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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Delicious Arthritis Step #1: Cut Out Added Sugars

Let me break it down for you. There are basically two types of sugars:
  1. Natural sugars - These are foods that naturally contain sugar, along with vitamins, minerals, and fiber. These are foods like dairy products (which I personally can’t eat), vegetables, and fruits. These are fructose, glucose/dextrose, and galactose. The white table sugar we are all used to is sucrose; a combination of fructose and glucose.
  2. Added sugars - These are foods that have sugar added in, on top of their natural sugars. These are included in many processed foods, such as soft drinks and candies. These foods are high in sugar but have very low levels of vitamins, minerals, or fiber. Unfortunately, added sugars seem to be in almost everything.

Though some people worry about ALL sugars, I know that cutting out sugars entirely would be impossible for me, so I’m just trying to minimize how much added sugars I intake.

How I began cutting out added sugar: 
  1. I began reading nutrition labels. 
    • 4 grams of sugar = 1 teaspoon
    • The daily recommended amount of sugar for women = 20 grams (5 teaspoons)
    • The daily recommended amount of sugar for men = 36 grams (9 teaspoons)
    • The daily recommended amount of sugar for children = 12 grams (3 teaspoons)
  2. I cut out any sweetened drinks.
  3. I cut out added “healthy sugars” too. All sugars are sugars, just because one is processes more than another doesn't take way from the fact that you're still adding in extra sugar that was not pre-existing, in to your meal. The added "healthy sugars" that I'm referring to are:
    • Agave nectar
    • Raw honey
    • Raw sugar
    • Molasses
    • Maple syrup
    • Coconut palm sugar
  4. Because sugar seems to be added to EVERYTHING I am making most of my foods and sticking with a primarily paleo & clean eating diet. I eat a lot of vegetables, eggs, lean meats, and olive oil. I use loads of spices and I promise you that I do not eat boring food! If I am going to restrict my eating so much, it better as hell taste good!
  5. I cut out most desserts. Even though I initially felt like this was a fate worse than death, I have found a way to still have some desserts that are VERY LOW in added sugars and I have some general rules about the desserts I do eat:
    • I will not eat chocolate that is below 80% cocoa. In addition to there being less sugar added in the more cocoa there is, I find that I am more satisfied with smaller amounts of chocolate because the small amounts that I get are so intensely chocolatey.
    • I am beginning to learn how to make sugar free desserts. (I’ll be sharing some awesome recipes soon!)

Lets not lie to ourselves: we love sugar. For most of us, a treat means a freshly baked batch of cookies, a rarely indulged in candy bar, or even a fancy cocktail drink. This doesn’t have to be the absolute end of those treats, but it does need to be a re-framing of how we think of treating ourselves. The worst part about added sugar is that it seems to be in EVERYTHING. Cutting out added sugar can seem really intimidating. The thing that has gotten me through it though is to know that on the rare occasions that I do have sugar, I can definitely feel the difference. My arthritis flares up and that is certainly not a treat. Treating myself now means doing things that make me feel good, not just in the moment, but in the future as well.

***Confession: Because I'm not perfect and I am still working towards being my best inflammation fighting self, I still allow myself sugar one day a week. I call it Celebration Saturday and on that day I can have some - though still not an excessive amount of - sugar. Full disclosure though, I almost always regret it because the flare ups that follow are never fun.

Additional Resources on SUGAR:

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