It’s the most wonderful time of the year ... when loads of sweet treats and desserts make it into our mouths.
Despite us all knowing better, the average American eats a whopping 168 pounds of sugar per year. That’s more than 33 five-pound bags! Yup, the struggle is real, people.
Monitoring your refined sugar intake is important to sustain health. You may ask, “What is refined sugar?” Refined sugar is white sugar, also called table sugar or granulated sugar, and is made from either beet or cane sugar. It’s the refining process that creates a toxic “jet fuel”-like product for your blood glucose that causes it to spike, crash and negatively affect your energy, mental clarity and overall health.
So, are the sugars in fruit and dairy refined? No, they both contain natural sugars (fructose and lactose, respectively), but also provide you healthy fiber, antioxidants and nutrients to nourish your body. It’s still important that you be mindful of how many servings of fruit and dairy you have per day from a sugar standpoint, but they are essential for good health.
Here’s where it gets interesting with sugar: Once it passes through the stomach, regardless of whether it came from an orange or a doughnut, your body sees it as glucose. Your body then has two choices. It can either make the sugar immediately available for energy, or if the energy bank is full because you eat a lot of sugar, then it converts the sugar to fat (usually around the abdomen area).
The most important thing to understand when eating refined sugar, fructose or lactose is the speed at which the sugar breaks down and hits the blood stream. When it comes to sugar, this is what has the biggest impact on your health. You want a slow release of sugar to the blood. Refined sugar is lightning fast, while fruit and dairy are much slower. This factor is what makes one type of sugar a better alternative to another.
Here are three ways to reduce your refined sugar intake this holiday season (and beyond):
First, be sure to eat three balanced meals per day. This is a critical and powerful step to beating daily cravings by regulating your blood sugar. Your brain and your body have one common goal: keep you alive. They accomplish that task with sugar or nutrient-dense food. So, make sure you provide your body with the nutrients it needs so it isn’t looking for the quick sugar fix to stay alive. Second, read ingredients lists! I bet you’re not going out and buying 33 five-pound bags of sugar each year. It’s coming in the food you’re buying. A good rule of thumb is that if a third-grader can’t pronounce it or know what the ingredient is, don’t buy the product.Third, replace refined sugar with healthier options. Healthier option are liquid stevia, maple syrup and local honey. Use these in your baking and sweet treats this holiday season. These alternatives to sugar still turn to glucose in your body, but they’re not as inflammatory as refined sugar. Happy Holidays!
Fran Sutherlin, RD, MS is a local registered dietitian, digestive health coach, speaker, and owner of Sustainable Nutrition. She can be reached at 444-2122 or firstname.lastname@example.org.