Your Body on Sugar & Tips to Reduce Your Intake

Sugar… We are bombarded by it in grocery stores, restaurants, on television, and increasingly on social media. Although we here at PreviMedica are known for enjoying our desserts and sweet treats (National Doughnut Day did not pass without celebration), we also recognize the true dangers that come with the over-consumption of sugar. Of all the foods we eat, refined sugar is considered one of the most harmful. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), overeating sugar in processed and prepared foods is linked to a decreased intake of essential micronutrients and an increase in body weight. New research also suggests that sugar can undermine a healthy cholesterol profile, contributes to hypertension, and fosters inflammation.

Despite sugar’s harmful effects on our health, we can’t seem to stop eating it. The average American consumes more than 130 pounds of sugar a year. That translates to about 22 teaspoons every day, considerably more than the 9.5 teaspoons recommended by the American Heart Association. One reason we are increasingly seduced by sugar is because it activates the reward centers in the brain, causing it to release feel-good neurotransmitters like dopamine and endorphins. Sugar also helps to shuttle the amino acid tryptophan into the brain, where it is converted into serotonin- a neurotransmitter that helps us feel calm. With each sweet treat, our brain becomes increasingly hardwired to crave sugar. It’s so addictive that a study published in PLoS One found that, given a choice, rats preferred sugar water over cocaine. Scary!

Quick Tips to Cut Sugar

  • Read nutrition labels- Labels are required to list the amount of sugar per serving contained in packaged food. Aim for foods containing 3 grams of sugar or less.
  • Choose naturally sweet foods- Fruits, and even some vegetables like sweet potatoes or beets, can satisfy your sweet tooth without sending your blood sugar through the roof. You can also get the sensation of natural sweetness by adding cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, cocoa powder, or small amounts of 100% fruit juice to foods.
  • Opt for unsweetened- If you bake, buy ingredients that are labeled “no added sugar” or “unsweetened.” Applesauce, baking chocolate, canned fruit, non-dairy milks like almond or coconut, nut butters are all available in unsweetened versions.
  • Out of sight, out of mind- Having easy access to sweet treats and snacks at home or work is a surefire way to overindulge. Instead, save dessert and other sweets for special occasions or make them from scratch so that you can control how much sugar goes in your recipes, which goes along with the next tip…
  • Reduce the amount of sugar in your recipes or try a naturally-derived sugar substitute- For most recipes, you can reduce the amount of sugar by one-third. Another option is to use naturally-derived sugar substitutes like erythritol, lo han, stevia, or xylitol to replace some or all of the sugar in recipes. Not as sweet as their chemical counterparts, they do not appear to trigger changes in the brain and will not trigger an insulin release.

To go along with that last tip, check out our Pumpkin Snickerdoodle recipe taste-tested and approved by our staff:

SugarFreePumpkinSnickerdoodles

Pumpkin Snickerdoodles

Makes 24 cookies

Adapted from wholenewmom.com

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup coconut oil
  • ¾ cup xylitol
  • 1 chia “egg” (1 Tbsp. of chia + 3 Tbsp. of water) or 1 large egg
  • ½ cup pumpkin puree
  • ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups almond flour or gluten-free flour blend
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • ¾ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt

            Cinnamon Coating:

  • ½ cup xylitol
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Combine ingredients for cinnamon coating and set aside for now.

3. Combine flour, salt, baking soda and spices in a medium-sized bowl.

4. Melt coconut oil, if solid. Place in a bowl. Add xylitol and chia egg to the softened oil. Beat well. Add pumpkin puree and vanilla. Beat well again.

5. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Mix thoroughly, without over mixing.

6. Roll dough into small balls, drop in cinnamon sugar topping, and roll to coat. (Note: Gluten- free cookies tend to crumble, so the smaller the better.)

7. Place on a baking stone or cookie sheet about 2 inches apart, flattening a bit with your hand.

8. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until slightly golden brown. Cool for approximately 5 minutes before removing from baking sheet to cool on a cooling rack.


References:
Ahmed SH. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2013;16(4):434-9.
Colley DL. Physiol Behav. 2015;139:202-9.
Keller A. Public Health Nutr. 2015;18(7):1145-54.
Kim JY. Cardiovas Toxicol. 2015;15(1):79-89.
Lenoir M. PLoS One. 2007;2(8):e698. Te Morenga LA. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014;100(1):65-79.
Westover AN. Depress Anxiety. 2002;16(3):118-20.
Xi Bb. Br J Nutr. 2015;113(5):709-17.
Yang Q. Yale J Biol Med. 2010;83(2):101-8.

To learn more about replacing or reducing sugar in your eating pattern, schedule a consultation with a PreviMedica nutritionist or culinary advisor by calling 855.773.8463 or emailing hello@previmedica.com.

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