It seems that everywhere you turn today there is another article, video, book, post etc. telling you to lower your sugar intake ASAP. While some are direct and inform you on why, not every source accurately explains the consequences to back up their point. With the average sugar intake per individual being 66 lbs of added sugar and 84 lbs from fruits and vegetables annually, this is definitely a topic to be discussed. The reality is sugar can play a detrimental role in many health-aspects of your life, including: inflammation, the state of your microbiome/gut, the youthfulness of your skin, sleep patterns, neurological health, mood, weight and more.
To back up why we also believe moderating sugar intake is necessary, here are a few consequences of sugar-overload on the body:
- When sugar is of abundance in the bloodstream, the hormone insulin tells your body to store it in fat cells called adipocytes, hence why eating too much added sugar evidently leads to weight/fat gain.
- Increased sugar intake can cause your body to build up an insulin resistance, and lead to Diabetes further down the road.
- Especially in regards to the source of sugar – our energy, mood, anxiety levels etc. can all take a major blow with too high of a sugar intake. Consuming processed and refined forms of sugar can spike insulin too quickly, giving you that sugar high and crash. Its presence can also trigger the chemical cytokines to be released, which can lead to inflammation and a mechanism responsible for depression.
- Too much sugar can also alter the entire state of your microbiome, and since your gut is responsible for 70 percent of your immune system, it plays a significant role on your overall well-being from digestive health to cellular health and appearance. Certain intestinal microflora that feed off of refined sugar have been directly linked to inflammation, Crohn’s Disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. There’s been other research done to show sugar can increase the risk of cancer, by affecting white blood cells and the alkalinity of your body, accelerate aging, and cause skin complications such as premature wrinkles, puffiness and acne.
By now I'm sure you agree - too much of this stuff is not good for you, but you may also be wondering how do you start to cut down your intake?
Here’s some of our tips on how to cut sugar intake and reduce the negative effects it may have:
- Create a sugar cap - Focus on added sugars and try to limit your intake everyday, the recommended daily intake of added sugar currently sits at 25g for women and 37.5g for men. While natural sugars can still be great for us, try to really listen to your body and make conscious decisions of when you need the extra sugar sources (i.e honey, maple syrup, fruit).
- Consume it with something else – fat, protein, fiber – which will lessen the absorption rate by slowing digestion, decreasing the insulin response and trigger the hormone leptin, which tells your body your full so you’ll be less likely to overdue it.
- Time your intake properly: After a workout is ideal because your body can actively use the sugar to directly fuel your muscles. Stray from consumption too early in the morning as your cortisol levels are naturally higher (which in turn leads to higher insulin), and do not eat too much sugar late at night as it can disrupt sleep patterns.
- Train your body to run on alternative fuel – by consuming a Ketogenic diet and/or intermediate fasting which will cause your brain to run on fat sources, ketones, for energy. To uphold a state of ketosis try to limit carb intake to 60g or less a day, supplementing those calories with mostly healthy fats and moderate protein.
- Try supplements that will reduce your attractiveness to sugar: Apple Cider Vinegar can help change tastebuds to make sugar taste too sweet, and the herb Gymnema Sylvestre, part of the milkweed family, is known as the “sugar destroyer” because it desensitizes taste buds to sweet items while promoting healthy blood sugar levels.
- Incorporate more naturally sweet vegetables such as sweet potatoes, squash, carrots, etc. that will kick some sweet cravings while eating your main meals.
- READ LABELS: many products - ketchup, sauces, flavored yogurts etc. have hidden added sugars that aren't necessary. Go for the products without any added sugars instead and you'll reduce your intake quite easily.
To help you ease into reducing your sugar intake here’s three smoothie recipes that are all FRUIT FREE. Yes, we agree smoothies are great for you and can be packed with nutrients, however most fruit-based or all-fruit ones fulfill your daily sugar intake in one sitting as well as lack other important macronutrients. The recipes we’re sharing below are flavorful, filling, and full of nutrients. While they are not sugar-free (even vegetables have sugar too), they are definitely low on the spectrum in comparison to their fruity counterparts.
WARM Sweet-Potato Smoothie – Inspired by @LeeFromAmerica
1/2 baked or steamed sweet potato (skin on, get those nutrients!)
1 serving vanilla protein powder
1 large raw carrot OR 1/2 cup steamed cauliflower
1 1/2 cup hemp milk (or other nut-based milk)
1 1/2 tbsp almond butter
1 tsp coconut butter
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cardamom
Blend on high for 2 minutes, pour, and enjoy!
(Note: If a fruit free and warm smoothie is too much for you to switch to at once, simply steam the sweet potato/carrot or cauliflower and freeze them in small pieces before using. Blend from frozen for a more typical cold, thick-textured smoothie)
Cacao-Mint Smoothie – Inspired by: @VeguKate
3/4 Cup steamed then frozen cauliflower
1 cup steamed then frozen zucchini
1 cup spinach
1 scoop vanilla protein powder
1 tablespoon coconut butter
1 ½ cups vanilla almond milk (or milk of choice)
3 tbsp cacao nibs
¼ cup fresh mint leaves or 2 drops mint extract
coconut flakes, to garnish
Blend on high for 2-3 minutes, depending on how crushed you’d like the cacao nibs, pour, top & enjoy!
Spa Smoothie – Inspired by: @BeWellByKelly
1 serving vanilla protein powder
1/4 frozen or fresh avocado
1 tbsp chia or hemp seeds
1-2 tsp coconut oil
Squeeze lemon juice
1 small (Persian) cucumber
1/4 mint leaves, optional
1 1/2 cup nut milk
Blend on high for 2 minutes, pour, top with coconut, hemp/chia seeds etc. and enjoy!