It Starts With Sugar
ByKatarina Meister, ND •November 30, 2022
The holiday season can come with many cherished memories surrounding food, notably sweets! Food is indeed a way for us to connect with loved ones. Food can also be the source of our healing but also what ails us.
Obesity, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes are common comorbidities in our country that are all preventable by lifestyle and food choices. Many of these conditions are also associated with hormonal imbalances, chronic fatigue, low mood, and gut imbalances such as IBS and dysbiosis. This is no surprise. See my post on how insulin resistance plays a key role in PCOS here. Our food has a wide array of impact – it affects your entire body’s physiology and function.
The problem is that our food choices are not simple – they are all nicely packaged to appear a certain way, while the back of the ingredient list may be a mouthful of words you have never heard of before. Sugar is the single most inflammatory ingredient in our packaged and processed foods. Sugar is indeed the root cause of several metabolic diseases, hormone imbalances, and can even leave your gut a mess leading to IBS and dysbiosis in the microbiome.
Sugar not only tastes good, but it elicits brain signals to release opioids and dopamine. These neurochemical changes in the brain also occur with addictive drugs such as opioids. Whenever you see added sugars in foods – don’t think that the food manufacturer doesn’t know what they are doing… They know that when sugar is added their processed foods that there is an increase in demand and thus profit.
Let’s quickly put sugar into perspective. The American Heart Association recommendations for total intake of sugar per day are: 36 grams (9 tsp) for men, and 25 grams (6 tsp) for women. For example, one 12 oz can of soda contains 8 tsp or 32g of added sugar. That is your whole day’s worth of sugar in one slurp! Even many processed “health foods” are filled with sugar.
When we cut sugar, we see an improvement in our energy, mood, gut health, hormone health, and metabolic health. I am not saying that you can’t ever have sugar again… We must have balance! Through education and mindfulness in our food selections we can achieve this balance.
Here are some steps to remove the added sugars easily in your diet:
- Start by reading food labels. Everything from the grams of carbs, fat, protein, sugars to the actual list of what is in each food.
- Avoid anything higher than 1 teaspoon (4 grams) of added sugar per serving.
- Stay away from any ingredient you can’t pronounce!
- Shop the outside of the grocery store – avoiding the inside aisles with packaged, processed foods as much as possible.
- Focus on filling your grocery cart with fruits, vegetables, and proteins first!
- Enjoy sweet treats with less sugar! Ex: 1 square of dark chocolate or make your own low sugar desert – my favorite is dates stuffed with almond butter, and nuts or an apple with nut butters with sugar free chocolate chips. You can also search our website for other delicious treats to make this holiday season.
- Limit alcohol intake to less than 4 drinks a week – and try low sugar options such as vodka with sparkling mineral water topped with lime/lemon or Avaline wine (sugar free, organic, and no artificial ingredients!)
- Check your condiments & dressings! Opt to make your own salad dressing – ex: extra virgin olive oil, and balsamic vinegar, topped with salt and pepper. I like Primal Kitchen brand for mayonnaise, ketchup, and other condiments.
- Avoid sports drinks like liquid IV that contain 12g or more serving! Instead opt for NUUN electrolytes or Ultima electrolyte powder with little to no added sugars
- Avoid synthetic/artificial or low-calorie sugars – these are not natural to the body and can actually increase sugar cravings. Instead opt for monk fruit or stevia as these are natural and plant-based.
Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health practitioners with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.