Lesson 1, Topic 1
In Progress

Week 1:Lesson & Goal

Week 1: Reading Labels

Goal: Remove “added sugars” from your diet

Introduction: You want to eat cleaner, get a little healthier, maybe drop a few pant sizes and so you need a place to start.

You are smart to recognize the dietary component of getting healthy. No matter how many pushups you can do, to be your healthiest, most vibrant self, you need to eat right. But what does that mean?

That means getting all the nutrients your body requires for best functioning, while cutting out the stuff that isn’t serving you.

This doesn’t mean starving yourself, in fact by the time you eat adequate amounts of fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes to meet your nutrient requirements, there is little room left for chips and ice-cream.

If it were that easy, everyone would be healthy and obesity, diabetes, and heart disease wouldn’t exist. I am here to tell you that it isn’t easy, however, it is easier. It’s easier to learn the proper way of eating now than to get heart disease down the road, or gain 50 stubborn pounds that you struggle to lose for years.

That’s where this program comes in. This 6 weeks of goals, recipes, and motivation, will help transition you to eating better so that it does seem easy and doable! Let’s begin with the most important skill you will need as a healthy consumer.

Be a label reader: Labels give us critical information about a food product such as calories per serving, percentage of daily vitamins, but most importantly, the ingredients.

The most important thing to know about a food item is what’s in it.

Ignore the eye catching health claims on the front that scream “low-fat” or “now made with whole grains,” and instead flip it over and look at the ingredients.

This list is a small section under the nutrition facts panel and ingredients are listed in order by weight. Isn’t it interesting that the most important part of a food package is written in the smallest print? It’s almost as if food companies don’t actually want you to look there.

With how many nasty food additives are in our food supply, it’s easy to see why! Reading the ingredient list is going to be your secret weapon. It enables you to clean up your diet because you know what sneaky additives are going in your foodspecifically: sugar. That’s what this week’s goal is going to be; avoiding added sugars.

Added sugars are not specified on the nutrition facts panel because some foods (like fruit) contain naturally occurring sugars. By looking at the total “grams of sugar” on the nutrition facts panel, you don’t know whether the sugar comes from fruit or from high fructose corn syrup (added to sweeten the product). Checking the ingredient list is the only way you can tell if a food has sugar added to it.

For instance, you might think you’re buying healthy applesauce because it says “All Natural” on the front. Check the ingredient list! More often than not, sugar is in the top 3 ingredients. The FDA doesn’t govern the term natural very tightly.

Since sugar comes from sugarcane, a plant, products that contain added sugar can still be called natural. Seems sneaky, right? That’s why checking the ingredient list is crucial!

Why avoid added sugar? Aside from being bad for your hormones, teeth, and the fact that it’s addictive, the biggest fault with sugar in excess is its insulin stimulating properties.

All forms of sugar (whether it’s from corn syrup, fruit, brownies, or soda) are broken down into glucose, your bodies main source of fuel. It is absorbed by the gastrointestinal tract and then enters the blood stream.

Too much glucose, or sugar, in the blood, stimulates insulin whose job is to remove it from the bloodstream. Insulin then tells your body to store glucose in your tissues for later use. Insulin is an “anabolic” or “building” hormone.

It takes the excess sugar and stores it in your tissues for later. You can see why the constant presence of insulin in your body promotes fat storage.

To make matters worse, insulin is really good at its job, too good in fact. When insulin is “spiked” from a really high sugar meal, it continues pulling sugar out of the blood until there isn’t enough glucose to fuel your body.

The absence of glucose in the blood sends signals to your brain that you need to eat again! In short, high amounts of sugar in the diet become stored fat and make you hungrier for your next meal, in which you are likely to overeat.

Added sugars also pose a threat because they are “empty calories” which have no nutritional value. They displace other more healthful calories with higher amounts of nutrients (think whole grains, vegetables, or nuts) and create an insulin spike much higher than whole foods do.

For instance think of a piece of fruit versus a tablespoon of sugar in your coffee. The fruit contains water, fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and sugar. When you eat the fruit your stomach churns this mixture of sugar, fiber, and nutrients and slowly pulls sugar out of the fruit and into the blood stream. Insulin hasn’t spiked very high because fiber, water, and nutrients keep getting in the way of the intestinal walls being able to absorb sugar.

In contrast you drink a sugary beverage which quickly empties into your intestines and provides little more than straight sugar to be absorbed. On top of getting an insulin spike, making you hungry again sooner, you also aren’t getting beneficial antioxidants or vitamins along with your meal, just calories.

This doesn’t mean you can never have sugar again, rather it is to inspire you to be aware of when, and how you’re eating it. Chronically overeating hidden sugar in all of your meals is the problem.

It’s that bowl of spaghetti or honey-roasted ham that you aren’t counting as a high sugar food, but actually contains quite a large amount! Insulin is in constant overdrive if every meal you eat contains sugar.

It’s fine to add a little 100% maple syrup to your rolled oats in the morning, or to enjoy some dried fruit in a salad mixed with greens, nuts, and avocado. 

The sugar is a small, controlled amount that you can see and adjust to your taste preferences. It’s the hidden sugar you don’t realize you’re eating that tricks your body into thinking that sugar is necessary at every meal.

This is what drives junk food cravings! You will see that once you cut out added sugars, your taste buds adjust and you need much less. You also might find that you don’t enjoy the high sugar candies, drinks, and desserts that you used to.

Sugar, by any other name would taste as sweet: Sugar sneaks into our food supply by disguising itself as other names; corn syrup, rice syrup, barley malt, dextrose, maltose, agave nectar, cane juice, or palm sugar to name a few.

These are all just sugar, processed in different ways. Be watchful of these other names and know that they do the exact same thing as sugar in the body. As you search your labels for offending ingredients, there are going to be a few food products that shock you.

Bottled pasta sauce is one of the biggest surprises and one of the worst offenders of added sugar. Look for brands that don’t add sugar to their products, they exist, they just require some label reading.

There are also high amounts of sugars in so-called “healthy” cereals, beverages, yogurts, and many condiments. For more information on the hidden sources of sugar and how to avoid them, this is a great reference http://www.sugarscience.org/hidden-in-plain-sight/ Also if you would like to read more on the subject check out This Book  <<Pure White and Deadly By  John S. Yudkin 

The easiest way to cut down on added sugar is to stop eating processed foods. Make it a goal to make your own meals from scratch and flavor your own dishes! There are healthier ways to satisfy a sweet tooth with whole foods like fruits, sweet potatoes, beets and winter squash.

Flavor your recipes with onions (that grow sweeter with cooking) and garlic, and use cooking methods such as roasting and reducing to impart more flavor to dishes without using sugar. Making your own food allows you to truly control what is going in your body.