By: Dr. Mike Baker, ND
As part of my practice, I routinely discuss the benefits of a healthy diet and consistently find that cutting back on sugar is a critical component of patients getting better. This not only helps their present concerns but may also help prevent diseases and conditions associated with excess sugar such as:
• Cardiovascular disease
• Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
• Tooth decay
Recently, a study confirmed that replacing sugar with healthier options can result in impressive health improvements. The study changed the diets of unhealthy obese children, by giving the children the same number of calories but changing the source of those calories from pure sugar to a complex carbohydrate. In the group of children that received starchy carbohydrates (like root vegetables and whole grains) instead of foods with added sugar, they not only lost a bit of weight, but there was a significant reduction in cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure and blood sugar levels. The most astounding finding was that these positive changes occurred in only nine days. The key to the children’s success appeared to be a reduction of foods containing sucrose, also known as table sugar.
The researchers speculated that fructose, a component of sucrose, was the culprit to blame for poor health. Why is fructose so bad? Like any food, fructose has the potential to be unhealthy when consumed in high quantities, and as a population, we do tend to eat fructose in large amounts. It is added to manufactured and packaged foods such as baked goods, granola bars, ice cream, pop and energy drinks, candy, cereals, and juice such as fruit cocktails. Some studies have suggested that not only does excessive fructose consumption increase the risk of diabetes, but the liver metabolizes excess fructose into cholesterol and triglycerides which puts people at higher risk for obesity, heart disease, and a fatty liver.
Tips to lower sugar consumption
• The World Health Organization recommends no more than 25 grams of added sugar a day. This applies to sugar added to packaged foods and beverages, fruit juices, and sweeteners such as honey and maple syrup. Sugars from fresh produce are not subject to this 25 gram limit.
• Be mindful of the sugar content of foods not typically associated as sugary – such as yogurt, bread, healthy cereals, soup, and even condiments like ketchup and hot sauce.
• Choose whole, unprocessed foods. This means whole grains and food made from scratch.
• If you can’t avoid packaged foods, choose ones that are low in added sugar such as sucrose.
• Sugars considered “healthy” such as coconut sugar, brown sugar, cane juice, molasses, honey, maple syrup, dates, and agave should still be consumed in very small quantities.
• Dried fruit contains a higher amount of sugar per gram than fresh fruit.
• At a minimum, have an equal amount or more of vegetable servings as you do fruit servings. When you can, favor raw, brightly colored vegetables.