The Necessary Evils: Sugar, Salt and Fat

From the three part series,  “The Necessary Evils: Sugar, Salt and Fat”

PART I: SUGAR

BREAK THE CYCLE OF ADDICTION

When I was a child, it was common in my family to eat doughnuts for breakfast, to drink soda like it was water and to add sugar to foods that didn’t necessarily need it. By the age of 12, I was at an unhealthy weight, depressed, anxious, and emotional. My father, quite innocently, indulged my sweet tooth, and did not recognize the unfortunate consequences of a diet high in sugar, nor the very real connection between poor mental, physical and emotional health and blood sugar that was out of control. The type of sugar that I ate most frequently was high in quantity and poor in quality: refined white sugar and corn syrup.

More and more connections have been established between obesity and excess consumption of sugar, specifically corn syrup, which is often an ingredient found in the least expensive and the most processed foods. A good rule of thumb is, if you can buy the item on the shelf at your neighborhood convenience store, it’s better left there than in your stomach.

As obesity and diabetes inch closer to near epidemic status in the United States, there is more public concern and demand for information about these critical issues and what can be done to avoid them. Unfortunately, most people consume more sugar than their body’s need or can ever use.

YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT, READ THE LABEL

If you want to start reducing the amount of sugar that you consume and you do not know where to start, start at the beginning and eliminate the unhealthiest forms of sugar first: refined white sugar and corn syrup.

Corn syrup is in many items that you may not be aware of: canned soups, ketchup, peanut butter, jam, jelly, soda, boxed sweets, and many sauces. When a nutritional label indicates that there are 40 grams of sugar in a product, as is the case with a 12-ounce can of Coke, it actually means that you are drinking something with 10 teaspoons of sugar in it. If you were going to add sugar to 6 ounces of plain yogurt, you probably wouldn’t add over 6 teaspoons of sugar, which is the amount of sugar that is in a 6-ounce container of strawberry flavored Yoplait yogurt. Even a 12-ounce glass of 100% orange juice has 8 teaspoons of sugar.

It is crucial to educate yourself about sugar by reading nutritional labels, and remember that 4 grams equals 1 teaspoon of sugar. If sugar is one of the first five ingredients on a label the food is high in sugar. Recognize how much sugar you consume and sleuth out the obvious and the not-so-obvious sources of sugar. I am often surprised by some “health foods” that have a lot of sugar. Some items that come to mind are granola, cereal bars, yogurt, and even peanut butter. These items might be using a better form of sugar: such as cane sugar, maple syrup, honey, or fruit juice but it is still sugar and it has virtually the same impact on your blood sugar level.

REDUCE AND REPLACE

Replace refined sugar with something that is natural such as raw honey, 100% maple syrup or molasses. Use unrefined cane sugar in moderation, such as with special occasion baking.

Select juices, jams, or jellies that use 100% fruit and use them sparingly.

Consume whole fruit. It has less impact on your blood sugar than juice or processed sweets.

Add water to the fruit juice you do consume.

Share dessert instead of having your own.

Although I believe that it’s ok to have the occasional treat, it’s a good idea to define what moderation is. If you take small steps to replace refined sugar and reduce the amount of sugar you consume overall, you will eventually crave sugar less and break the cycle of sugar addiction. Soon, foods that are naturally sweet will satisfy the occasion craving for sugar. As you consume less sugar, you will have more energy and vitality then ever before.

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Great Beginnings Always Start With Leaving Something Behind

A great place to begin is to clean out your cupboard and your refrigerator. I recommend clients greatly reduce (and eventually eliminate) the amount of processed foods they eat. I understand that we live in a busy world, but if you have 20 minutes to make dinner, you can just as easily sear a tuna steak (which takes less than 10 minutes) and assemble a basic salad with a little olive oil and a squeeze of lemon for dressing, instead of making a box of “the San Francisco treat”.

If you are that person that cooks from a box, rest assured that you are not alone. This is a transition that will take time. I recommend that you start by reading labels. Make sure you know what every ingredient is on the box, and if the ingredient is not a whole food, or a word you do not recognize, do not purchase the box (this is trickier than you may think).

A good rule of thumb is to not buy foods that contain high fructose corn syrup or MSG (also known as “natural flavor”, “hydrolyzed protein” and “spices”). This actually eliminates a considerable amount of unhealthful foods right off the bat.

To go a step further, stop purchasing items that are highly processed, such as white sugar, white flour and white salt. These foods are actually void of nutritional value.

It is also wise to get rid of unhealthy oils such as soybean oil, Crisco, Pam cooking spray and Canola.

There are many items that exist in the refrigerated that are considered healthful but need to be replaced with a counter part that is whole and nutrient-dense. First, I recommend phasing out “low-fat” dairy products. This makes sense if you want the food you consume to be nutrient dense.

Store bought salad dressings are often unhealthful because of the type of oil that is used, as well as the amount of sugar that is often added! Also, store bought salad dressings have often been sitting on the shelf for too long and have rancid oils. A simple dressing takes less than 10 minutes to prepare if you have olive oil, balsamic vinegar and a few spices on hand; it’s also a lot tastier and less expensive.

Tofu has been in vogue for some time, but I recommend eliminating bricks of tofu, fake meats and fake cheeses from your refrigerator. These foods are highly processed and hard to digest.