So, we talked about sugar, simple carbohydrates (see this post). Where they are in, and how they work in your body. But, there is more… Let’s provide you some information about the complex carbohydrates. What products contain carbs (& sugar), and how much is actually much?
The total amount of sugar intake in a day, according to the British authorities is 40 grams a day. In total. To give you a perspective, one cube of sugar is about 6 grams and a small sugar for your coffee is about 5 grams. So 8 of those is your maximum. Unfortunately sugar is not only the ‘added’ sugar to your coffee or in a biscuit or a cake. It’s also hidden in a lot of other products now-a-days. Sauces, instant products, yoghurts and so on. Important to realize as well is that no product is the same. If’s different per brand, per type of product.
So, to be clear, I’m not saying you can never indulge yourself in a whole bar of chocolate (like I did 2 days ago), or 3 doughnuts again, I’m saying that it could be worth it checking the packages to realize how much sugar you actually eat per serving by having that certain product. And being aware of the fact that you eat too much sugar. And for a day, that’s perfectly fine. No need to feel guilty. You better enjoy it as much as you can. It’s becoming more of an issue when it seems to be normal to you to have massive amounts of sugar everyday. Basically what you do is you keep your spike high, and your body get’s used to that, and your body expects you to. I truly believe that a lot of people are in this circle, without even knowing it, because they eat products without realizing how much added sugar is in there. All in all it results in people eating more during the day, more sugar, more calories and a lot of people slowly start growing (not in height..). And not only that, bodies could also start to develop some serious health conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol issues and so on, because those simple carbohydrates (sugar) is not doing anything good for your body. And again: I’m not saying you can never have sugar again, I just want to make you aware of what sugar is, and where it’s in.
Sugars are carbs. And, let me be clear, we do need carbs. We can’t go without carbs! A body needs it to function. But we need a different type of carbs called complex carbohydrates. Complex carbs are carbs that are harder to process for your body, because of the fibers and protein in it, as I mentioned before. But how do you know what product has the right complex carbs? The wholemeal products are the right products most of the time.
For example: Oats, wholewheat bread & pasta, potatoes, quinoa, brown rice, legumes. The complex carbs in those products give you release sugar on a more consistent rate, during the day. And because of that, it literally keeps you going during the day. So no spikes, and therefore no instant feel or need for your body to have a cube of sugar. This results in less cravings.
Besides just grabbing those products from a shelf in the supermarket, it’s still important to look on the package. Every product is different and there is plenty of brands around that still add a lot of extra sugar to a ‘wholemeal’ product. And yes, you do eat the complex carbohydrates then, but you still indulge quite a lot of simple sugars, it just adds unnecessarily calories to the product which is not necessary for your body.
So now you know..
If you don’t know why you have a sugar craving, if you don’t understand how it works in your body, it’s so much harder to resist, to change, to avoid it from happening again. If you understand what just happened in your body, you could decide to have a glass of water, knowing what’s going on, and you might consider changing your eating behavior next time so it’s less likely to happen again. And now you know, so now you can! Also, because you understand, it also seems easier to resist. Or, you decide to open that package of cookies, just because you can, because now you know what’s happening in your body and you decide to deal with it.
How much is much?
For me it was a bit of a research on sugar rich product and sugary product to actually find out how much is much. What I try to do is for one of my three main meals a day, I would like to keep the sugars as low as possible, preferably below 5 per cent per serving (in total). For snack, my maximum is 10 grams of sugars per serving. Besides that, I do make a difference between the ‘bad sugars’ (candy, chocolate, cookies, the added sugars) and sugars in natural products like vegetables and fruit. I never look at sugars in vegetables and fruit when I have that, because I know that the sugars in those products will be releases slowly and those product contain plenty of good stuff like fibers and vitamins and minerals.
If I make a fruit smoothy, I don’t want to add extra syrup or sugar to it. If I make a salad for lunch, I don’t want to add high sugar dressings to it, but rather stay with olive oil, tahine (100% sesame), peper & salt. If I make dinner, I try to cook without instant packages but just add all herbs and spices myself. For tinned tomatoes, I check whether there is ‘added sugar’ in the ingredients list, and the same for tomato puree. I avoid to buy tinned fruit, because often the syrup is full of sugar to keep it preserved. I rather buy frozen fruit (whether it if for desert or breakfast). That’s how I look at food and so far, it’s working pretty well for me.
Rule of thumb
A rule of thumb that was very useful for me to get a feeling of a high sugary product, is looking at the ingredients and if sugar (or sugar product) is in the top 5, I should leave it, because it means that product has a high amount of sugar in it.
But I like sugar!
The flavor of sugar is satisfying. Like I said earlier, it’s addictive and therefor we want more. Also, the more we get used to the taste of sugar, the less we like low-sugar products, because they’re not sweet enough, or, there is not enough flavor. I wonder how many of you have said that about sugar free muesli for example. I have to admit, I was one of them. The first time I ate the pure, raw, sugar free muesli, which is basically oats, raisins, nuts and seed (or something like that, all raw) I didn’t know how to finish my breakfast bowl. Just so dry and barely any flavor! I think I literally threw away the rest of the bag after a while.. And I’m still ashamed of it actually. But this is exactly what I think a lot of people have. The insane amount of sugar we eat every day ruins your taste buds. Because there is plenty of flavor in it, but we don’t taste it because our taste buds don’t get the sugar they would expect.
If I look back at my youth, the amount of ice tea that I drunk, was insane. The amount of sugar! If I drink it now, it’s way too sweet. And I actually thought it was healthy, because it was tea. I can hardly believe it myself right now.
It took me a good few years to figure most of this stuff out, on my own, with a lot of trial and error, but if I can do it, you could to, right?