Sugar” started a campaign using “Big Tobacco” like tactics, to discredit the information on the harmful effect processed sugar has on health.
They were largely successful, through the 80’s there was little research done on sugar.
They also managed to sneak their product in almost every food item, since it’s addictive, that increases consumption.
Even today, there is misinformation released to the public. This article is an example.
It claims that all sugars are the same, whether it comes from brown sugar, white sugar, or honey.
Brown sugar and white sugar are the same processed form of sugar, but sugar in honey is in a natural form and is not unhealthy.
In fact, honey has been used as food and medicine since ancient times and there is a long list of benefits associated with it.
The assertion that all sugar is the same, based on the fact that the body converts sugar into glucose. That may be true but it doesn’t mean all foods have the same effect on the body.
Fruits and vegetables contain plenty of sugar.
If all sugars were the same, eating cookies wouldn’t be much different, than eating fruits and vegetables. Obviously there is a big difference.
The expert quoted in the article also claims that sugar is not addictive and there is no such thing as a sugar rush. Really?
Scientists who put out this information are likely funded by the sugar companies. Looks like Big Sugar is alive and well.
About half of my sugar intake was in sugary foods, like pastries. I stopped eating those. Four days later, my mind somehow became more clear.
Processed sugar is a Neurotoxin. That literally means poison for the nerves. It has a huge effect on the brain. It blocks the neurons from firing. The nervous system controls everything in the body.
At that point, I only reduced my sugar intake by 50%, but there were already sings of change.
Another thing I noticed, it became easier for me to speak. At times when I’d try to speak, the words just would come out. This had been happening for quite a long time in my life.
Once I started to break my sugar habit, this also changed and to me it was another proof of sugar’s impact on the nervous system.
I was also becoming more relaxed. That was likely the result of giving up an addiction. The sugar habit may not be as bad as narcotics, but it is an addiction. Every couple of hours one needs a sugar fix. That creates anxiety and without the need for a fix, we feel more calm and peaceful.
The other 50% of my sugar intake was in protein bars, yogurt, oatmeal, cereal and bread.
For the first time I looked at my protein bars sugar content. There is so much sugar in them, they should be called sugar bars.
As my daily consumption dropped to about 30 grams – a 75% reduction -, I started losing weight.
I didn’t need to, but this was a natural consequence of reduced sugar intake. It was proof positive that processed sugar changes metabolism. I ate the same volume of food as before, yet I was losing weight.
My daily energy need is 2300 calories. That is calculated on the basis of age, sex, body weight and activity level.
You might get different results on various sites, I took an average of 4 calculators.
I consume at least 2800 calories per day, that is 25% more, than the suggested amount, yet I am not gaining weight.
I attribute this to the lack of refined sugars and processed foods in my diet.
About 4 weeks into it, I managed to lower my sugar intake to 6 grams per day. That is basically the amount of added sugar in a bagel.
My blood pressure had been too high for at least 20 years.
I went for a test and found that it normalized. This was proof that high blood pressure was caused by sugar intake.
I eat plenty of honey and dried fruit, that are high in sugar, yet my blood pressure remains at a normal level. Which shows that sugar in a natural form doesn’t affect the body the same way.
Another advantage of reduced sugar intake is healthier teeth. It is known for damaging tooth enamel.
As time went by, the list of benefits just kept growing.
One thing that helps breaking a habit is, replacing it with another.
That’s why one of my strategies going into this was to find healthy alternatives and that wasn’t easy.
I was disappointed to see that even organic foods had added sugar in them.
I looked at nutrition labels on dozens of boxes of cereals and not one was without added sugar. Only difference is, the organic ones give it fancy names, like “organic cane sugar”, “evaporated cane sugar”, or “evaporated cane juice crystals”.
The organic ones might be marginally better if they were made from organic sugar cane, but the end product is identical. The same goes for “raw sugar”. It is simply a less processed version of white sugar.
High fructose corn syrup, or HFCS is perhaps the most commonly used sweetener, it basically the same as table sugar. It’s made from GMO corn, that’s another reason to stay away from it.
Sugar is a master of disguise!
Brown rice syrup, brown rice syrup solids, corn syrup, cane syrup, dextrose, maltodextrin are all sugars in different forms, under various names.
As if adding sugar to everything wasn’t bad enough, when you look at nutrition labels, you’ll see it added in several different forms, even in organic foods.
Trail mix replaced protein bars, as my snack food.
Still not easy to get rid of the stuff, the majority of trail mixes have chocolate and added sugar. It makes no sense, dried fruits in trail mix are very sweet in themselves.
Out of five trail mixes at the bulk section of the local grocery store, only one didn’t have chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, or added sugar.
If the trail mix has cranberries, there is always sugar added. I tried to purchase dried cranberries separately to avoid sugar. The local natural food store had three different brand of dried cranberries, all three have added sugar.
The bulk section of the other store has two kinds of dried cranberries. One with sugar, the other with no sugar added. The one with sugar costs $5 per pound, the other without it costs $13 per pound, nearly 3 times as much!!
Isn’t adding something to a product require additional resources? The one without any sugar ought to cost less.
Is the label “sugar curse” starting to make sense? The system is set up to get people addicted.
Cooking for yourself is a the best way to go, it gives control over what goes into the dish.
I am planning on baking my own bread. The first bread recipe I looked at calls for sugar. It’s absolutely unnecessary. People seem to be brainwashed to think it is.
I currently consume about 25 grams of processed sugar daily, there are a few grams in bread and a pastry that’s low on sugar.