When it comes to watching your waistline, you probably already know that you should stay away from certain foods. Of course, saturated fats, high-salt foods, and excess calories probably top the list of what you normally avoid. While these are certainly diet enemies, there is something more you should add to your list of foods to ditch when losing weight, a low sugar diet. Sugar, while technically fat-free, can actually make dieting harder and prevent you from dropping the pounds you want to shed.
When our bodies are properly fueled, they see no need to burn off extra calories and fat. Of course, diets help us get around this by creating a calorie deficit and forcing bodies to burn stored fat. Unfortunately, the production of insulin can confuse this process. Insulin signals to the body that it has enough energy and does not need to tap into fat stores. What does this have to do with sugar? Well, consuming a lot of sugar encourages the pancreas to work harder and make more insulin so that all the energy in the sugar can be used. Sure, this gives you a temporary energy burst, but it also stops your body from burning off extra calories.
To make matters worse, after the initial insulin surge from a sugar rush, you are going to experience a “crash.” This is because your blood sugar levels will ultimately drop from all the insulin your body pumped out. With low blood sugar, you are likely to feel overwhelming cravings for high-carb and high-fat foods. If you give into these, not only will you increase your caloric intake, but you’ll start the entire process all over again. Plus, your energy levels will be so low you are unlikely to workout. Even if you do hit the gym after a post-sugar crash, your workout will definitely not be top-notch.
So, what foods should you specifically watch out for? Processed foods are the most likely culprits when it comes to excess sugar. Of course, you will probably think to stay away from cookies, cakes, and candies. However, you may overlook other high-sugar products. For instance, many breakfast cereals are loaded with sugar as are many cereal and granola bars. You should also avoid artificial maple syrup, which is nearly pure sugar, and sweetened beverages like soda or fruit punch. Even fruit jams can be loaded with extra sugar. For a healthier choice, choose a no-sugar-added variety of fruit preserves, which contain only natural fruit product.
Remember, though, some foods that are very good for you also contain sugar. In fact, fresh fruits are loaded with natural sugar. However, this sweetness is nothing to fear. Fruits contain an appropriate balance of sugar and fiber. Fiber slows down digestion and absorption, which also slows the flow of insulin into the blood stream. Unfortunately, fruit juice, even 100% natural juice, does not contain fiber because the skin and pulp of the fruit have been removed. Consequently, these juices can cause the same sugar spike as candies and cake.
Ultimately, standard dietary guidelines recommend that you should not consume more than 40g of refined sugar each day. However, if you are trying to lose weight, you will probably want to have even less in your diet. Although our bodies do need some sugar to manage energy appropriately, most of what we need can be found in whole grains, fruits, and natural dairy products. If you consume healthy amounts of these, you should not have any need for added, processed sugar.
Some people may try to eliminate excess sugar by substituting artificial sweeteners. While this limits caloric intake and can prevent insulin spikes, it is ultimately not a very good solution. Studies have shown that artificial sweeteners can actually cause our bodies to crave more sweets. Why does this happen? Well, many such sweeteners are actually several times sweeter than natural sugar. In fact, some can be up to 200 times sweeter. Subsequently, our bodies get used to this level of sweetness and less sweet foods, like fruits, will no longer satisfy sugar cravings. Furthermore, some artificial sweeteners may be linked to harmful diseases like arthritis and cancer.
Cutting excess sugar from your diet can be difficult. Cravings attack when we least expect, and can make it nearly impossible to avoid that candy bowl or cookie jar. Thankfully, these cravings are temporary. The longer you go on a low sugar diet, the less you will want sweets. In fact, you will soon be craving an apple for a sweet treat instead of a cookie. Exercise can also help cut cravings by balancing blood sugar and regulating energy levels. So, if you want to lose weight, make low sugar choices a part of your healthy diet and exercise plan.