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How to Reduce Your Sugar Intake

Whether you binge on the weekend or are eating too much sugar on a daily basis, the impact of excessive sugar on your body can leave you feeling more sour than sweet. Undue intake of the sweet stuff has been associated with weight gain, insulin resistance, high blood pressure, premature aging, fatty liver diseases, erectile dysfunction, weakened immune system, kidney damage, joint issues, and increased risk of diabetes and heart disease.

And that’s not the whole story.

The American Heart Association revealed that that the average American consumes about 30 teaspoons of sugar each day. That’s around 500 calories each day in sugar alone—and three times over the recommended daily intake. In other words, sugar is hands down one of the worst ingredients in our modern-day day. That’s why cutting on your sugar intake is likely the best decision you can make for your health and well-being. Let’s discuss a few ways to help you do so.

Remove the Junk

Don’t want to fall victim to late unhealthy snacking? Toss out the junk out of your home. Practice out of sight, out of mind.

For most people, putting some distance between the urge to eat junk food and actually being able to do it can be helpful. This is especially the case after a stressful day when your willpower is at its lowest. Of course, don’t take my word for it. Research has that that people who keep junk food at home are more likely to experience weight problems.

Here’s what to do. Sift through your kitchen and toss away as many temptations as possible. Lose the soda, cookies, chocolate, candy, and all of that. Leave nothing to chance. You shouldn’t just avoid having junk food around. You should also have access to a variety of healthy foods and snacks.  

Fill up your pantries with healthier alternatives, such as 

  • Prechopped vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Nuts (no added salt or sugar)
  • Dried seaweed
  • Low-fat yogurt
  • Cheese

Stop Drinking Calories

Whether you prefer soda, fruit juice, or beer, your drinking habits can take a toll on your daily sugar intake. Here’s the truth. Liquid sugars are nothing but glorified candy. In fact, they’re likely the most dangerous form of sugar since they get quickly digested into the bloodstream. This, in turn, spikes up your blood sugar, causing more cravings.

Again, don’t take my word for it. Research out of the American Journal of Public Health found a strong link between increased intake of soda and a higher risk for heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and other health conditions. We’re also gulping down too much of the liquid candy. The National Institute of Health has reported that soda is the third largest source of sugar in the average American diet.

Not convinced? Depending on the brand, the average 12-ounce can of soda packs in about eight teaspoons of sugar. That’s roughly 130 calories from sugar alone. Running a mile burns about 100 calories so you’ll need to run at least 1.5 miles to burn the excess calories. Switch to iced tea or sparkling water with fruit essence. You can also create your own healthy drinks by adding cucumber, mint, or fruit to water.

Eat Non-Starchy Veggies

Eating more vegetables is a no-brainer. The stuff is nutritious and contains a lot of fiber, vitamins, minerals, etc. But to err on the side of caution, you’re better off sticking to non-starchy vegetables. 

And here’s why.

Starchy veggies contain more starch, thus, carbohydrates. This means that consuming them can quickly boost your sugar intake. Examples of starchy veggies include carrots, beets, peas, potatoes, lima beans, and corn. On the other hand, non-starchy vegetables consist of veggies that are low in carbohydrates and calories. They also add flavor, texture, and rich color to any meal.

 A few examples of non-starchy veggies include:

  • Broccoli
  • Leeks
  • Artichoke
  • Mushroom
  • Cucumber
  • Asparagus
  • Baby corn
  • Onions
  • Bamboo shoots
  • Cabbage
  • Brussel sprouts

Eat Your Protein

Are cravings a big problem? Then consider upping your protein intake. By doing so, you’ll be able to maintain steady blood sugar levels, which is key to preventing cravings. And, of course, don’t take my word for it. Research has revealed that participants who ate protein at breakfast experienced fewer cravings for junk food than later in the day.

Why it’s this the case? The main reason protein tames cravings is because it triggers the release of the hormone PYY—or what’s known as the fullness hormone—which is key for reducing hunger and keeping you feel full longer. That’s not the whole story. This macronutrient also limits the secretion of Ghrelin, which is a hunger hormone.

Here are some of the healthiest sources of protein to add to your diet.

  • Grass-fed beef
  • Poultry
  • Wild fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel, etc.
  • Eggs
  • Raw cheese
  • Greek yogurt
  • Nuts
  • Whey protein, especially from raw goat’s milk
  • Legumes such as lentils, beans, and chickpeas.

Get Enough Sleep

Your lifestyle choices also matter when it comes to reducing sugar intake. Sleep is one of them. In fact, for most people, unhealthy cravings hit the hardest following a few nights of bad sleep. And again, research backs this up. Studies have found a strong link between bad sleep and unhealthy foods cravings.

Sleep debt negatively impacts your appetite-regulating hormones, especially leptin and Ghrelin. This triggers cravings for easy sources of energy usually found in high-carb, high-fat, foods. That’s not the whole story. Research has also found that lack of sleep is likely to cause cravings for unhealthy foods. This experiment found when participants increased their sleeping hours reported fewer cravings. By the same token, they also reduced their intake by roughly ten grams following a good night’s sleep. What’s more?

For these reasons (and some more) make sleep a priority. As a rule, shoot for seven to nine hours per night.

Here are a few tips to ensure optimum sleep quality.

  • Start exercising on a regular basis. Exercises, such as running, have been linked to improved sleep quality.
  • Avoid heavy meals or caffeine within four to three hours of bedtime. Instead, keep your dinner light and drink plenty of water.
  • Sleep in a dark room. This triggers the secretion of melatonin, the sleep hormone, which is key for deep slumber.
  • No bright lights.  Avoid screens in the hour before hitting the sack. 
  • Establish a routine. Build the habit of going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, even on weekends.
  • Unwind. Practice meditation, self-hypnosis, or breath work before sleep to help bring your brain activity down so you can doze off much easier.

Read the Labels

Surveys have found that out of 600,000 food products assessed, roughly 80 percent have added sugar in one form or the other. Yes, the stuff is almost everywhere. That’s why learning how to properly read and interpret food labels is key to success. Just keep in mind that it’s not always easy to spot sugar on food labels. In fact, the food industry has “invented” more than 60 names that stand for sugar. For that reason, it’s not always easy to tell how much sugar you’re consuming. But you can make things easier by learning how to read food labels.

Any ingredient with “ose” at the end of it or any of the following terms should be a red flag. A few examples include:

  • Glucose
  • Fructose
  • Lactose
  • Agave
  • Molasses
  • Fruit juice concentrate
  • Sucrose
  • Maltose
  • Cane crystals
  • Cane sugar
  • Honey
  • Fructose corn syrup
  • Brown rice syrup
  • Organic cane sugar
  • Maple syrup

More than two forms of sugar on the label? Don’t touch it! Instead, choose a lower-sugar version or simply avoid all forms of processed and pre-packaged foods.

Use the Jefit App to Track Your Workouts

Jefit, named best online strength training choice for 2022, in an article published by the University of Colorado at Boulder. The app comes equipped with a customizable workout planner and training log. The app has ability to track data, offer audio cues, and features to share workouts with friends. Take advantage of Jefit’s exercise database for your strength workouts. Visit our members-only Facebook group. Connect with like-minded people, share tips, and advice to help get closer to reaching your fitness goals. Try one of the new interval-based workouts and add it to your weekly training schedule. Stay strong with Jefit.

Michael Wood, CSCS
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