It is important to understand that sugar occurs naturally in foods and is an essential energy source. So although many fruits for example are high in natural sugar, Day 7 refers to avoiding added or processed sugar. Today is possible the most important day for weight loss, with a number of recent research papers slamming the link between added sugar and obesity. If you want long-term weight loss it is our belief here that reducing your sugar intake is the single most important step you can take.
Now excess sugar is a big problem. The average American consumes 28kg of added sugar every year or 76.7 grams (19 teaspoons) per day which excludes sugars from fruit juice. The American Heart Association recommends 25 grams per day for women and 37.5 grams for men. As you can see we are currently consuming more than double what we should, and these calories are completely empty in terms of nutritional value, but they make a great target to focus on for weight loss and generally improved health.
So how do you have a sugar free day? Well its actually harder then it you would think, whilst we all know chocolates, soft drink and pastries are full of sugar and bad for you, unfortunately a large number of foods on our supermarket shelves are full of added sugar. Basically you will have to read the nutritional guide available on all foods and check the sugar content. A basic rule of thumb which is as relevant today as it was 50 years ago when Jack Lalanne first said it:
"If humans make it, don’t eat it"
Here are some surprising foods to avoid:
Fat Free Foods
Despite the positive sounding marketing, these foods almost universally swap out fat with processed sugar. So whilst the fat content is very low the calories consumed can actually skyrocket with the added sugar necessary to keep the foods tasty. Coles light vanilla ice cream which boasts that it is 97% fat free is made up of no less than 22% sugar. 2 scoops contains a third of your recommended sugar intake for the day.
Traditionally you would associate salad dressing with good health, after all salads are excellent for you. However a simple French salad dressing is made up of 16% sugar. Try olive oil or balsamic vingar instead or just go natural with the salad and let the vegetables provide the taste.
Sauce and condiments are often overlooked when it comes to sugar, but their great flavours almost exclusively come from the high sugar content. Thu humble BBQ sauce is 33% sugar and should be avoided on your sugar free day.
Yoghurt is quite rightly touted as an excellent food source for good health. Greek yoghurt in particular has many health benefits and should be added to your diet when possible. However the more common yoghurt varieties are a different story altogether. Whilst greek yoghurt has only 3% sugar content, the flavoured variety has a massive 19%, one cup of this will contain 47 grams of sugar smashing your daily allowance in one go.
Whilst fruits are high in sugar, they are packed full of other nutritional benefits, not least being fibre which will keep you feeling full. Fruit juice strips most of this nutritional benefit and leaves you with the high levels of sugar. A fruit juice simply won’t fill you up like the fruit will, so you consume the same amount of calories and sugar and potentially start snacking a lot sooner. One glass of orange juice contains 21 grams of sugar, nearly the recommend daily allowance for women.
Energy Bars, White Breads, “health food” snacks, dried fruits and many breakfast cereals have high concentrations of sugar. Whilst their names and marketing may suggest otherwise its important today for you to make a habit of checking the nutritional guides on any packaged foods. Meats, Vegetables, Fruits and unpackaged nuts are good choices today along with water and tea on the beverage side of things.
Why you should be avoiding sugar
We have discussed the importance of reducing sugar for weight loss, but that is just one of many benefits in minimizing sugar in our diets. From a health perspective a reduction in sugar will lead to:
- Improved Liver health and reduction in fatty liver deposits
- Reduced cholesterol levels
- Better insulin production and significant reduction in the chances of diabetes
- Improves function of a hormone called Leptin which is the hormone that tells the brain that we are full.
When you cut sugar out of your diet you will notice many changes, some immediately and some over a few weeks time. If weight loss does not motivate you enough to check nutritional information on foods a reduction in sugar will:
- Break a cycle of sugar dependence. Research has suggested that sugar is a physically addictive substance which will cause a never ending cycle of gradually consuming more sugar to satisfy demand. Many people report when they cut out sugar is their cravings for sweets and snacks drops significantly. The moral of the story is the longer you go without, the easier it gets.
- Reduce your snacking and help you feel full. Sugar doesn’t cause proper satiety, which basically means it doesn’t make you feel full for long. Think of how a chocolate bar only satisfies for a short period of time.
- Your skin will clear up. Sugar is the leading cause to post teenager acne and skin blemishes. Removing it from your diet will save you time and money in the skincare department.
- You will sleep easier and more peacefully. Not only will you be more alert and awake during the day but your body will be better prepared to fall asleep at bedtime as well.
- Reduce Anxiety and related conditions. Research has shown that sugar exasperates anxiety, irritability, memory loss and mood swings. Taking it out of your diet could be as beneficial for the mind as it is for the body.
As we have discussed previously action is more important than perfection. Don’t let all this information overwhelm you, just take a few pieces of advice and apply it to your sugar free day today. You may not meet a professional nutritionist high standards but swapping that soft drink for water is an improvement for you and your body. Little changes and small improvements will add up in the long run.