The Problem With Added Sugar: Why It's Problematic & How You Can Cut Back
A lot of you have probably been able to tell that I don’t like eating added sugar. Not only that but I think there's quite a problem with added sugar. Honestly, I can’t even tell you the last time I ate sugar. Eliminating added sugars from my diet is a choice I made over the last year or so and I know my body thanks me for it on a daily basis. I have more energy, a clearer mind, healthier skin and less stomach trouble.
I got the freaking best ice cream (dairy free of course) I’ve ever tasted at Frankie & Jo’s in Seattle over spring break that had absolutely no added sugars and ever since then I couldn’t stop thinking about how sugar is so dang unnecessary.
I’m not saying everyone needs to cut sugar out of their diet 100%, because I know that would be impossible for most people and completely eliminating something from your diet can be mentally taxing and unhealthy for a lot of people.
But I want to show how easy it is to cut back on your sugar intake and how important it is for your overall health to be aware and conscious about how much sugar you’re eating every day (because trust me, it’s probably a lot more than you think).
So why does sugar get such a bad rap in my book?
Well, for starters, studies have shown it’s as addictive as cocaine… crazy right!? I don’t know about you, but I sure don’t want to continually pump my body with something that messes with my brain that much. YIKES.
Other negative downsides of sugar are its contribution to heart disease, depression, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, fatigue and growth of bad bacteria in the stomach.
That last one is one of the biggest reasons I steer clear of sugar. An overgrowth of bad bacteria in your stomach can cause a bunch of issues like skin rashes, the development of food intolerances (trust me, they aren’t fun and I sure as he** don't want to develop more) or autoimmune responses. Having too much bad bacteria in the stomach can also cause you to feel depressed, tired, joint pain, acne, mood swings, more frequent sickness, digestive issues and even more cravings for sugar (it's like a bad cycle that never stops). Not only will cutting back on sugar help keep this bad bacteria away, but upping the level of good bacteria in your gut will also help. I highly suggest taking a probiotic pill to help with this. :) Since I already deal with so many stomach issues and pain, sugar only makes them all worse.
Since getting sugar out of my daily diet (senior year of high school and freshman year of college I used to be a chai tea latte addict and put at least 2 tablespoons of sugar in my coffee every morning…), I’ve noticed such an increase in my alertness and energy-levels, as well as a decrease in bloating and stomach aches (even though I still have way more than normal because of the many intolerances I have). As a super busy college student with 500 things on my plate, this has been so helpful.
I’m sure you’re thinking “how can I possible cut sugar out of my diet?!” 1. You don’t NEED to cut sugar out completely because that’s crazy. 2. It’s called baby steps, starting with simply being aware of how much added sugars (I’m not talking about natural sugars like fruit and honey) are in the products you’re drinking and eating.
The best way to become aware is to start reading labels. I always always always check the ingredients before buying something. When reading labels, keep in mind is that companies are sneaky af and try to hide sugar in the ingredient list by calling it other names. Some of these common swap-out names for sugar include: sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup (seriously about this ish at all costs), barley malt, dextrose, maltose, galactose, maltodectrin, treacle, evaporated cane juice, dextran…. and that’s only a small glimpse. Also keep in mind that a lot of foods you would never guess have a lot of sugar in them do, like soups, tomato sauces, dressings, bread and crackers. I’m definitely not saying you should obsessively check the label of EVERYTHING, but it’s a good idea to be a knowledgeable consumer, because it’s your body and you should know what you’re putting in it.
And just because a product is seen as “healthy,” because of the brand or because it’s sold at PCC, Whole Foods or other health-food stores, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a lot of added sugar as well. For example, a lot of “healthy” cereals list sugar as one of the first ingredients. It definitely has less sugar than leading brands, but it isn’t completely off the hook. Same goes for other “healthy” snacks like yogurt. So many flavored yogurts pack in 20-30 grams of added sugars in a small serving. It’s just as easy, and usually cheaper, to buy a big container of plain yogurt and add your own sweetness with honey or fresh fruit.
What are other easy ways to cut back on sugar intake? A huge culprit is coffee drinks, so try adding your own sweetness with stevia. Carrying around a few packets or a small dropper bottle to make it easy when you’re on the go and grabbing a Starbs. Also try swapping out the sugar in baking recipes with honey, date sugar, pure maple syrup, mashed bananas or coconut sugar.
Now that I’ve kind of rained on everyone’s sugary parade, here are a few of my favorite added-sugar-free products that still taste AMAZING.
Any of the recipes here on my blog are also free of any added sugars! I know the idea of sugar free sweets and treats may sound unappetizing if you aren’t used to it, but try my chocolate pancakes, carrot cake oatmeal or chocolate pudding and tell me they aren’t delicious. ;)
Overall, I simply encourage you to be curious and know what you’re eating because your body deserves it. Your body is capable of amazing things when you fuel it with healthy, wholesome foods!
Related: Love Your Gut, Eat Good Bacteria