Sugar tastes oh so sweet, but do we really need it? And is that spare tire around your waist, your neck jowls and upper arm flab caused by eating too much sugar? Research in recent years has shown that your sugar intake can have a definite effect on your body weight, over time. So how much is too much, and just exactly how does sugar make you fat?
Let’s take that second question first. Sugar, as well as high fructose corn syrup, is made up of glucose and fructose. You need glucose to live. Your body produces it naturally, and it is used to give your cells energy. But fructose is unnatural, and your body does not produce it. Of all the cells in your body, only your liver cells can process fructose.
When you eat a lot of sugar, the majority of fructose gets metabolized by your liver. It is processed and turned into fat, which is in pushed out into your blood. Fructose also changes the way you react to a hormone called leptin. Every time you eat, some of your food is stored in your fat cells. Leptin levels are increased, your brain notices this higher leptin level, it senses that you have enough fat stored and tells you to stop eating.
But fructose disguises your true leptin levels. Your brain does not realize you have enough fat, so you eat more sweet, sugary things because your mind believes you need to produce fat to put away for a rainy day. So fructose is the real culprit in sugar here, making you fat a couple of different ways.
Some recent research out of New Zealand shows that even small increases or decreases in your sugar intake can dramatically affect how much fat and extra weight you pack on.
In a study which lasted a few weeks to 6 months, test subjects who ate less sugar lost an average of 1.8 pounds. And in as few as 8 weeks, those subjects which increased their sugar intake by even a small amount saw a weight gain of 1.7 pounds on average.
And that is just one of many studies which show the real world results of eating sugar that take place because of the natural process we just discussed. The bottom line? Eat less sugar and you gain less fat. So, how much sugar is too much? Men should limit themselves to 150 calories per day, women to 100 sugar calories.
A Guide To Reducing The Amount Of Sugar In Your Diet
There are a whole variety of reasons why you might want to reduce the amount of sugar in your diet. Not only can it help you lose weight, but it can also reduce your chance of developing diabetes, help stabilize your mood and assist in recovering from a range of other ailments such as eczema.
Cutting sugar out of your diet can seem like a really daunting prospect. It tends to get worse once you start looking into your diet more closely, when you realize just how much sugar you eat! The thought of not being able to eat all of those things can really put you off the idea.
Fortunately, it’s actually not as bad as it seems. Firstly, it’s possible to replace many sugary things which you have to cut out of your diet with similar alternatives. Secondly, it’s worth remembering that you don’t necessarily have to cut out every sugary bit of food from your diet at once.
Here are a few simple suggestions for alternatives to eating your usual sugary foods. After those, we’ll take a look some ways to help overcome the initial challenge of changing your diet, and how to stick with it once you’ve started.
Dried fruit: Most of us have probably tried dried fruit at some point in our lives. The most common dried fruit is probably the raisin. However, there are loads of other dried fruits available too: apricots, mangos, prunes and many more dried fruits can be found in supermarkets and health food stores. Just make sure that they are natural, rather than sweetened dried fruits.
Although fruits are sweet, they contain a different kind of sugar to that found in normal cakes etc. The great thing about dried fruits is that they are really sweet, which makes them great replacements for chocolate, biscuits and other sweet things.
Fresh fruit: Fresh fruit isn’t usually as sweet as dried fruit, but it’s still very sweet.
Fructose-based products: Most jams and sweets are sucrose-based. Sucrose is standard sugar – the kind you bake with and the kind you find in sweets and chocolates (along with other processed sugars which are also bad for you). Fructose is the kind of sugar found in fruit. It’s actually sweeter than sucrose which means you need less of it to achieve the same effect.
Fortunately, it’s possible to find a range of fructose-based products in health-food stores and supermarkets. These use fruit sugar instead of fructose to make cakes, jams and all those other tasty treats that you crave.
Fructose: Not only is it possible to buy fructose-based products, but you can also buy fructose itself. You can use it in place of any other kind of sugar which you would normally use on a daily basis for cooking or sweetening your drinks etc.
While these alternatives will help you to reduce the amount of sugar in your diet, you might still find it hard to adjust at first.
It’s also possible that you’d prefer not to have too much fruit sugar in your diet either, which means cutting out almost everything that tastes sweet. Here are a few hints on how you can deal with these issues:
Savory Treats: If weight loss isn’t your primary goal, then it’s possible to eat savory treats that give a similar kind of satisfaction to sweet treats. Things like crisps and chips are good for this. So are cheese, plain yoghurt or various types of nuts. Be creative: there are many savory treats that you can use as an alternative to candy, cakes, chocolate and so on.
Fill Up: When we’re full we usually feel less like eating treats. A simple solution to reducing the craving for sweet things is therefore to eat larger portions of savory meals. Make extra salad, or extra pasta. Just try to make sure you get your fill from the savory food that you eat.
Savory Drinks: A really good way to kill the desire for sweet things is to drink something savory that cleanses your taste buds. A good example of this is chamomile tea, which is very mild tasting and washes flavors out of your mouth. Drinking savory things like this helps quiet the urge for sweet taste sensations.
You can also try drinking things like ginger tea, or liquorice tea. A unique feature of liquorice tea is that, despite containing no sugar, it leaves a sweet aftertaste at the back of your throat. This can help satisfy cravings for sweet flavors.
Keeping to a reduced sugar, or sugar-free, diet can be challenging, but there are lots of ways to help. Sticking with the diet is the real challenge though. It requires both willpower and motivation. Willpower is the hardest part of the equation: it can be very hard to resist strong urges. However, the more you resist, the better you get at controlling your desires. That means that over time, your willpower will improve.
Motivation is something that assists willpower and is also assisted by willpower. The two work together quite closely. Staying motivated requires that you keep in mind at all times why you are cutting sugar out of your diet. If it is for health reasons, such as diabetes, then remember that not only your wellbeing but also your life itself is at stake. You are doing this for yourself, not because someone else says you have to.
Motivation can also be sustained by gradually working your way into the diet. You don’t have to drop all sugary foods at once. You can start by eliminating one or two particular foods – say ice cream or biscuits – and get used to not having them. After a while you can cut out another thing, and another. Take your time.
One more thing worth remembering is that your taste buds themselves can change. After a while of not eating chocolate, biscuits, ice cream and so on, you start to taste the sweetness in other things which are more savory. Even something as plain as bread actually has some sweetness, and this can become satisfying once your taste buds have adjusted.
Cutting sugar from your diet isn’t necessarily easy, but it’s really not the toughest thing in the world either. With the right attitude and knowledge, it’s not only possible but pretty easy to make this change. Just set your mind to it, and remember why you’re doing it in the first place.