Have you read recent research implicating sugar in inflammation? Researchers increasingly understand that the sugar leads to inflammation in the body and may be implicated in a variety of health conditions. For instance, one large scale study (more than 2000 men and women over 13 years) found that those whose diets were highest in refined sugars and refined starches had the greatest risk of death related to inflammatory disease. Other researchers have found such a strong link between blood sugar and dementia that they call Alzheimer’s Disease Diabetes Type 3. You can read a detailed analysis of the health effects of sugar from Medical Daily by clicking here.
Clearly, reducing your sugar intake is good for your health – both physical and mental, both now and for the long-term.
The problem is that cutting out sugar can make you feel like a militant member of the diet police, those no-fun people who ruin parties and holidays with their long lists of dos and don’ts.
So how about a #GoodEnough approach to reducing sugar in your life! Here are three simple #GoodEnough guidelines to help you eat less sugar in real life.
- If it shouldn’t have sugar (but does), don’t eat it. Find another option. There are so many processed foods that include sugar in their long-list of ingredients. This can be in a variety of forms, and some of them are sugar-alcohols whose names you won’t even recognize. Consider, though, whether salad dressing, spaghetti sauce, curry, and bread really should have sugar in them. I don’t think they should. I don’t use them when I cook these things at home, and when I need to buy packaged food, I read labels and look for short lists of ingredients that make sense for the food. My bottom line here is: save sugar for when you want to eat sugar. Cut it out of everything else.
- Limit how much sugar you drink. Sugar goes down fast in juice, soda, and milkshakes. It takes longer to eat an orange (for less calories and sugar, and more fiber) than to drink a glass of orange juice. It takes less time to slurp a milkshake than to lick a cone. Most of what you drink should be water – if you need some zest or zing, try adding fresh herbs (like mint, rosemary, and lemon balm), fresh lemon or lime, or surprising extras like berries or cucumbers for a spa-water treat. Try sparkling water. Try herbal tea (unsweetened). If you want a smoothie, keep it focused on fresh fruit and proteins, no sugar added. Keep your drinks sugar free.
- Give fruit a thumbs up. Fruit offers a great way to treat your sweet-tooth healthfully. Blueberries and other berries are full of antioxidants. Tangerines and other citrus are full of fiber and vitamin C. Pineapple has bromelain, an anti-inflammatory enzyme. (Click here for more from WebMD on the healing properties of bromelain.) Bananas have high levels of potassium. Fresh fruit after a meal makes a healthy, high-fiber, high-nutrient dessert to keep you away from added sugar. (Of course, if you have diabetes or other health conditions, you should consult your doctor about the amount and/or types of fruit you can safely eat.) Remember the old saying, an apple a day keeps the doctor away, and enjoy fresh fruit to boost health.
- When you want to eat sugar, eat sugar. Really eat it. Mindfully. Aware. Enjoying it. If you want to have an ice cream cone or a piece of pie, then have it – but sit down and have it. Taste it. Notice the texture. Experience it as the treat and splurge it should be. If you’re scarfing down candy while watching TV or barreling through a bag of cookies while finishing a PPT for work – are you really eating them? You’re getting the calories and the sugar but missing the pleasure. So: no multitasking while you eat sugar. No eating sugar when you feel sad or angry or hurt. (When you eat your feelings, you rarely taste the food.) When you eat sugar, eat sugar mindfully so that you enjoy the sweetness.
Here’s to your #GoodEnough health!