Humans and animals have a preference for foods that taste sweet. This preference is innate, meaning we like sugar even before we are born! In addition, the more exposed we are to sugar, the more we like it.
Where does this preference for Sugar come from?
Sugar was a quick source of energy for our ancestors and the foods in which they found it, fruit, honey, sugar cane, etc. presented fewer health hazards for them. In nature, bitter foods are often poisonous, while sweet foods are rarely so.
Thus, the tendency to like sweet foods was passed from generation to generation until it became part of our genetic material. As you can see, succumbing to sweet foods is not a matter of will power; it is a matter of gene power. In fact, overcoming our “sweet tooth” means conquering the power of our genes. Not an easy task, as many of us know by now.
The problem with sugar in modern times
One of the problems we see with sugary foods in modern times is that they often are high in fat -most of the times unhealthy fats- as well as in calories. Because of our attraction to sweets, we may indulge in these foods, letting the fat do its damage as far as calories, weight gain, and ill health effects are a concern.
Sugar is everywhere in the modern, highly processed diet. Even in foods that it will never occur to us to think of as sweet, such as mustard, ketchup, chips, relishes, bread, crackers, we find sugar is a substantial ingredient. Of course, eating all these foods keeps reinforcing our innate taste for sugar.
While moderate ingestion of sugar is not clearly linked to obesity per se, with the strong demand and the abundant supply, consumption of sugar is becoming quite high. And this can definitely have an impact on your weight as well as in other areas of your health.
What to do to limit Unhealthy Sugary Foods
The first thing you may need to do is to review your diet. See how many times you eat sugary foods or drinks during the day or during the week. Then decide a strategy to limit them. Here are some suggestions you may want to make to limit sugar in your diet:
- You may take a drastic position towards sugar and ban sweet processed foods and sugary drinks altogether
- You may limit sweet processed foods to one per day
- You may limit sweet processed foods to a certain number of days per week or per month
- Although raisins, dry figs, etc. have a good amount of sure, they also have fiber and barely any fat. You may want to include some of these foods to replace other sugary processed foods.
Such a commitment will be good only if you follow through, of course. Do not wait to make this type of commitment until you are in front of a tempting food because then it will be quite hard to resist it.
Once you have made the decision when to have sweet food, the next step will be to define what foods you want to consider “sweets”. The foods to avoid are those that are processed, that include lots of sugar, fat, and calories. In general, these foods offer neither nutrients nor fiber. Sugary soft drinks fall into this category.
Look for sugar in the food label
Reading the food label will help you identify the grams of sugar the food has. Ideally, the food should not have more than 3 grams of sugar per serving. Keep in mind that although direct consumption of sugar is decreasing, the amount of sugar we eat in processed foods is increasing at a scary pace.
Remember that the major health hazard is processed sugary foods. This category is the one to avoid. Fruit, honey, and other natural foods never killed anybody. Of course, if you are diabetic, you may want to follow the glycemic index list to see what fruits will raise more your blood sugar.
Keep also in mind, that our ancestors could eat a lot of sweet foods because they were very active physically.