A few weeks ago, I watched a documentary on iTunes called “That Sugar Film.” Aside from being hugely entertaining, it gave a fascinating perspective on the way we consume and metabolize food. The main point of the documentary was that inside the typical American diet, even the “healthy” kind, there contains way too much sucrose and fructose. This over-consumption of sweeteners in our diets is one of the leading contributors to many of the health risks we face in the world today.
I’ve always considered myself to be a healthy eater. I much prefer natural, low-fat, nutrient-rich foods over their high-fat, processed, and low-nutrition counterparts. I even exercise a lot. Running, mountain biking, working out at the gym, and pushing my kids around in a stroller when we want to get outside is our normal routine. And while I think my healthy choices are paying off, I can’t seem to lose the last 10-15 pounds that have been plaguing me for decades.
Watching the sugar documentary has inspired me to make one critical change: to eliminate as much sugar from my diet as possible. I always knew the food was packed with extra sweeteners such as high-fructose corn syrup, but I didn’t realize how common it actually was. And I’m not just talking about junk food. Food that I would normally classify as “Healthy,” turns out to contain unreal amounts of sugar! Fruit juice has always been my beverage of choice, due to its inherently nutrient-rich properties. Apple, Grape, Mango and Orange Juice has been my go to. I’ve always believed the high-calorie drawbacks were easily offset by the nutrition benefit. Seeing the label with the sugar lens revealed a whole new picture.
I poured a glass of 100% mango juice with zero sugar added. The Mango juice contains 30 grams of naturally-occurring sweetener. A quick calculation gave me the following: Four grams of sugar is equal to one teaspoon. So my tiny 8oz. serving of mango juice contains (30 grams ÷ 4) = 7 1/2 teaspoons of sugar. That’s 2 1/2 Tablespoons or roughly 1/8 cup! Picture yourself pouring that much sugar into a small glass of water and gulping it down.
Completely blown away by the facts, I am embarrassed to admit that I would usually drink at least 4-5 glasses of juice every single day.
Sadly, I’ve been able to find sweets hiding in more places than just juice. Many foods I love contain large amounts of sucrose and fructose. Granola bars, yogurt, salad dressing, barbecue sauce and bread can contain high amounts of artificial and naturally occurring sweeteners.
My super sugar-free diet plan
With a new perspective on what’s inside my food, I’m fully committed to fixing my eating habits. Initially, I will be limiting myself to a maximum of 40 grams of sugar (of any kind) per day. Once I’ve adapted to the change, I will drop it down another notch. I intend to follow the recommendation of the World Health Organization. That is, to consume no more than 25 grams of sugar per day. I believe this simple change will promote the best food choices for my health. And, maybe I will finally drop that stubborn belly fat!