If you’ve been struggling to lose weight, but feel that you’re watching your diet, working out and doing all of the other things you think you need to do in order to be successful with your weight loss plan but just can’t drop those extra pounds, then it’s time to examine your diet just a little more closely. Remember, when in doubt, always go back to your nutrition plan to analyze the foods you’re consuming. Your diet plays a huge role in losing unwanted body fat, getting lean and achieving the body you are working so hard to attain.
How Sugar Makes You Fat
For a long time we have believed that it was the fat in our diet that was responsible for the increase in obesity. While this may be true with unhealthy fats, recent findings show that sugar is actually a bigger culprit. The sweet stuff wreaks havoc on our waistlines in two powerful ways:
#1. Insulin Resistance
When you eat a delicious slice of cake, handful of candy or some other high sugar food, the amount of glucose in your blood rapidly increases. If left unchecked, this condition can actually kill you. Thankfully, your body has an answer in the form of your pancreas. This organ releases a hormone called insulin which signals cells to absorb the excess glucose. So in minutes, sugar levels return to normal. Correspondingly, the pancreas reduces secretion of insulin.
However, the problem is we often eat too much sugar and we typically do this on a daily basis. So the pancreas releases insulin constantly throughout the day. With this hormone being released in high amounts, cells become numb to its effects. As a result, getting rid of excess glucose becomes difficult and this can lead to a condition called insulin resistance.
However, it doesn’t end there. Insulin orders fat cells to stop burning fat for energy because you already have lots of glucose in your blood. So, in the end, you end up storing body fat and gaining weight. Not a good thing!
#2. Your Liver Turns Sugar Into Fat
As in the previous scenario, sugary foods raise the level of glucose. So the liver converts what it deems the excess into fat which is then released into the blood to be absorbed by other cells. This accumulation of fat leads to weight gain and other issues.
How Much Sugar Is Safe?
Our body has a love-hate relationship when it comes to sugar. Too much of it can kill us, but at the same time we cannot survive without it. Actually, our brains very much depend on it. So we must strive to consume it in safe amounts. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends 6 teaspoons every day. However, an average human eats a whopping 22 teaspoons each day! Here is a little math to show you how quickly this can add up:
- 1 teaspoon = 4 grams
- 22 teaspoons x 4 grams = 88 grams (per day)
- 88 grams x 365 days = 32,120 grams (per year)
For your information, 32,120 grams is equal to 70.81 pounds! That’s the amount of sugar an average person consumes every single year. No wonder we have an obesity epidemic!
The amount of sugar you pour into your daily cup of coffee or tea is not the major culprit. It’s the specific foods we include in our diets that is loaded with this sweet substance. Next time you’re grocery shopping, check the sugar content on the nutritional label for all of the foods you put into your shopping cart and see how it stacks up. Divide the total grams of sugar by 4 and you’ll have the number of teaspoons of sugar you’ll be eating in your favorite foods.
However, not all food manufacturers clearly state the quantity of sugar on the nutritional label and they also hide sugar in other forms on the ingredients list. Ever heard of high-fructose corn syrup, dextrose, maltose or maltodextrin? Yep, those are all different names for sugar that many manufactures add to their products. So if you’re only looking for the word “sugar” in the ingredients, do a little research and become knowledgeable so you can learn what to watch out for.
Did you know that a 12-ounce can of Coke has 9 teaspoons of sugar? Think about how many similar foods you consume on a daily basis and you will soon realize how quickly the sugar can pile up. One of the worst culprits is the amount of sugar that’s loaded in beverages (from soda, to coffee and sports drinks) since it’s in liquid form and needs very little digestion to process. So you’re basically mainlining sugar when you chug down your favorite sugary drink which will send your insulin levels on a massive roller coaster ride. The rate of consumption is also a factor when it comes to sugary beverages. How easy is it to guzzle down a nice cold 32 ounce Big Gulp of Pepsi? Since it’s in liquid form, a person can quickly drink 500 calories of pure sugar in a matter of minutes without even thinking about it!
Considering that you still need sugar to survive, natural sources are your best option. These include fruits, vegetables, grains and other natural whole foods. Glucose from these foods is absorbed slowly because of the fiber contained in them.
How To Reduce Sugar in Your Life
Typically, reducing sugar in your diet is about a lifestyle change. Too much of this sweet poison means you are not eating healthy and need to make some changes. So you must give up on some of your favorite junk foods and beverages that are hurting you. If you’re currently drinking sugar sodas, make a switch to the diet version which will slash the total sugar and calories to zero! However, make sure to watch out for the artificial sweeteners contained in diet sodas like aspartame, sucralose and saccharine since these can cause their own host of health issues. It’s always better to drink water since it’s much healthier for you and doesn’t have any calories or artificial sweeteners so it won’t cause issues with spiking insulin levels. If you don’t like the taste of plain water, try drinking flavored sparking water which comes in many different natural flavors.
With much of the sugar hidden when eating out at restaurants, cooking your own food is the best way to deal with this issue. It may seem like a lot of work, but in the end, it’s worth the extra effort. Being at the helm of exactly what and how much goes into your food puts you on a road to a healthier life. You can easily regulate the amount of ingredients and if you need to add a little sugar you will have complete control to determine how much you’re actually consuming.
Reducing sugar might seem really difficult at first since food may suddenly becomes less appetizing. However, all of this is part of the transformation. With time, your taste buds will get accustomed to eating real whole foods and you will realize how good these nutrient dense foods taste in their natural form without all of the added sugars. The best part of making this lifestyle change is that you will be decreasing your chances of getting diabetes, heart disease and other major health conditions.
Foods You Should Avoid
Since we know that processed sugar is bad for us, it’s time to recognize specific foods you should stop eating right away. Making the switch to a healthy diet may take time, but removing these foods will help you get there faster.
- Most Foods Labeled Fat-Free or Low-Fat: Foods that have the fat removed usually taste terrible. Manufacturers understand that you will not waste your money on something that tastes like cardboard so they add a lot of sugar to make these “fat-free” foods appetizing to the palate.
- Fruit Juices: Fruits juices have way too much added sugar which will make your insulin levels go crazy and lead to weight gain. It’s much healthier to purchase a juicer or a blender and make your own fresh juices at home with real fruit. However, watch your overall consumption since the natural sugar (fructose) found in fruits can block fat loss if consumed in high amounts.
- High Sugar Beverages: As discussed previously, avoid all sugary soda pop, specialty coffee drinks and sports drinks. Opt for the “diet” or “sugar-free” versions to cut the sugar out and save hundreds of calories.
As a society, we are obese for a number of reasons. But for the majority of the people who struggle with being overweight, this condition is by choice. Increasing physical activity and eating a healthy diet are some of the key things to help resolve this terrible epidemic. The first place to start is by making a commitment to remove as much processed sugar from your diet so you can live a healthier, happier and leaner life!