Updated: Mar 20
While there are many ways to consume sugar, there are more reasons why limiting added sugars is important for your health.
Increased consumption of added sugars can increase inflammation, lead to weight gain, and cognitive decline as well as increase your risk for heart disease, diabetes, fatty liver, and mortality from those conditions. Consuming a lot of added sugar also tends to displace more nutrient-dense foods.
For those of us with Lupus, nutrition is vital to reducing inflammation and vitamin and mineral deficiencies can worsen autoimmunity.
If you’re on steroids like prednisone, prednisolone, or methylprednisone, it’s even more important to be careful with your added sugar intake. Steroids increase your blood sugars even if you’re consuming the exact same foods. Also, being mindful to limit your added sugars can prevent some of the weight gain often associated with steroid use.
There are many ways to reduce your added sugar intake. According to the Dietary Guidelines, nearly 70% of added sugars come from sweetened beverages (soda, juice, coffee or tea), desserts, sweet snacks, candy, and breakfast cereals or bars.
Added sugars are sugars that are not naturally occurring in foods. For example, a glass of milk may have 8 grams of total sugars (sugar naturally occurring in the dairy product itself also known as lactose), but zero added sugars. If you were looking at flavored chocolate milk, you may see that it has 16 grams of total sugars with 8 grams of added sugars. If you were looking at the nutrition label for a fresh, whole apple, the apple would contain total sugar but have zero added sugars.
Here are some easy replacements to reduce your sugar intake:
Drinks: Replace juice and soda with flavored seltzer, water with a splash of lemon or infused waters (just add fresh fruit to your water bottle). You can also reduce the amount of sugar in your coffee or tea gradually.
Snacks: Replace a granola or cereal bar with an apple with peanut butter, fresh vegetables with hummus or guacamole or a handful of nuts and seeds.
Breakfast: Use plain oatmeal and add your own mix of nuts and fresh or frozen fruit for a healthier, lower sugar breakfast in comparison to the pre-sweetened oatmeal packets. Also, choosing plain yogurt and adding your own sweetener will likely have less sugar than the flavored choices, and have no artificial colors or flavors!
Be a savvy shopper and read the nutrition label to compare “added sugars” in similar products. You may be surprised at the difference between brands for a nearly identical food item. Salad dressings, tomato sauces, hot sauces, and other condiments can vary widely in their sugar content depending on their brand. On the label, 4 grams of sugar is the same as adding 1 teaspoon of sugar. While some flavored yogurts or oatmeals can have 15 or 20 grams of added sugars, it’s unlikely that you would add that much sugar (4 or 5 teaspoons) when making it at home.
Sugar can be listed under the ingredients list under many names: brown sugar, beet sugar, coconut sugar, agave, corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, maple syrup, high fructose corn syrup, honey, and molasses.
While many artificial sweeteners seem like the better choice, they can actually disrupt a healthy gut microbiome and lead to weight gain and inflammation in other ways. Stay tuned for another article on artificial sweeteners!
If you’re interested in dietary changes but don’t know where to start, schedule your free meet and greet call with me today!
Publishing, Harvard Health. “The Sweet Danger of Sugar.” Harvard Health, www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/the-sweet-danger-of-sugar.
Yang Q, Zhang Z, Gregg EW, Flanders WD, Merritt R, Hu FB. Added Sugar Intake and Cardiovascular Diseases Mortality Among US Adults. JAMA Intern Med. 2014;174(4):516–524. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.13563
Rippe, James M, and Theodore J Angelopoulos. “Relationship between Added Sugars Consumption and Chronic Disease Risk Factors: Current Understanding.” Nutrients vol. 8,11 697. 4 Nov. 2016, doi:10.3390/nu8110697