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What does ‘no added sugar’ REALLY mean? The shocking truth about food labels EXPOSED
A product that insists it is sugar-free or contains no added sugar may seem like a healthy option but is that always the case?
Do YOU know what no added sugar really means?
For those wanting to lose weight or follow a healthier lifestyle, experts say cutting down on sugar is an essential step.
But whilst it may be obvious that lumps of the white stuff are packed into fizzy drinks, sweets and chocolates, many other food items contain hidden levels of sugar.
In April, Dolmio and Uncle Ben were forced to issue a shock warning to customers to only eat their product ONCE a week.
It was found that the products contained a worrying level of fat, salt and sugar.
But what about products that insist they have no-added sugar? Are these really a healthier alternative?
According to NHS.uk, no-added sugar does NOT mean the product is sugar free.
They warn: “A food that has “no added sugar” might still taste sweet and can still contain sugar.
“Just because a food contains “no added sugar”, this does not necessarily mean it has a low sugar content.”
Many foods can contain naturally occuring sugars
Fruits with HIGH sugar levels
Here is a list of fruit which has a high sugar content.
According to USDA apples contain 10 grams of sugar for each 100 grams
Speaking in May 2020, Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter “While fruit juices can be a good way to get people to consume more fruit, the high concentration of sugar and acids means that they can do real damage to the teeth if regularly consumed throughout the day.
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“Water and milk are the best choices by far, not only for the good of our oral health but our overall health too.
“Remember, it is how often we have sugary foods and drinks that causes the problem so it is important that we try and reduce the frequency of consumption.”
For example, a single serving of Pret’s Freshly Squeeze Orange juice may appear like a healthy option but it contains 51 grams of sugar.
That’s over half of the daily recommended amount for an adult. In a statement, Pret responded: “Pret’s orange juice is made from 100 per cent freshly squeezed oranges with no added sugar. The sugar is naturally occurring in the fruit.”
Rob Hobson, Healthspan Head of Nutrition and author of The Detox Kitchen Bible said: “Always read the label before choosing any manufactured food as these are often a sources of hidden sugars. Big culprits are cook-in-sauces, breakfast cereals, yoghurts and ready meals.
“Obviously dental health is a big one when talking about sugar. Too much sugar also contributes to weight gain as any excess will be stored in the body as fat.
“If you have an unhealthy diet, which often includes lots of sugar then you are also at risk of heart disease and other conditions such as diabetes. Eating an excess of highly refined sugars can also increase levels of bad cholesterol in the body as well as increase your risk of fatty liver disease and T2 diabetes.
Sugar may also not be called sugar and comes under many other guises such as corn sugar, dextrose, fructose, glucose, high-fructose glucose syrup, honey, maple syrup, agave syrup.”
14 Simple Ways to Stop Eating Lots of Sugar
Eating too much sugar is one of the worst things you can do to your body. It can have many negative effects on your health.
It has been shown to contribute to obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer and tooth decay ( 1 , 2, 3, 4 , 5).
While sugar is naturally found in foods like fruits and vegetables, this type has little effect on your blood sugar and is considered very healthy.
Fruits and vegetables also contain lots of healthy vitamins and minerals.
The danger is from added sugars in processed foods.
The average American currently consumes around 17 teaspoons (68 grams) of added sugar per day (6).
This is way more than the upper daily limit that some experts recommend, which is 6 teaspoons (25 grams) for women and 9 teaspoons (37 grams) for men (7).
This article lists 14 simple ways to stop eating so much sugar.
Some popular drinks contain a heap of added sugar.
Sodas, energy drinks, sports drinks and fruit drinks contribute an astounding 44% of the added sugar in the American diet (8).
So-called “healthy” drinks, such as smoothies and fruit juices, can still contain eye-watering amounts of it.
For example, 15.2 ounces (450 ml) of 100% apple juice contains more than 12 teaspoons (49 grams) ( 9 ).
Your body does not recognize calories from drinks in the same way it does from food. Drinks don’t make you feel as full, so people who consume lots of calories from drinks do not eat less to compensate ( 10 ).
Studies have consistently shown that reducing your intake of sugary drinks can help with weight loss ( 11 , 12 , 13 ).
Here are some better, lower-sugar drink options:
- Water: It’s free and has zero calories.
- Sparkling water with a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime: Homemade soda.
- Water with mint and cucumber: Amazingly refreshing in warm weather.
- Herbal or fruit teas: Drink them hot or cold with ice.
- Tea and coffee: Stick to unsweetened tea or black or flat white coffee.
Cutting back on sugary drinks can massively reduce your sugar intake and help you lose weight.
Summary: Avoiding sugary drinks, such as sodas, energy drinks and some fruit drinks, will drastically reduce your sugar intake and could help you lose weight.
Most desserts don’t provide much in the way of nutritional value.
They are loaded with sugar, which causes blood sugar spikes and can leave you feeling tired, hungry and craving more sugar.
Grain and dairy-based desserts, such as cakes, pies, doughnuts and ice cream, account for over 18% of the intake of added sugar in the American diet ( 14 ).
If you really feel the need for something sweet, try these alternatives:
- Fresh fruit: Naturally sweet and full of fiber, vitamins and minerals.
- Greek yogurt with cinnamon or fruit: Rich in calcium, protein and vitamin B12.
- Baked fruit with cream: Try pears, apple or plums.
- Dark chocolate: In general, the higher the cocoa content, the lower the sugar.
- A handful of dates: They’re naturally sweet and extremely nutritious.
Swapping sugar-heavy desserts for fresh or baked fruit not only reduces your sugar intake, it also increases the fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants in your diet.
Summary: Desserts such as ice cream, cakes and cookies are loaded with sugar and provide little nutrition. Switch to fresh or baked fruit to reduce your sugar intake and increase your fiber, vitamin and mineral intake.
Sauces such as ketchup, barbecue sauce and sweet chili sauce are commonplace in most kitchens. However, most people aren’t aware of their shocking sugar content.
A single tablespoon (15-gram) serving of ketchup may contain 1 teaspoon (4 grams) (15).
Although, some varieties have no added sugar. Always read the label to be sure you are choosing the lowest-sugar option.
Here are some other options to flavor your food:
- Fresh or dried herbs and spices: Contain no sugar or calories and can have added health benefits.
- Fresh chili: Give your food a sugar-free kick.
- Yellow mustard: Tasty and contains virtually no sugar or calories.
- Vinegar: Sugar and calorie-free, with a zing similar to that of ketchup. Some balsamic vinegars and creams may contain sugar.
- Harissa paste: Can be bought or made and is a good replacement for sweet chili sauce.
- Pesto: Fresh and nutty, great on sandwiches or eggs.
- Mayonnaise: Although it’s sugar-free, it’s high in fat, so be cautious if you’re trying to lose weight.
Summary: Common table sauces can contain a shocking amount of sugar. Always read the label to make sure you choose sugar-free options or use herbs and spices to flavor your food.
Low-fat options of your favorite foods — peanut butter, yogurt, salad dressing — are everywhere.
If you’ve been told that fat is bad, it may feel natural to reach for these alternatives, rather than the full-fat versions, when you’re trying to lose weight.
However, the unsettling truth is that they usually contain more sugar and sometimes more calories than their full-fat counterparts.
A 4-ounce (113-gram) serving of low-fat vanilla yogurt contains 4 teaspoons (16 grams) of sugar and 96 calories.
The same amount of full-fat plain yogurt contains just over a teaspoon (5 grams) of naturally occurring milk sugar and only 69 calories (16, 17).
Another example is an 8-ounce (237-ml) coffee made with whole milk and no added sugar, which contains half a teaspoon (2 grams) of naturally occurring milk sugar and 18 calories (18).
In contrast, the same amount of a low-fat mocha drink contains 6.5 teaspoons (26 grams) of added sugar and 160 calories (19).
High sugar intake has also been shown to cause weight gain, which negates the reason you might have chosen a low-fat food in the first place (20, 21 ).
When you’re trying to cut your sugar intake, it’s often better to choose the full-fat version instead.
Summary: Low-fat foods may contain more sugar and calories than full-fat versions. It is often better to choose full-fat versions when you’re trying to reduce your sugar intake.
Whole foods have not been processed or refined. They are also free of additives and other artificial substances.
At the other end are ultra-processed foods. These are prepared foods that contain salt, sugar and fats, but also substances not usually used in home cooking.
These substances can be artificial flavors, colors, emulsifiers or other additives. Examples of ultra-processed foods are soft drinks, desserts, cereals, pizzas and pies.
Ultra-processed foods differ from standard processed foods, which usually only have minimal ingredients added, all of which you might find in a standard kitchen.
Examples of standard processed foods are simple bread and cheese (22).
90% of the added sugars in the average American’s diet come from ultra-processed foods, whereas only 8.7% come from foods prepared from scratch at home using whole foods (22).
And it isn’t just junk food that contains high amounts of it.
Seemingly healthy options like canned pasta sauce can also contain alarming amounts. One serving (128 grams) can contain nearly 3 teaspoons (11 grams) (23).
Try to cook from scratch when possible so you can avoid added sugars. You don’t have to cook elaborate meals. Simple tricks like marinating meat and fish in herbs, spices and olive oil will give you delicious results.
Summary: Whole foods are free of added sugar and other additives commonly found in processed foods. Eating more whole foods and cooking from scratch will reduce your sugar intake.
Canned foods can be a useful and cheap addition to your diet, but they can also contain a lot of added sugar.
Fruits and vegetables contain naturally occurring sugars. However, they’re not an issue since they do not affect your blood sugar in the same way that added sugar does.
Avoid canned foods that are packed in syrup or have sugar in the ingredients list. Fruit is sweet enough, so go for versions that are labeled with “in own juice” or “no added sugar.”
If you buy canned fruits or vegetables that do have added sugar, you can remove some of it by rinsing them in water before you eat them.
Summary: Canned foods, including canned fruits and vegetables, may contain added sugar. Always read labels to ensure you choose versions without it.
Most people know that candy and cookies contain a lot of sugar, so they may look for “healthy” snack alternatives.
Surprisingly, snacks like granola bars, protein bars and dried fruit can contain as much, if not more, sugar than their unhealthy rivals, such as chocolate bars.
Some granola bars can contain as much as 8 teaspoons (32 grams) (24).
Dried fruit is full of fiber, nutrients and antioxidants. However, it is also full of natural sugar, so it should be eaten in moderation.
Some dried fruit also contains high quantities of added sugar. To avoid this, look for ingredients labels that say “100% fruit.”
Or try these healthy snack ideas instead:
- A handful of nuts: Packed with good calories, protein and healthy fats.
- Trail mix: Make sure it’s just nuts and dried fruit, without added sugar.
- No-added-sugar jerky: Full of protein and low in calories.
- Hard-boiled egg: This superfood is high in protein, vitamins and minerals.
- Fresh fruit: Contains natural sugar to satisfy those sugar cravings.
Don’t be fooled by the “healthy” marketing messages on some snacks. Be prepared and take low-sugar snacks with you when you’re on the go.
Summary: So-called healthy snacks, such as granola and protein bars, can contain lots of added sugar. Be prepared and take low-sugar snacks like nuts and fresh fruit with you when you’re out and about.
Breakfast cereals are among the worst when it comes to added sugar.
One report found that some of the most popular ones contained over half of their weight in added sugar.
One cereal in the report contained over 12 teaspoons (50 grams) per serving, which made it 88% sugar by weight.
What’s more, the report found that granola, which is usually marketed as “healthy,” has more sugar than any other type of cereal, on average.
Popular breakfast foods, such as pancakes, waffles, muffins and jams, are also loaded with added sugar.
Switch to these low-sugar breakfast options instead:
- Hot oatmeal: Add some chopped fruit if you like it sweet.
- Greek yogurt: Add fruit and nuts for extra good calories.
- Eggs: Boiled, poached, scrambled or as an omelet.
- Avocado: Packed full of nutrition and healthy fats for energy.
Choosing a low-sugar option with high protein and fiber at breakfast will help you feel full until lunchtime, preventing unnecessary snacking.
Summary: Breakfast cereals are among the worst culprits for added sugar, along with pancakes, waffles and jams. Switch to low-sugar options such as eggs, oatmeal or plain yogurt.
Eating less sugar isn’t as easy as just avoiding sweet foods. You’ve already seen that it can hide in unlikely foods, including some breakfast cereals, granola bars and dried fruit.
However, some savory foods, such as bread, can also contain a lot of added sugar. Two slices can contain 1.5 teaspoons (6 grams) (25).
Unfortunately, it isn’t always easy to identify added sugars on a food label. Current food labels don’t differentiate between natural sugars, such as those in milk or fruits, and added sugars.
To see if a food has sugars added, you will need to check the ingredients list. It is also important to note the order in which sugar appears on the list, since ingredients are listed in order of the highest percentage first.
Food companies also use more than 50 other names for added sugar, which makes it more difficult to spot. Here are some of the most common:
- High-fructose corn syrup
- Cane sugar or juice
- Invert sugar
- Rice syrup
Thankfully, identifying sugar in packaged food in the US just got much easier.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has changed their rules so that companies have to show the amount of added sugar in their products on the ingredients label in grams, along with a percentage of the daily value ( 26 ).
Companies have until 2020 to change their labels to comply.
Summary: Always read food labels to check for sugar by its many names. The closer to the beginning it is on the ingredients list, the greater percentage of sugar the product contains.
A high sugar intake is linked to increased appetite and weight gain.
Conversely, a diet low in added sugar but high in protein and fat has the opposite effect, reducing hunger and food intake.
Added sugar in the diet, particularly fructose, increases appetite. The signals that usually let your brain know that you are full do not work properly, which can lead to overeating and weight gain ( 27 , 28 ).
On the other hand, protein has been proven to reduce appetite and hunger. If you feel full, then you are less likely to crave the quick hunger fix that sugar provides ( 29 ).
Protein has also been shown to directly reduce food cravings. One study showed that increasing protein in the diet by 25% reduced cravings by 60% ( 30 ).
Fat is very high in energy. It contains 9 calories per gram, compared to 4 calories per gram in protein or carbs.
A high fat intake is also associated with reduced appetite. According to the fat content of a food, fat receptors in the mouth and gut alter the way it’s digested. This causes a reduction in appetite and subsequently, calorie intake ( 31 ).
To curb sugar cravings, stock up on protein and fat-rich whole foods, such as meat, fish, eggs, full-fat dairy products, avocados and nuts.
Summary: A high sugar intake is linked to increased appetite and weight gain. Eating more protein and fat has been shown to have the opposite effect, reducing appetite and cravings.
For some people, sugar can be as addictive as drugs or alcohol. In fact, studies have shown that it can affect the brain in a way similar to that of some drugs ( 32 , 33 ).
Addiction to sugar produces cravings and a “tolerance” level, meaning more and more of it must be consumed to satisfy those cravings (34).
It is also possible to suffer from sugar withdrawal.
Studies have found that rats experienced signs of anxiety and depression after a high sugar diet was stopped ( 35 , 36 ).
This shows that giving up sugar can be very difficult for some people. If you are struggling, there are a few naturally sweet alternatives that are actually good for you.
- Stevia: Extracted from the leaves of a plant called Stevia rebaudiana, it has virtually no calories and has been shown to help reduce blood pressure and blood sugar in people with diabetes (37, 38).
- Erythritol: Found naturally in fruit, it only contains 6% of the calories of sugar, but it’s much sweeter, so only a little is needed. It also doesn’t cause blood sugar spikes ( 39 ).
- Xylitol: A sweetener found naturally in many fruits and vegetables. It doesn’t cause blood sugar spikes ( 40 ).
Once you cut your sugar intake, you’ll adjust to enjoying foods that are less sweet.
Summary: Sugar can be addictive for some people. If you find giving up sugar to be particularly difficult, natural sweeteners such as stevia, erythritol and xylitol can help.
If you keep high-sugar foods in the house, you are more likely to eat them.
It takes a lot of willpower to stop yourself if you only have to go as far as the pantry or fridge to get a sugar hit.
Although cravings for snacks and sweet foods can occur at any time of the day or night, they may be worse in the evenings.
Evidence shows that your circadian rhythm, or internal clock, increases hunger and cravings for sweet and starchy foods in the evenings ( 41 ).
It is important to consider how you’re going to distract yourself when you feel the need to eat something sweet.
Studies have shown that distraction, such as doing puzzles, can be very effective at reducing cravings ( 42 ).
If that doesn’t work, then try to keep some healthy, low-sugar snacks in the house to munch on instead.
Summary: If you have sugar-filled snacks in the house, you are more likely to reach for them when cravings strike. Consider using distraction techniques if you feel cravings and keep low-sugar snack options handy.
If you’ve ever been shopping when you’re hungry, you know what can happen.
Not only do you buy more food, but you also tend to put less healthy options in your shopping cart.
Shopping while hungry has been shown not only to increase the amount of food purchased, but also to affect the type of foods you buy ( 43 ).
In a controlled study, 68 participants fasted for five hours. Half the participants were then allowed to eat as many wheat crackers as they liked just before going shopping, while the other half went shopping on an empty stomach.
They found that the hungry group purchased more high-calorie products, compared to those who were less hungry ( 44 ).
In another study, 82 grocery shoppers were observed to see if the time of day they went shopping had any effect on their purchases.
The study found that those who shopped between 4–7 pm, around dinnertime, when they were likely to be hungry, bought more high-calorie products than those who shopped between 1–4 pm, shortly after lunch ( 44 ).
Summary: Research has shown that if grocery shoppers are hungry, they tend to buy more high-calorie foods. Try to eat a meal or healthy snack before you go shopping.
Good sleep habits are incredibly important for your health. Poor sleep has been linked to depression, poor concentration and reduced immune function ( 45 , 46 , 47 ).
The link between lack of sleep and obesity is well known. But recently, researchers discovered that lack of sleep also affects the types of food you eat ( 48 , 49 ).
One study looked into this phenomenon in 23 healthy adults. Their brains were scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), first after a full night’s sleep and then following a sleepless night.
The researchers found that function of the frontal lobe, the part of the brain that controls decision making, was impaired after a sleepless night.
Furthermore, the area of the brain that responds to rewards and controls motivation and desire was stimulated.
These changes meant that participants favored high-calorie, sweet and salty foods when they were sleep deprived ( 50 ).
Another study found that people who went to bed late and did not get a full night’s sleep consumed more calories, junk food and soda and fewer fruits and vegetables, compared to those who went to bed earlier and got a full night’s sleep ( 51 ).
So going to bed early and sleeping well may help you reduce your sugar intake.
Summary: A lack of sleep causes people to favor high-calorie, sweet and salty foods over healthy foods like fruits and vegetables. Get a good night’s sleep to help you eat less sugar.
The average American consumes more than twice the recommended maximum amount of added sugar per day.
Excess sugar in the diet can be incredibly harmful and has been linked to many chronic diseases, including cancer, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity.
It is important to avoid obvious sources of sugar in your diet, such as desserts and sodas, but also to be aware of the hidden sugar in some common processed foods, including sauces, low-fat foods and so-called “healthy” snacks.
Choose a diet based on whole foods, rather than highly processed alternatives, to be fully in control of your sugar intake and not consume excess amount of it.
Sugar Highs Explained
By John J. “Jack” Merendino Jr., MD, Best Life Chief Medical Advisor, endocrinologist and co-author, along with Bob Greene and Janis Jibrin, MS, RD, of The Best Life Guide to Managing Diabetes and Pre-Diabetes.
You’re taking your medications as prescribed and you’re keeping an eye on your carbohydrates, yet there still may be times when your blood sugar is too high. There are many reasons for blood sugar surges–I’d like to zero in on two common issues: high morning sugar and sugar that’s high after exercising.
Waking up to high sugar
You’d think that your blood sugar should be lower after a night’s sleep. After all, you haven’t eaten anything for many hours. But the body needs glucose 24 hours a day, and if you’re not getting it from food, your body will turn to stored glucose in the liver. Your pancreas needs to make insulin to deal with this glucose, just as it does for glucose derived from the food you eat. Unfortunately, in many people with diabetes, insulin production during periods of fasting is as meager as (or worse than) during eating. Therefore, the sugar may rise overnight because glucose being produced by the liver is not matched by adequate insulin from the pancreas. Also, certain medications, including glyburide (brand name Micronase or DiaBeta), glipizide (brand name Glipizide) and glimepiride (brand name Amaryl), improve meal-related insulin production more than fasting insulin production. As a result, many people who take these medicines have higher glucose levels in the morning than before bed at night.
Sometimes a bedtime snack will actually help lower morning blood glucose, because the sugar (from the carbohydrates in your snack) that hits your bloodstream causes the body to release more insulin than the sugar your liver releases during the night while you’re fasting. Ideally, your snack should contain protein, some healthy fat and a slowly absorbed carbohydrate, such as two teaspoons of peanut butter on a half-slice of stone-ground whole-wheat bread. If this doesn’t work, using a long-acting form of insulin as part of the treatment is usually very effective.
Your Exercise High
My patients who come to me complaining of high blood sugar after exercise are bewildered and even depressed–“Isn’t exercise supposed to be helping me lower my blood sugar? Can’t I catch a break?”
My advice to them usually is:
- Continue exercising.
- Don’t be discouraged!
Exercise is virtually always helpful in managing diabetes, unless you are exercising in a way that is going to hurt you or you have some reason, such as untreated heart disease, that makes it dangerous to exercise. (Always check with your doctor before you begin an exercise program, and start at a comfortable level of exertion, working your way up at a safe pace.)
Although you’d expect exercise to help reduce blood sugar, its effect in the short term can be unpredictable. Your blood glucose is probably going up because of your epinephrine (also called adrenaline) output during exercise. Your adrenal glands manufacture epinephrine during exercise; the more vigorous the exercise, the greater the epinephrine production will be. Epinephrine causes an increase in heart rate, more forceful contraction of the heart muscle and better oxygen delivery from your lungs, all of which allow you to exercise more intensely. It also causes the release of glucose from your liver and the breakdown of glycogen into glucose inside your muscle cells. This is necessary to provide fuel for your workout. In some people, this results in higher glucose levels for up to several hours after exercise–but after this period has elapsed, the glucose tends to fall to lower levels than it would have without the exercise. In addition, the increased muscle mass you put on will help burn more glucose at rest, improving glucose control between bouts of exercise. A few extra bonuses: Strength training will keep your bones strong, improved cardiovascular fitness will cut your risk of heart disease, and increased physical activity will elevate your mood–all excellent reasons to keep exercising.
From TheBestLife.com, used with permission.
Article written by John J. “Jack” Merendino Jr., MD
Best Life Chief Medical Advisor, endocrinologist and co-author, along with Bob Greene and Janis Jibrin, MS, RD, of The Best Life.
How to Lose Weight By Balancing Your Blood Sugar (5 Easy Ways)
All of these years, you’ve been told that counting calories, following point systems, and choking down fat-burning pills are the ultimate solutions for weight loss.
And as one of America’s most profitable industries, fad-diet quick-fixes make tall promises, which only yield short-term (and often disappointing) results.
The truth is, there’s an easier way to lose the weight – and it has nothing to do with miracle nutrients, detox teas, or dieting. Instead, sustainable weight loss can be achieved by learning how to balance your blood-sugar levels.
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What is Blood Sugar, and How Does it Work?
You may want to hit the snooze button when it comes to blood sugar 101. But having imbalanced blood-sugar levels could be the exact reason why you’re not losing weight – especially if you feel like you’ve tried everything else to no avail.
Blood sugar simply refers to the amount of sugar (or glucose) in your blood, which comes from carbohydrates. Whenever you eat, your body receives an influx of nutrients, including carbohydrates.
During digestion, carbohydrates are broken down into sugar molecules and sent to your bloodstream, which naturally raises your blood-sugar levels. The hormone insulin is then released to bring the sugar out of your blood – and into your cells to be converted into energy.
That sounds simple enough, right? Just a regular biological process… No big deal.
But here’s where the connection between blood sugar and weight gain comes in.
How Imbalanced Blood-Sugar Levels Can Make You Fat
You see, your body only needs so much energy at once. So if your energy stores are already full at the time of digesting the carbohydrates, any excess sugar from your meal (that isn’t being used for energy right away) gets stored in your liver or muscle-tissue cells (1). That way, it can be converted back to energy later on. But if those stores are full, the sugar still has to go somewhere. As a last resort, your body will store the excess sugar as fat in your adipose, liver, or fat tissue (2).
The type of carbs that are most likely to get stored as fat are those that contain white sugar, such as bread, pasta, muffins, pastries, chocolate bars, sugary juice, alcohol, soda, and candy. (I’ll explain why in just a moment.) It should also be noted that while these foods aren’t typical of a Paleo diet, processed sugar can still sneak its way into Paleo-friendly treats, like store-bought coconut-milk ice cream or grain-free granola.
The reason why white sugar has such a harsh impact on your blood-sugar levels is because it doesn’t contain any fiber, which is needed to help slow the release of sugar into your bloodstream. When you eat refined sugar, the high concentration of sugar floods your bloodstream and causes your blood-sugar levels to quickly spike (3). Then you’ll feel a quick burst of energy (that infamous sugar high).
Since your body can only handle so much sugar at once, it works overtime to produce the extra insulin it needs to rapidly pull the sugar out of your bloodstream and into your cells. That’s when your blood-sugar levels will begin to crash, and you’ll be left feeling tired, hungry, and ready for another sugar fix an hour later. So the vicious cycle of blood-sugar spikes and crashes begins.
If you already have a high-sugar diet or are out-of-shape or overweight, your body works even harder to pump out enough insulin to keep up. The constant demand for insulin to be released wears your body out, and makes your natural ability to regulate blood sugar less efficient.
So insulin dysfunction can trigger fat storage and make weight loss impossible. Furthermore, a high-sugar diet can also set you up for weight gain by releasing excess leptin (the satiety hormone) (4). You see, leptin is the hormone that tells your body when you’re full, which prevents you from overeating. It gets released when sugar is being metabolized in your fat cells. And just like insulin, your body can become resistant to leptin when it’s constantly being released. [tweet_quote]Your body can become resistant to leptin, the satiety hormone, on a high-sugar diet. This makes weight loss harder![/tweet_quote]
Since leptin resistance interferes with your hunger and satiety signals, the result is an appetite that’s never satisfied, an overconsumption of calories, and impossible-to-reach weight-loss goals.
In addition, high blood-sugar levels are considered a stress to the body, which can cause the release of stress hormones, such as cortisol (5). Elevated levels of cortisol have been linked to weight gain, especially in the midsection area (6).
But What About Unrefined Carbohydrates?
If you’re wondering about the Paleo-friendly carbohydrates (such as fruit, sweet potatoes, bananas, vegetables, plantains, and coconut flour), the good news is that not all carbs are created equal. Plant foods contain fiber, so their natural sugar is released slower than processed carbohydrates. And they have less of an impact on blood sugar. In fact, the average intake of fiber on the hunter-gatherer diet is over 50g of fiber per day, compared to only 5g of fiber on the Standard American Diet (SAD). That’s why the Paleo diet is so effective for reducing high blood- sugar levels, even though it still incorporates unrefined carbohydrates. [tweet_quote] Fiber helps slow digestion, keeping your blood sugar levels stabilized.[/tweet_quote]
However, unrefined carbohydrates are quicker to digest than healthy fats and proteins, which can still cause slight blood-sugar fluctuations. For this reason, it’s always best to pair carbohydrates with a healthy fat or protein, which takes much longer to digest. And as mentioned above, by preventing blood-sugar spikes, you’ll allow your body to burn fat more readily.
Let’s take a look at the other ways you can promote stable blood-sugar levels through your diet – starting today.
5 Easy Ways to Balance Your Blood-Sugar Levels to Promote Weight Loss
1. Always Eat Breakfast with a Good Source of Protein
Whether or not you’re a breakfast person, it’s always best to make sure your first meal of the day contains a good source of protein. Protein is the primary nutrient that keeps your appetite satisfied; it’s slow to digest and keeps blood-sugar levels stabilized. (7). [tweet_quote] Start your day with protein, which will keep your blood-sugar levels stable. [/tweet_quote]
By having a good source of protein for breakfast, you’re also less likely to experience midday sugar cravings (or an energy crash that has you reaching for a triple-grande coconut-milk latte).
A few blood-sugar-balancing Paleo breakfast ideas include:
- 3 organic eggs with tomatoes, avocado, and turkey bacon
- A ham and spinach frittata
- A protein shake with berries, almond milk, and Paleo-friendly protein powder (e.g., beef or egg protein)
- Smoked salmon and sweet-potato hash browns
2. Stick to Low-Carb Snack Options
To prevent dramatic blood-sugar spikes, it’s best to snack on low-carb options, such as nuts and seeds. If you like to snack on fruit, low-carb fruits include berries, apples, and pears. Since fruit is still a source of natural sugar, your blood-sugar levels will benefit from pairing fruit with a protein or healthy fat to slow digestion (such as avocado or almond butter).
3. Use Natural Sweeteners in Moderation
If you follow a Paleo diet, it’s already likely that you’ve kicked white sugar out for good. But natural sweeteners, such as coconut sugar, maple syrup, coconut nectar, and raw honey are still simple carbs that digest rapidly. They should be used sparingly to promote a blood-sugar balance.
And while these sweeteners are the lesser of the evils when it comes to sugar, green-leaf stevia is a better option; it’s been shown to have little to no impact on blood sugar (8).
4. Get Your Beauty Sleep
Now for the non-food-related blood-sugar balancing tips. Research suggests that skipping sleep can promote weight gain and sabotage your blood-sugar levels. In one study, sleep restriction was shown to decrease insulin sensitivity (i.e., insulin stops responding to sugar in the bloodstream) – and impair the functioning of the appetite-control hormones, leptin and ghrelin (9). As mentioned above, without leptin, your body will have a hard time knowing when you’re truly full or hungry. That promotes constant food cravings and puts your body in a state of stress, which raises cortisol levels. This tangled web of hormone imbalances is another major cause of having difficulty losing weight.
Since sleep deprivation is also a form of stress, it can cause your body to release excess cortisol. And as you now know, the prolonged release of cortisol can promote fat storage around your midsection.
5. Stick to Low-Glycemic Foods
Lastly, referring to a list of low-glycemic foods can also help you choose the foods to eat that will keep your blood-sugar levels balanced. The glycemic load measures the impact a certain food has on your blood-sugar levels as it gets digested.
A food that ranks between 0-11 is considered low-glycemic. It will have a minimal impact on blood- sugar levels. Meanwhile, 11-19 is moderate, and 20+ is high. The glycemic load takes the serving size of a food into consideration, whereas the glycemic index only measures how quickly a food can digest into sugar. In other words, a banana could be highly glycemic, but based on serving size, it actually has a moderate glycemic load (11). [tweet_quote] Low-glycemic foods have a minimal impact on blood-sugar levels. Stick with foods that rate 0-11 on the GI scale.[/tweet_quote]
For this reason, it’s more realistic to reference the glycemic load of foods – when choosing the best options to include in your diet for blood-sugar balance. The foods with the lowest glycemic load are unprocessed, whole foods – which are the only foods allowed on a Paleo diet. As you can see, it’s tough to go wrong when you follow a Paleo diet.
Balancing your blood sugar to promote fat-burning and weight loss (through your diet) isn’t another fad that will deprive and disappoint you. Instead, by sticking to Paleo foods that promote blood-sugar balance, you’ll be rewarded with more energy, a consistently satisfied appetite, and fewer cravings for the sugary foods that promote weight gain. Best of all, when you promote blood-sugar balance through your diet, the weight that you lose will stay off.
Black Forest Cake with Silky Chocolate Icing… and it’s 100% Paleo Friendly!
Black Forest Cake with
Silky Chocolate Icing…
and it’s 100% Paleo
About Brandi Black
Brandi Black is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and the creator of Feel Best Naked, a health blog for women who want to clear up their skin, lose the muffin top and make the bloat disappear. After years of experiencing (and then healing) her own unbalanced hormones, she’s now obsessed with helping other women feel spectacular in their own skin with natural remedies for hormone balance.
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