Can you guess how much sugar the average Briton ingests every year?
The answer may shock you. Surveys put that number at around 60 grams of sugar every day, which is three times the daily recommended limit. According to the National Diet and Nutrition Survey, the sweet stuff makes up 13.5 percent of 4 to 10 years old, and 14.1 of teenagers' daily calorie intake; the official suggested daily limit of sugar is no more than 5 percent.
That’s why it should come as no surprise that public health experts have been lobbying to heavily tax sugar in processed foods as well as a crackdown on the marketing of junk foods to kids. But why should you care? Sugar, after all, tastes good.
Reducing your sugar intake is likely one of the best decisions you can make to improve your health and wellbeing, and here’s why.
Excessive sugar intake boosts your risks of diseases such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, mood disorders, tooth decay, cancer, etc.—the list is long and terrifying. Here’s the good news. It’s possible to slowly—yet surely—reduce sugar intake in a way that’s practical and painless.
Out of sight out of mind
We’ve all heard about the old saying “out of sight, out of mind.” That applies particularly well to curbing your sugar intake too. Research revealed that people who keep junk food within arm’s reach are more likely to face difficulty losing and/maintain weight. That should come as no surprise. In other words, banish the candy jar, and you won’t miss it that much. Toss away all of the cereals, desserts, chocolate bars, chips, and any other sugar-rich food. It’s not going to taunt when it’s not within arm’s reach.
Watch your beer intake
Alcohol, loaded in calories and carbs, is nutrient-poor and can quickly ramp up your daily sugar intake, leading to all sorts of problems. Surveys show that alcoholic beverages account for about 11 percent of 30 to 64-year-olds in the UK’s daily intake of the sweet stuff. These drinks also stimulate your appetite, which can cause hunger pangs, leading to overeating. Alcohol can also affect your willpower and judgment, setting you up for bad food choices.
Overall, drinking too much, or too often, of the stuff boosts your immediate risk for liver and brain damage, and increase your risks of high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. I could go on and on but you get the picture. Alcohol is detrimental to your health and wellbeing, and the more you ingest, the greater the risk. Although no level of alcohol intake can be guaranteed as completely safe, there are a few measures you can take to lessen the risk. For example, taking a break from alcohol through an alcohol-free challenge can mean you reset your relationship with alcohol which can help to reduce your intake in the long term.
Eat your veggies
Only a fool will argue against the benefits of greens in daily life. But when it comes to the sugar content, some veggies contain more of the sweet stuff than others. When buying vegetables, avoid starchy ones like peas, carrots, corn, sweet potatoes, and lima beans. Starchy greens contain higher amounts of sugar, therefore, eating them can quickly ramp up your sugar intake—and as you know, the more sugar you consume, the more you crave.
Instead, choose low-carb veggies, such as Onions, Asparagus, Mushrooms, Broccoli or Cauliflower.
Be a label detective
Added sugar is sneaked into virtually all food, even in products that don’t even taste sweet, such as ketchup, dressing, barbecue sauces, and peanut butter. Need proof? Check out this survey that revealed that out of more than 600,000 food items analysed, about 80 percent had added sugar in one form or the other.
What’s more? It’s hard to spot the word sugar on food labels because it can go by as many 60 names—all standing for added sugar in one form or the other. For example, sucrose, glucose, and other words ending in ‘ose’.
Sometimes all you need to do to keep sugar cravings at bay is to fix your sleeping habits. Yes, you can sleep your way to sugar-free life. People who are sleep deprived consume more junk food, mainly from high-calorie fatty foods than people who meet their daily sleep quota, research shows. The prevailing theory states that sleep deprivation compromises your appetite hormones. It increases the release of the hunger hormone—ghrelin—while limiting the release of the appetite-regulating hormone Peptide. This causes you to lust after convenient sources of fuel that often come from sugar. As a rule, aim to get at least seven to nine hours of sleep per night.
To help make that happen, you can implement the following changes:
- Avoid stimulants, like coffee and screens in the two hours before going to bed.
- Set a sleeping routine by going to and out of bed at the same time every day, even on weekends.
- Sleep in a completely dark, chill room. This increases the release of the sleep hormone melatonin, which is vital for a more restful night.
- Meditate, or do anything else, to help wind you down before you doze off.
As you can see now, there are many different measures you can take to start hacking away at your sugar intake. My advice though is, don’t try to do everything all at once. It takes time for your body to re-adjust to the lowered amount of sugar coming in. Don’t try to change everything overnight—otherwise, you might be risking reverting to your old ways. And you don’t want that.
Take it the slow way. Think baby steps. Build on small successes instead of trying to be an overnight success story. This is especially the case when you usually consume colossal amounts of sugar every day.
About the author:
David Dack is an established fitness blogger and running expert. When he’s not training for his next marathon, he’s doing research and trying to help as many people as possible to share his fitness philosophy. Check his blog Runners Blueprint for more info.