It turns out Mary Poppins was right. A spoon full of sugar really was used to make the medicine go down.
My family settled in the frontier of Minnesota when it was still wild. They had to clear the land and fell trees to build their houses and their community. I have a wonderful book that is a collection of documentation and recollections of those early years of the town, up through the 1800’s.
One of the most striking writings in the book is about sugar.
One family descendant recalls that each family ordered only enough sugar for the children to have a treat of one teaspoon of sugar in their special occasion hot tea, and enough to have on hand if medicine was needed, to take with medicine. That’s it.
84 Pounds of Sugar per year
Several teaspoons of sugar per year is a far cry from the 24 teaspoons of sugar per DAY that 12-19 year olds consumed in 2010.
That is 672 teaspoons per month, or 8.760 teaspoons per year. That translates to 84 pounds per year. That doesn’t include foods that are high sugar naturally, just added sugar.
84 pounds. 17 five pound bags of sugar. Per person. Each year.
It boggles my mind.
Even though sugar consumption has backed off a small bit, no wonder we have an epidemic of overweight, obesity, and diabetes.
Our poor bodies don’t have a fighting chance against the onslaught of the white menace. I shouldn’t discriminate. It could be brown sugar, or raw sugar, or any other kind of sugar. Added sugar is added sugar.
Excess sugar leads to obesity, type 2 diabetes, high insulin levels, decreased insulin sensitivity, elevated cholesterol, and fatty liver.
Added sugars can come in two basic types, fructose and sucrose. Fructose is fruit sugar. The type of fructose often added to store-bought foods is high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Sucrose, which is table sugar, is combination of fructose and glucose.
Sugar, no matter where it comes from, turns into fat and cholesterol.
Cutting out the sugar and carbs is what will reduce weight and diabetes. What to eat instead is protein, low glycemic vegetables and fruits (think non-starchy produce and berries), and fat.
Yes, fat. But healthy fat. Think avocado, grass fed animal protein, olive oil, coconut, and even butter.
What you don’t want to do is be eating a lot of fat and a lot high glycemic carbs together. You need to do the swap!
Four Things to Do to Cut Out Sugar
1) Switch to water and healthier beverages.
Then number one source of added sugar in significant amounts is sugar sweetened drinks. I’m probably not sharing a big secret here. It’s not just soda though. That “healthy” sports drink? Sweetened sports drinks are right up there with sodas. It’s an easy and healthier switch to simply change to water.
Coffee drinks can be just as bad. You’ll want to swap out all of the sweetened syrups and added sugars. Instead try using coconut milk, or even some butter, and natural flavors or spices. Or maybe a coffee mocha breakfast shake by adding some protein powder. It’s a great idea to have some protein for breakfast.
Switch from fruit juices or slushes to blended smoothies. Not only is the fruit a sugar bomb when all of the fiber is removed in juice, but purchased fruit slushes and smoothies often have additional added sugar. Instead, try a blender of some greens, berries, avocado or coconut, and some protein powder.
2) Swap out grain based foods.
Grain based foods are a double whammy. Studies have shown that the second most common hiding place of added sugars is grain based foods and baked goods. The striking thing is that the studies tend to only look at the added sugar. Add the fact that grain based foods have a high glycemic value and the sugar content in a day is even more.
The glycemic value (or load) of a food is a number that takes into account how much a particular food correlates to pure sugar. For example, a single slice of bread is equal to one tablespoon of table sugar. Sadly, whole wheat bread is no different than white bread in regards to sugar.
Swap these high glycemic grain based foods for more non-starchy vegetables. You can even swap them out for some healthy fats, such as avocado. Contrary to what you might think, eating some fat is not bad.
Fat metabolism doesn’t require insulin, so it doesn’t contribute to diabetes or insulin resistance. And fat is filling. What you don’t want to do is to add fat and high glycemic carbs together. You want to cut the high sugar carbs and then add some fat instead.
If your gut is completely healthy, and you tolerate them, you can include some small amounts of beans or lentils. These have a low glycemic value and lots of fiber, but can raise havoc with gut health in many people. So tread lightly.
3) Ditch the sugar in dairy, candy and dessert
Candy and dessert is usually fairly obvious. But watch out for hidden added sugar in dairy. Most yogurt, for instance, has added sugar. If you are going to eat dairy, such as yogurt or kefir, look for ones without added sugar. The fat in these is not the enemy, it’s the added sugars.
While you can now find candy and dessert made with sugar alternatives such as erythritol or other sugar alcohols, be wary. In many people these sugars can produce a lot of uncomfortable gas.
If you can, explore making your own desserts, or even candy. That way you can make them sugar free, or use a sugar alternative in small amounts.
The most beneficial thing you can do is develop a taste for less sweetness. Before you know it you will be griping that everything is too sweet!
4) Cut down on fruit.
Many fruits are high in sugar. In nature, fruit is only available in season. And only when it is ripe, but not too ripe. It would not really be possible to consume large amounts of fruit sugar year around if we had to rely on true seasonal eating.
The sugar content of fruit has also markedly increased over olden times due to hybridization to make sweeter varieties. Berries tend to have the least sugar, or lowest glycemic load.
Cutting way back on fruit and swapping in a balance of vegetables, protein and healthy fats is especially important for diabetes and weight loss.
Cutting Sugar – How to Get it Done!
There are two profound and life-changing things you can do to reduce your sugar load.
The first is to cook your own food rather than purchasing pre-prepared food. You can control what you add to it.
That might seem overwhelming but it’s easier once you get the routine down. You can cheat though, and buy ingredients that are quick to throw together to make a healthy meal.
For instance, if you have to, you could buy pre-cut vegetables or flash frozen fresh organic vegetables. Some people find that batch cooking, then freezing works well.
The second thing you can do is to learn to simply like less sweet food. If you have a penchant for desserts, learn to make them yourself, your own non-sweet way. You’ll be better off for it and you won’t feel deprived.
Get in The Mood For Non-sugary Foods
Lastly, the most powerful thing you can do to cut out sugar is to have a mindset change.
For too many people, sugar is an addiction. A real, chemical, biological addiction. It won’t work if you just try to rely on willpower to always avoid sugar.
Your brain will want absolutely nothing to do it. Your brain will see it as constant deprivation of pleasure.
You must replace sugar with food that is good for you. Food that you can embrace, that doesn’t feel like deprivation.
And to do that you must decide to explore new foods. Or maybe decide not to hate old foods. Perhaps you just need to learn to prepare them differently. Make healthy versions of your old favorites that you and your brain can love.
But you must have an open mind, and a willingness to love your new non-sugary foods just as much as your old sugary ones.
What are your favorite swap-outs for cutting out sugar?