With the beginning of a new year, you may be looking forward to new possibilities that lie ahead. Maybe that possibility is a new job, a new relationship, a new adventure, or a whole new YOU! Did you know the number one New Year’s resolution is to shed those unwanted pounds? Yet, year after year, despite an avalanche of self-help books, TV shows and magazine covers touting “new” weight loss and fitness programs, this resolution is also the one that often ends up in the junkyard of broken dreams. So what is the biggest common denominator that is sabotaging your diet and dental health? The answer is SUGAR. Not only does sugar wreak havoc on your weight loss efforts, it also destroys your smile. Sugar creates an acidic environment in your mouth leading to decay and unattractive puffy red gum tissue. The inflammatory response to sugar also shows in your skin, and leads to premature aging. However, eliminating this culprit is not as easy as you may think, with many hidden sugars in food and drink products.
So how do you identify, reduce and eventually, eliminate added sugar in your diet?
- Read the food and drink labels.
- Even though the word “sugar” isn’t listed on a label doesn’t mean it’s not an ingredient. Things like “corn syrup,” “glucose,” “sucrose,” “agave nectar,” and “cane juice” are just some of the alternative names to watch out for. You will be surprised by how much sugar can be present in many “natural” drinks. Some can have 26 grams of sugar in a bottle (more than 6 heaping teaspoons of sugar).
- Hydrate with spring water.
- Spring water without chlorine and fluoride helps clear toxins, like sugar, from the body. If you don’t have a taste for it, try adding a slice of fruit in it. In general, you should try to drink between half an ounce and an ounce of water for each pound you weigh, every day. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, that would be 75 to 150 ounces of water a day.
- Avoid artificial sweeteners.
- Besides the popular sugar alcohols like Xylitol, Splenda, Sweet ‘N’ Low, and others, are not properly metabolized in our bodies and are often manufactured by a hydrogenation process. Maltodextrin, a starch filler, actually intensifies a glycemic effect and raise blood sugar. If you must sweeten up your morning coffee or tea, try some local organic honey or natural organic stevia which is low in calories.
- Watch out for hidden sugars in condiments.
- Many condiments such as ketchup, barbeque sauces, pasta sauces and salad dressings can be filled with sugar. Try to use natural dressings and sauces that are sugar free or better yet, make your own using fresh organic produce.
- Limit alcohol consumption.
- Alcohol metabolizes as sugar in the body and is high in calories. While the mixers are the biggest culprits in alcoholic drinks, cutting out liquor, beer and wine can help contribute to an overall healthier body. If you still desire an occasional alcoholic beverage, the best option is spirits (vodka, tequila, whiskey, gin, rum, etc… anything over 80 proof) straight up, on the rocks, or paired with seltzer water. These options have no sugar or carbs, as they are eliminated in the distilling process.
- Eat a balanced alkalizing diet.
- This includes lean proteins, green veggies and low glycemic and high fiber fruits like blueberries, and strawberries. Most fruits include natural sugars, but paired with fiber, help regulate blood sugar when enjoyed in moderation. Green juices can help to alkalize the body, but beware: many fresh juices are sugar and calorie rich, while lacking the plant fiber that helps to moderate the glycemic effect.
- Avoid refined carbs.
- These include white flour, white rice, and pasta. Refined carbohydrates allow excess glucose to be rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream, causing risky spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels, contributing to insulin resistance or “pre-diabetes.” This also turns off fat burning, shifts fat and cholesterol production into overdrive, feeds cancer cells, and sets the stage for inflammation throughout the body. Need I say more?
- Eat more healthy fats.
- Healthy fats control food cravings and won’t raise your insulin levels. Try to consume two to three servings of healthy fats, like avocado, ghee, coconut oil or olive oil. You can also take fish oil nutritional supplements that are also rich in omegas.
While experts recommend that women limit their sugar intake to a maximum of 6 grams (one and a half teaspoons of sugar), and a maximum of 9 grams (two and a quarter teaspoons of sugar) a day for men, these should come from natural, unrefined, and raw sugar sources such as fresh organic fruits, local honey, or maple syrup. Above all, remember to think of these 8 sugar busting tips as a healthy lifestyle change and not a “diet.” Set you intention to accomplish this. It takes approximately 40 days to break old habits and start anew, and that’s just enough time to fortify you against the onslaught of Valentine’s candy!