“Sugar is the new tobacco.”~ Cynthia Kenyon
Easter is over and we have had our fill of chocolate bunnies, candy eggs and brightly coloured marshmallow peeps. There nothing left but a pile of wrappers, a sticky smear of something sweet on our upper lip and a hazy memory of multi-flavoured jellybeans. And perhaps, a lingering sugar hangover.
According to Wallet Hub, it was projected that Americans would spend $3 billion on Easter candy including 91 million chocolate bunnies and 1.5 billion marshmallow peeps.
Yikes! That’s a lot of sugar!
I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to swear off sugar for good. Not that I overindulged on holiday confections this year, but I feel that I ate more than I should have. I have been considering eliminating added sugar from my diet, but to be honest, I have a sweet tooth that I can seldom ignore. As a Baby Boomer, I know all too well how easy it is to gain weight and how difficult it is to lose those extra pounds. Now that I am over 60, I swear, I can gain one pound just looking at a cookie!
Why Give Up the Sweet Stuff?
The World Health Organization recommends restricting your daily sugar intake to no more than 5% of your total calories — 25 grams for a 2500 calorie diet. That converts to approximately six teaspoons! It can be hard to limit your sugar that much when a lot of our favourite foods contain hidden added sugar. Can you believe that a half-cup of jarred spaghetti sauce can have as much as 9 grams (2 teaspoons) of sugar! Want to know where sugar is hiding in your food? Read this article 14 Sneaky Sources of Added Sugars, from Eat This, Not That!
Of course, we know that over-eating food with high fructose levels contributes to weight gain in several ways. For instance, added sugar increases the hormone that makes you feel hungry while suppressing the hormone that makes you feel full. In other words, when you eat sugar-laden foods, you feel hungry longer, and you eat more. Your body then converts those extra calories to fat. Find out more about sugar and weight gain in this article, Six Ways Added Sugar is Fattening.
Over-consumption of sugar has been linked to accelerated ageing, both inside and out. Wrinkles and saggy skin are an inevitable part of our natural ageing process. I am happy to see more women embracing them — and learning to love their bodies as they age. But even though these skin changes are due to intrinsic ageing, too much sugar causes collagen breakdown that accelerates the onset of saggy skin and creases. Too much sugar also has a detrimental effect on the immune system and causes a higher risk of infections or cancer in older people. Find 5 Surprising Reasons Why Sugar is Making You Age Faster in this blog post.
Sugar has also been linked to the onset of pre-dementia and dementia. New research suggests there is an association between diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. Hypoglycemia or high blood sugar results in increased insulin production causes insulin resistance — a major factor in type 2 diabetes. Researchers believe those with type 2 diabetes may have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s later in life. Read about The Surprising Connection Between Type 2 Diabetes and Alzheimer’s.
Did you know that consuming excess sugar has been linked not only to the development of cognitive impairment but to heart disease and an increased risk of developing certain types of cancer? Scientists have also found connections between a high sugar diet and mood swings, fatigue, headaches, depression, and anxiety. Learn 4 Ways Sugar Could Be Harming Your Mental Health.
Is all this worth that piece of cheesecake?
The good news is by eliminating added sugar from your diet may lessen or even reverse some of those adverse effects.
If you have a sweet tooth — like me — you know how difficult it can be to eliminate or reduce your sugar intake. But the realization that quitting sugar can help create a healthier life as I age is a strong motivator for me.
But how to give up sugar and survive?
Is cold turkey the way to do it? Will there be withdrawal symptoms? Cravings? What about physical symptoms? Is all sugar bad for our health? This blog post, 7 Things That Happen to Your Body When You Stop Eating Sugar, for information on the way your body may react. Try the tips below to get you started on eliminating sugar, but remember to consult your health professional before making any changes that may impact your health, including changing your diet. The information presented here is for information only and is not medical advice. Please see our disclaimer for further clarification.
Read the labels
One of the first steps you can take to quit refined sugar is to be aware of your intake. Learn to recognize where that sugar is hiding. Read the labels on the packaged food you buy. They will tell you how much sugar is in a serving. Check the ingredient list. Look for ingredients that end in “ose” — like fructose and glucose — those are sugars. Learn the different terms for sugar so you can recognize them. Select alternative products that have little or no added sugar. For instance, if you love peanut butter, choose a jar that contains only peanuts. If you enjoy canned fruit, opt for those that packed in juice instead of syrup. Did you know one-half cup of pears canned in syrup contains almost 4.5 teaspoons of sugar, while the same fruit packed in its juice has approximately 2.8 of sugar?
Get rid of sugar in your kitchen
Another effective way to eliminate added sugar is to stop putting it into your coffee or tea. Do not sprinkle it on your cereal. Find substitutes for sugar in your cooking and baking. If you must use a sweetener, try a healthier alternative such as coconut sugar, raw honey, or maple syrup. While these sweeteners, unlike refined sugar, have some health benefits, it is better to use them in moderation. I like to use applesauce instead of oil or fat when I bake. Try my banana bread recipe below — it has no refined sugar or fat and still tastes delicious!
My Delicious Banana Bread recipe
I love banana bread — but a slice of this traditional treat can contain more than four teaspoons of sugar!! Instead of giving up this tasty loaf — I make it without refined sugar or fat. Try the recipe below — I bet you will love it!
- 2 cups of flour
- One teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon of salt
- 1/2 cup of unsweetened applesauce*
- Two eggs at room temperature
- 1/3 cup plain yoghurt (regular or Greek)
- 2 cups of mashed banana (about four large over-ripe bananas)
- One teaspoon of vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup chopped nuts of choice — optional
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with parchment paper.
Whisk the mashed bananas and the applesauce together in a large mixing bowl. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
Add the vanilla extract and yoghurt to the banana mixture and stir until well combined. Add flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt to the banana mixture. Mix until no flour lumps appear. Fold in half of the walnuts.
Pour batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle the remaining walnuts on top. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Set on a rack to cool for 15 minutes. Remove bread from pan, invert onto rack and cool completely before slicing.
*Surprise! You can substitute applesauce for fat at a ratio of 1:1. Make sure you use the unsweetened kind — the sweetened kind has added sugar that you don’t want.
This banana bread is so moist. You can eat it as is — no need for butter or honey on your slice!
Drink more water
Pop (soda), fruit juices and alcohol are high in added sugars. Eliminating these will go a long way to reducing your refined sugar intake. Dehydration can induce those hard to resist sugar cravings. Stay hydrated — drink more water. You can flavour your water with slices of fruit or cucumbers or slip in some mint or basil leaves for a refreshing, sugar-free thirst quencher.
Eat whole foods, and lean protein
Fill your plate with veggies (cooked and raw), protein (tofu eggs, meat, fish, tofu, legumes), and healthy fats (coconut, cheese, avocado) and fresh fruit (apples, oranges, grapes). Start your day with protein to stay full and keep those sugar cravings at bay.
Looking for something healthy to snack on when those sugar cravings hit? Try the tips in this article, How to Stop Sugar Cravings Once and For All. This blog post, What to Eat When You’re Craving Sugar, has healthy swap-outs for those sugary treats.
Try mindful eating
Practising mindfulness eating will help you appreciate your food and bring about an awareness of the difference between physical and emotional hunger. Mindful eating is not a diet. Instead, mindfulness will help you learn to listen to your body’s cues about your hunger and how to respond to them. The longer you practice this, the more you will discover how food affects your feelings. You will learn to engage all your senses and begin to eat for your well-being. Try this easy practice, A Mindful Eating Exercise: Simple Instructions, from The Mindfulness Diet website. For more information, visit the Spoon Guru’s site for this factsheet: What is Mindful Eating?
Eliminating added sugar will bring new vitality to our lives and help us keep fit and healthy as we grow older. I am going to do it — how about you?