Counting calories is one of the first things people think of when they hear the word diet, and getting rid of carbs is the other. No matter what dieting plan you try, calories and carbs are just part of the struggle to lose weight. Many people forget about sugar, as they don’t realize how much of an impact it can have on both weight gain and loss. You’ve heard that sugar will rot your teeth, but did you know it adds empty calories to your diet and increases your risk of developing serious health problems like diabetes or obesity? To make it more confusing, how about having to read labels for good sugars vs bad sugars? Sugar can be sweet, but it can also sour your weight loss plans.
Sugar is a natural occurrence in nature, with fructose being a natural sugar in fruit and lactose being a natural sugar in milk. Because these sugars hide in plain sight but in healthy foods, you can’t totally eliminate it from your diet. Weight management plans like the HCG diet opt to limit the amount of sugar you intake, knowing that it can’t completely be avoided. The recommended limit on sugar is about six teaspoons a day for women and nine teaspoons a day for men. This number may sound surprisingly high, but the average 12-ounce soft drink will contain up to 10 or more teaspoons of sugar. A drink this size is consumed in one meal or during one snack. The current consumption for the average American is right around 20 teaspoons a day. Most of the time, people don’t even know they are filling their bodies with empty calories and added sugars.
Too much sugar in the body can have serious side effects on your health. Sugar-laden beverages like juices, soft drinks, flavored coffees are some of the worst culprits when it comes to adding too much sugar to your diet. Fruit naturally contains fructose, but fruit juices will increase the amount of fructose and add sugar derivatives like high fructose corn syrup as well. Consuming fructose will increase your desire for more food and make you feel hungry. Over time, too much fructose could decrease the production and effectiveness of leptin, the hormone that tells your body to stop eating. This can lead to excessive weight gain and obesity, which on their own, compound the serious health problems you may experience. Too much sugar can also increase your risk of heart disease, which is the number one killer of American women and individuals around the world. High-sugar diets can lead to inflammation, high blood pressure levels, and atherosclerosis. Sugar will spike the body’s insulin and blood sugar levels, which impact androgen secretion, inflammation, and oil production. The increase in these areas leads to acne development, which can cause scarring and skin discoloration.
Sugar is everywhere in the grocery store, so it may be hard at first to try to weed it out of your diet. If you are going to cut down, then you should do it a little at a time. Studies have documented the addictive nature of sugar, so you may find yourself craving sugary drinks or foods even more once you start to work it out of your diet. By doing more cooking at home, you can watch what you eat and monitor how much sugar you are consuming. You don’t have to abandon all your favorite recipes, either. You can give them a makeover using less sugar, a sugar substitute like Xylitol, or another sweetening agent- like apple sauce.
Changing your diet means steering clear of sugary drinks, even when it is advertised as a diet version. Artificial sweeteners may not have as many calories, but it can still signal your body to crave more sugar and pressure you to abandon your reduced-sugar pledge. Opt for sparkling water with a splash of fruit juice instead of a soft drink. Use skim milk and berries to make a healthy smoothie rather than stopping for a milkshake. While you avoid packaged drinks, reduce how much processed and pre-packaged foods you consume. They are full of bad sugars and do nothing for your health in a positive way. About 75% of the food you will find in the grocery store that is prepackaged contains added sugars. This goes for the low-fat meals and snacks, too. Add healthy snacks to your diet, replacing your crackers, candies, or snack cakes with veggie sticks, fruit, or nuts. Get in the habit of reading labels at the store, looking for hidden sugars or sugar derivatives.
Your diet may be stalling because you haven’t thought of the sugars that are still present in your meal or snack. Sugar will leave your sweet tooth satisfied, but it will sabotage your weight goals in the process.
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