2016-04-28 / Opinions

Guest VIEWpoint

Reducing sugar touches spectrum of your lifestyle

Sheri Lynn Essian Sheri Lynn Essian This column covers a small segment of the large topic of reducing sugar in our daily diet. Talking about this might make you feel indignant, mad, guilty or defeated. For this article, I am speaking from personal experience since our family made dietary changes about a year ago. Please read the following article with an open mind, as it is my hope to move you to action. Also, consult your doctor if you are fighting disease and wish to severely reduce daily sugar intake.

For one day, I recorded my sugar intake. Since I knew I was counting, I really tried to be careful, yet I was dumbfounded at my results. I’ll tell you about that later.

Here’s what I learned about reducing sugar:

I discovered that sugar is everywhere.

Sugar occurs naturally in milk and fresh fruits and vegetables. Plus many products contain added sugars, sugar substitutes or artificial sweeteners, as well. Added sugar is challenging to control because it is in the obvious things like pop and juice, ice cream and cookies. But it is also in less obvious foods such as ketchup, canned soups and crackers. Sugar is added to make products and restaurant prepared dishes taste more appealing, and to make you want more. When dining out or at a potluck, it is impossible to truly know how much sugar you are consuming. So, be on the alert ... sugar is everywhere!

I also discovered that it is difficult to identify added sugars. Added sugars, sugar substitutes and artificial sweeteners each have strong benefits and drawbacks. Unless you are well informed on the ever-changing gamut of sweeteners, you are better off focusing on what you know that does not have sugar (or has very little), like fresh vegetables, meats, whole grains, nuts, seeds, spices and eggs. Reducing sugar means eating what you know does not have sugar to avoid taking in unintended or unidentifiable sugars.

I also discovered that some foods naturally have a high glycemic index, which means they readily provide sugar to the bloodstream in their natural state. Mashed white potatoes is one of these types of foods. The glycemic index, though, is affected by many factors: The type of food, how it is prepared, what level of ripeness it was when consumed, for example. Also consider the glycemic index of a specific food when reducing sugar, and choose those with lower glycemic index, such as most vegetables and some fruits and nuts.

Also, I discovered that eating processed foods could be just like eating sugar. These products, such as white bread, immediately convert to blood sugar, or glucose, upon consumption. Your body does not have much digesting to do, because much of the processing is done before you consume it.

So, though processed food may not actually contain sugar, the product so easily becomes glucose once consumed that it is nearly the same as consuming sugar outright. Reducing sugar means reducing processed foods.

I also discovered that reducing sugar also helps you lose weight. When I first reduced sugar due to an illness in our family, I was very strict and severe and lost 10 pounds. My friend, Casey, told me that her boyfriend lost 10 pounds by cutting out two things: pop and energy drinks, two enormous sources of sugar. Reducing sugar will likely reduce your weight, too. Here’s another thing that everyone really knows: Too much sugar is addicting, and your body craves it. Recently while on vacation, I splurged with the sugary things. When I came back to my normal diet after vacation, I had a little headache in the morning, and it dawned on me … that headache was a request for sugar! So, reducing sugar may bring on a few headaches or other notable requests from your body because of the addictive nature of sugar. It’s worth working through that to be free of the sugar need.

Back to my personal account of sugar recordkeeping. I felt my daily diet was reasonably sugar free, so I presumed my daily count would be really low, like 10 grams.

I started my day off with a medium Granny Smith apple, and afterwards checked myfitnesspal.com for the amount of sugar. Although they’re the sourest of apples, Granny Smiths have 17 grams of sugar per medium apple! A shocking question entered my mind, “Did I just take in 17 grams of sugar in only an apple, when I imagined that I would take in 10 grams for a whole day?” It made me wonder how much sugar have I taken in unaware. And, precisely how much sugar did I actually take in when I thought I was consuming only a bit?

I was beginning to comprehend how easy it is to rack up sugar grams without knowing it! As I calculated sugar grams over dinner it turns out that a cup of broccoli has 1 gram and cauliflower has 2 grams of sugar.

I decided to investigate further, and I learned that the sugar subject is generating tons of research. New results are continually being added to our body of knowledge on natural and added sugar intake and the effects on the human body. Even though suggested intake levels are not yet solid, we know that, generally, we Americans take in too much sugar for our own good, according to information on the American Heart Association’s website, heart.org.

So at the end of my one day of counting sugars, I had 29 grams of sugar. And I was really conscientious and careful. Try it one day … record your sugar intake and you, too, will be dumbfounded and discover the aforementioned points for yourself.

I invite you to earnestly evaluate the amount of sugar in your food and drink, and adjust to reduce sugar in a serious way.

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