What we eat has a profound effect on our health and wellbeing, especially when it comes to inflammation. This is a component of many autoimmune conditions such rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis, and also common chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
Many dietary factors affect inflammation and excess sugar intake is one. In my book, I provide a process and strategy to help you break the sugar habit, which is one of the best things you can do to help improve your overall health and vitality and reduce inflammation.
Follow this process to cut your sugar intake:
1. Wean yourself off of all soda and sugar-sweetened beverages.
Soda is nothing more than carbonated sugar water, and a 12 ounce can of soda can have over 35 grams of added sugar! All of this sugar promotes an increase in body fat, and excess body fat is a key driver of inflammation. Diet soda is not a valid alternative. Its artificial sweeteners taste so much sweeter than sugar that they exacerbate your sugar cravings and derange your body’s reaction to carbohydrates. Instead of sugar and other sweet beverages, drink antioxidant-rich green juice, green tea, or anti-inflammatory nettle tea.
2. Scale back on desserts like cakes, cookies, candy, and pies.
The added sugar and refined flours can elevated insulin levels, promoting inflammation in your body. Instead of traditional desserts, eat fruit or make fruit smoothies that are rich in anti-inflammatory antioxidants. Use natural substitutes for refined white sugar like honey, maple syrup, molasses, and dates in small amounts only.
3. Read labels, and make a list of all the foods you regularly eat that contain added sugar.
Sugar is found under many different names on food labels, including evaporated cane juice, high fructose corn syrup, maltose, brown sugar, honey, brown rice syrup, agave nectar, date sugar, and beet sugar, among others. While some sweeteners are better than others, these are all sources of sugar.
4. Limit non-dessert foods with added sugar.
Unfortunately, many foods that we don’t think of as desserts (or even particularly sweet) contain added sugar. Flavored yogurts, oatmeal, soy and almond milks are all sources of added sugar that can spike your blood sugar levels. Instead, add fruit to sweeten plain yogurt or oatmeal. Alternatively, add a small amount of honey or maple syrup that will provide much less sugar then the pre-sweetened varieties.
5. Pay attention to sauces.
Instead of seasoning your food with sweet sauces like barbecue, hoisin, and teriyaki sauces, use colorful and flavorful fresh and dried anti-inflammatory herbs like turmeric, parsley, cilantro, rosemary, and ginger. Instead of ketchup, use lycopene-rich tomato paste. The tomatoes provide plenty of sweetness on their own. No sugar needed!