March is National Nutrition Month.
So, why are we discussing this now, at the end of the month? Because we want to make a point that nutrition awareness and developing sound nutrition habits should be constant – an enduring journey of practice for glowing health as you age.
For this blog, we are going to concentrate on one aspect of nutrition.
One of the biggest hurdles in changing a diet from one that is full of anti-nutrients (additives, chemicals and sugar in all its forms) to one that is nutrient dense, is banishing sugar. And unfortunately, it’s not as easy as saying “no” to typical sweets (candies, pies, cakes, cookies, pastries). Sugar is often added to many food and beverage products – for example, some brands of tomato and pasta sauce have sugar.
We recommend an easy-to-follow plan to dramatically minimize consuming added sugars. First, however, you need to go through a rough patch: eliminate all the aforementioned sweets in your diet – yes, all. After about two weeks, guess what? You will find that you no longer crave that after-dinner sugar-laden food. The sugar cravings diminish and go away, leaving your palate to become more attracted to foods that are savory and rich in nutrition. That peach never tasted that sweet at all when you were eating Oreos and Little Debbies – but now, its natural sweetness makes it perfect for dessert!
Another no-no – fruit juices. This sounds completely illogical, but fruit’s juices are very high in sugar, and instead of gaining the other goodness from the fruit, mainly fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, and slow carbs (the good, energy producing kind) along with its naturally containing sugar, you are getting the concentrated sugar in that fruit – and a glassful of fruit juice likely came from a dozen, not just one. To lower that sugar intake, here’s an idea: squeeze your own into seltzer – instantly delicious!
When you make your shopping list and go food shopping – give yourself extra time. You should begin to read labels. In the FACTS panel, you will see “sugars” listed as a percentage. Realize that each percentage (cholesterol, protein, etc.) and calories is per serving – not the entire can or package. A can of soup often has two servings. And yet, most people do eat the contents of the entire can. Doing so doubles that added sugar intake.
Now, also look at the contents. By law, each food and beverage product needs to list in descending order of volume; so, if sugar is the second or third ingredient out of 20 listed, there’s a lot of it in there.
Whenever you can, purchase a “sugar-free” or “no-sugar-added” alternative. Now, the latter doesn’t mean that the food or beverage has absolutely no sugar; if it is naturally contained, then there will be sugar content in it.
Although time-consuming, especially in this rush-rush world we live in, reading labels is a practice that you will come to do as second nature. And, according to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, added sugars should not exceed more than 10 percent of your daily caloric intake.
A great bonus is that by limiting sugar intake, you will not only lose a few pounds, you will feel great – and how sweet is that?