How much is too much?

2.16.2012

It's been two and a half weeks, and I'm still surviving the sugar detox. Feeling pretty good, actually. My sweet cravings have nearly dissipated, which is something I never thought possible, and I have more energy now that my body no longer depends on sugar for an instant boost.

I've also been reading Sarah Wilson's ebook on how to successfully beat sugar addiction, and although her methods are somewhat on the extreme side (like cutting out fruit, milk, etc.), I'm finding a lot of her tips to be quite helpful. Wilson shares with her readers her own story of sugar addiction and how she made the tough but rewarding decision to overcome it. Even after routinely foregoing the baked goods, ice cream, and candy, she says that she still wasn't satisfied with the large amount of not-so-obvious sugars in her diet:
"Here’s a snapshot: three pieces of fruit a day, a handful of dried fruit in my porridge, a teaspoon or two of honey in my tea, a small (35g) bar of dark chocolate after lunch, and after dinner honey drizzled on yoghurt, or dessert (if I was out). A conservative day would see me consume about 30 teaspoons of sugar, just in that rundown of snacks above. That’s not counting the hidden sugar in things like tomato sauce and other everyday foodstuffs."
Thirty teaspoons! According to LiveStrong, there are 4 grams and 15 calories in one teaspoon of sugar. That's 120 grams of sugar in one day. Can you imagine consuming 450 calories of just sugar throughout your day without even realizing it? The sad thing is, in our current world, that is not at all uncommon, even among the most "conservative" of eaters. Which is why I decided to roughly calculate my daily average sugar consumption by totaling the number of grams that I eat on any given day. Somehow, I ended up choosing Valentine's Day. Kind of dumb, if you ask me, but it sort of just happened that way. Anywho, before I display the results, let me just reiterate that this was a one-day-only experiment. Don't worry, I'm not going to go and get all crazy on you people. 

(Just so you can get an idea of the many hidden sugars in the "healthy" foods that we eat, I've color coded natural sugars in blue, added sugars in red, and a combination of the two in purple.)

Sugar Count for Tuesday, Feb. 14th

Breakfast: 16g
-- 1 cup Kashi cereal (5g)
-- 1 cup unsweetened almond milk (0g)
-- 1 tbsp. raisins (10g)
-- 1 cup coffee with 1 pkt. Truvia & 1 tbsp. cream (1g)

Lunch: 4g
-- 1 whole wheat tortilla (3g)
-- 1 slice low-fat provolone cheese (0g)
-- 2 oz. sliced deli turkey breast (0g)
-- 1 tbsp. chipotle salsa (1g)
-- 1/2 cup spinach leaves (0g)

Afternoon Snack: 8g
-- 1 cup tomato basil soup (8g)

Dinner: 18g
-- 1 Kashi frozen meal (18g)

Sidebar: In spite of the universal belief that all college kids eat TV dinners and Ramen noodles for dinner every evening, I actually do try to cook when I'm not too tired and don't have late meetings. I'll usually make things like black bean chili, taco soup, salmon with veggies and brown rice, chicken stir fry, or the occasional [whole wheat] pasta dish. On this particular night, however, I decided to be lazy.

Dessert: 2g
-- 4 oz. red wine (1g)
-- 1 square (10g) 90% dark chocolate (1g)

Total: 48g/12 tsp./180 calories

Not too shabby. Out of those 48 grams of sugar, roughly 23 grams (5.75 tsp. and 86 cals) were added sugars (aka, the bad kind). Keep in mind that this is all approximate. Since nutrition labels don't clarify how many grams of sugar are added versus how many are naturally occurring, I estimated by simply dividing the purple numbers in half and adding them to the red numbers. And of course, the foods made up of nothing but natural sugars are easy to determine because sugar (in any of its devious nicknames) is not listed anywhere in the ingredients. Simple, right?

According to the American Heart Association, women should consume no more than 100 calories from added sugars per day and men no more than 150. Phew, I'm doing okay. But Wilson, being the rockstar that she is, allows herself no more than a total of 6 tsp. of sugar (added plus natural) per day in order to completely clear her body of the toxic substance. As seen above, I definitely don't meet those requirements—try doubling it!—but I'm okay with that. She makes it a point in her ebook that every single body is different and therefore has different needs.

In conclusion, some (very strong-willed) people are able to completely wipe sugar out of their diets... I'm talking fruit, dairy, everything. And that's amazing! But as for me, well, I'm not so extreme. Right now, I'm choosing to concentrate more on those pesky added sugars: I've learned that chocolate peanut butter (7g per 2 tbsp.) is my weakness when I'm in the mood for a snack, but I'm going to eventually wean myself off of the stuff. (It would be a shame to waste the half a jar that's left, don't you think?) However, now that I have a better idea of the amount of sugar in the everyday foods that I eat, I can better decide what to keep around and what to replace with something smarter. After all, this is a learning experience.

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