I think it’s safe to say that I don’t conform to the “Food Police” reputation that is often (usually unfairly) attributed to dietitians. For one thing, I support a total diet approach, and advocate for eating and loving good food. Secondly, I find that it’s more productive to talk about the positive aspects of nutrition: getting plenty of the good things that our bodies need. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not important to also talk about dietary patterns that have been recognized by researchers to be harmful and associated with specific health outcomes. Knowledge is power, and this stuff is real!
The reason why I’m finding myself on this soapbox today is because I’m inspired by the good work they’re doing at SugarScience.org. The site launched this week as a project by leading experts in the field, who are making an effort to publicize what we currently understand about the risks of eating too much added sugar. The content is exhaustively researched and simply communicated – public health gold, in my book. In addition to perusing the research, you can follow their blog, submit your own questions to their panel of experts, and access a wealth of resources for spreading awareness of the associations of excess sugar consumption with not only obesity and diabetes, but a whole range of inflammatory and hormonal disorders including cancer, heart disease, liver disease, aging, dementia and Alzheimer’s. Seriously, you’ll want to dig into this information. If you’re a dietitian who counsels patients, definitely incorporate some of these killer infographics into your handout repertoire!
Here’s a glance at one of my favorites, detailing sources of hidden sugars in packaged foods (for a closer look, download the PDF from SugarScience!):
Love this tagline: “Nature made sugar hard to get… man made it easy.” Totally drives the point home!
From a practical RD perspective, here’s my take on advice for people aiming to start eating less sugar… If you can just get your foot in the door, the problem sort of solves itself: when you eat less sugar, you crave less sugar. Your body feels the “sugar high” more acutely, and a little goes a long way. Get used to the flavor of unsweetened tea, coffee, etc. and enjoy them for what they are. Still treat yourself to sweets (obviously!), but even in desserts, you may find that you can use less sugar and get just as indulgent of a result. For example, in last week’s recipe for Whole-Grain Pumpkin Snickerdoodles, I call for only 1/2 cup of sugar in the full batch of dough, just a fraction of the sugar in other similar recipes. And trust me… they’re good!!!
So what’s your take on the sugar issue? Do find it challenging to keep your sugar intake in check, or does it come naturally?