Food for thought: What’s the deal with sugar?

As I have already mentioned, I have the worst time with nutrition. I know the fundamentals, I have a clear idea of what I should and should not be eating, and I think that for the most part, I probably eat pretty well; however, I am almost always low on energy, poorly-fueled, and I tend to get hungry pretty soon after I have eaten a meal. Clearly my application of my knowledge of nutrition leaves much to be desired, and I am admittedly extremely confused about certain things.

At the top of that list is sugar. What, exactly, is the deal with sugar? I know that the completely ubiquitous (and seemingly completely unnecessary) high fructose corn syrup is to be avoided, and I try my hardest to check the ingredient list of pretty much everything I buy because man! that stuff will sneak up on you!! It is in most cereals (even those that claim to be healthy, such as Special K) and even whole wheat breads. Even foods that are salty have high fructose corn syrup now, and don’t even both trying to get a light dessert because you are probably much better off just having a small portion of the full-fat version rather than buy the low-fat, low-cal, high fructose corn syrup containing variety.

But I digress. I often wonder if my mid- to late-afternoon dips in energy have anything to do with sugar. Am I eating too much of it? Should my carbohydrates be less refined and more complex? Should I be cutting sugar out of my diet? Most importantly, how exactly does one do that? Does that mean I have to cut out foods that have higher levels of sugar even if they are fruits? One thing that always blew my mind about the first stages of the South Beach Diet was how much fruit was looked down upon because of its potentially high sugar content. I know it depends on the fruit, but I’m speaking in general terms here.

I guess what it boils down to is this: for a while I have been toying with the idea of reducing or eliminating sugar in my diet (or my eating, since diet has somewhat negative connotations) but I have no idea how to do it. Do I just get rid of added sugar and continue eating things like honey, fruit, and other foods with naturally occurring sugar? Or do I just cut it out entirely? Or is it even worth addressing?

One thing I am hoping to take a look at after this week of keeping a food diary is how much sugar I am having in a day, and whether or not it seems to affect me in any way. Maybe after that I can start making some changes, if necessary. I mean, I don’t think I am a sugar junkie by any stretch of the imagination, but the whole thing does have me a bit curious.

Have you all ever tried changing the amount of sugar you eat? How did you do it, and did you see any results?

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4 comments

  1. well, you probably don’t need me to tell you that you should probably absolutely avoid anything with high fructose corn syrup and that goes for any Special K products. But you don’t have to absolutely eliminate any sweets from your eating regimen; you certainly don’t want to deprive yourself because that can have pretty bad repercussions. You can still treat yourself to a sweet, you just have to cut down on your portion size. Sometimes a little taste of something is pretty satisfying and much less damaging than a big slice of cake. Well, more to come!

  2. I am no expert at this stuff, but I know what worked for me. I had put on about 20+ pounds after the arrival of the lil girl. I blame it on my wife forcing me to take her to Taco Bell during her pregnancy. Anyway, I quickly realized there is no way to completely eliminate things like sugar and salt from a diet. Especially when time does not always permit you to eat “properly” all the time. I travel in my job and don’t have the luxury of slicing up fresh veggies or making the most nutritious meal.

    I switched to 6 small meals a day and I counted my calories–and hit the gym, of course. I really did not pay attention to anything else. I used a program called Calorie King (http://www.calorieking.com/) to count everything up. The program includes a ton of brand food so you did not always have to look at the label and type it in.

    I actually ate Special K for breakfast most mornings. I would even sometime enjoy a bowl of Capt. Crunch! It would just get subtracted from my daily amount and it would mean that I might have to have less at another meal. Now, I should tell you that I got a little nuts with my calorie counting. I would measure food and make sure I did not go over the actual serving size by a gram! Yes, I just might be a tad obsessive/compulsive.

    I hope this did not get of topic. I guess i am just trying to say that worrying about each individual ingredient is nuts. And, at least for me, counting calories worked miracles!

    Disclaimer: The views expressed in this comment have not been validated by the FDA. Individual results may vary. Please consult your physician before starting any diet plan.

  3. I am a huge proponent of cutting down on crap sugar . . . I have never felt the need to go all South Beach Diet and cut even natural sugars out of my diet; but I have definitely noticed a (positive) difference in my energy level since I started actually paying attention to the sugar info on nutrition labels.

    One to really watch for is yogurt. Some yogurts that claim to be healthy actually have like 45 grams of sugar per serving. Even plain yogurt can have lots of added sugar.

    Oh, and also . . . I just figured out today that my grande iced coffee from Starbucks has frickin’ 20 grams of sugar. WHAT?! It’s iced coffee! Let ME add the sugar if I want to; don’t just sneakily do it yourselves! GRRR. It’s a never-ending battle. But I think it’s definitely worth the time it takes to look up nutrition info.

  4. I totally agree with both Chris and Irish Cream. First, I too had success with counting calories (in addition to hitting the gym). Counting calories gave me something to obsess over and stay focused on to the extent that I was really able to fend off hunger pangs because I knew how much I could and could not have. It also helps to keep yourself busy; that way you are less likely to go looking for food when you don’t need it. As for the sugar, definitely stay away from the crap sugar. And definitely do read nutrition labels. It’s important to know what you are getting and how much you are getting. It all kind of blends together, counting calories and reading nutritional labels, in a very beneficial way.

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