By Dr. Jenna Dye, Naturopathic Physician
Sugar seems to be in almost everything we eat and often it is hidden in foods that we least expect. Overconsumption can lead to chronic health conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disease, fatigue and more. Sugar can directly inhibit the immune system and cause inflammation in the body.
Tips to Reduce Your Daily Sugar Intake
Eliminate sugary beverages. Sodas, energy drinks, fancy flavored coffee drinks and juices are very high in sugar. Even those “healthy” premade smoothies/juices can be loaded with sugar. Calories from sugary drinks do not satisfy our appetite like whole real foods do so we tend to consume larger quantities. Instead try the following:
• Sparkling water and add lemon or lime to flavor.
• Herbal tea (without caffeine counts as water) and try it iced in the hot weather months.
• If you drink coffee, you can add stevia, which is a natural sweetener, or unsweetened alternative milk.
• And just plain water: most of us do not drink enough of it anyway.
Read the labels and look for hidden sugars. We know the obvious sugar rich foods such as sodas, candy bars and desserts. However, there are many hidden sugars in the processed foods we eat. Added sugar can be found in ketchup, BBQ sauce, salad dressings, canned soups, and spaghetti sauces. We can also find added sugars in alternative milk. It is important to read the ingredient labels and choose foods that do not have these added sugars. Choose unsweetened alternative milks and reduced or no sugar sauces. Or even better, make your own at home.
Watch out for “healthy” processed foods. Even foods from a health food store can have high amounts of sugar. Hidden sugar can be found in granola bars, protein bars, premade fruit smoothies and some dried fruits. Always check the labels for the added sugars. Alternatives for these snacks can include: a handful of nuts or trail mix with dried fruit with no added sugar, a hard-boiled egg, or fresh fruit with a protein source (apple slices with nut butter).
Eat more protein and full fat foods. When you eat protein rich foods, your blood sugar does not spike like it does with sugar rich foods. Adding in protein snacks throughout the day can help balance blood sugar and decrease those sugar cravings. Many of us have been programed to think that fat is a bad thing, especially when you may want to lose weight and cut calories. Unfortunately, the “low fat” or “fat free” options typically contain more sugar, thus adding more calories. Healthy full fat foods also satisfy our hunger, which will help cut those sugar cravings. Plus, they just taste better! I encourage patients to choose full fat Greek yogurt or full fat cottage cheese in moderation.
Decreasing sugar in your diet has many benefits, including potential weight loss, reducing inflammation, strengthening the immune system, and improving chronic diseases and overall health. Your naturopathic doctor can further individualize treatment that is tailored to your specific health goals.
Dr. Jenna Dye is a licensed naturopathic physician. Her role is to support the body’s foundation to restore and maintain optimal health. Together with her patients, this is achieved by identifying and removing barriers that may be impacting health while creating a healing environment. For more information, visit drjennadye.com.