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Why cutting sugar can help you lose weight

Stephanie Becker, M.S. D.C.

Taking control of your blood sugar is an important component in losing fat and gaining energy.

t young woman eating a salad

Photo credit: IAN HOOTON/Science Photo Library/Getty Images

How does blood sugar affect weight loss?

t After you eat a meal, a hormone called insulin is released from your pancreas in response to increased blood sugar levels. Insulin decreases blood sugar by allowing cells to take up glucose (sugars) to be processed. A certain amount of the glucose is stored in reserve for use when you need energy. However, once you pass that threshold, the excess will get placed in long-term storage in your fat cells. Insulin plays a huge role in your metabolism by regulating when fatty acids can be released. If insulin is being constantly activated by high-sugar and high-carbohydrate meals, it will lead to increased fat storage and decreased use of fats for energy.

What foods to avoid

t Foods with obvious sugar content like soft drinks, sports drinks, candy, cakes, etc. will cause high spikes in your blood sugar. In addition, refined carbohydrates such as white bread and pasta get treated by the body like pure sugar. It is very common today to see sugars added into a lot of products that you just wouldn’t think to check. Be on the lookout for added sugars and high fructose corn syrup on ingredient labels. High fructose corn syrup is another form of sweetener that will get a strong reaction from insulin.

What foods to eat

t Opt to get more sources of protein, vegetables and healthy fats in your diet. These things will not cause the reaction from insulin and will therefore allow fatty acids to be mobilized from your cells when needed for energy and functions of the body. Beyond that, you are getting more dense sources of nutrition that the body needs to thrive. The old way of thinking was that eating a low-fat diet was what you had to do to lose weight. Today, with the increasing research in this area, we know that just isn’t true. Fats do not have to be the enemy. Clearly, the kind of fat you find in the drive-through window and in fried foods can contribute to health problems. Vegetable oils used commonly in frying are high in omega-6 fatty acids. However, healthy fats such as those found in avocados, olive oil, grass-fed meats, fish, nuts, seeds and eggs provide more omega-3 fatty acids. It is thought that a 1:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 is better for health. The unfortunate thing is that most people on a typical American diet get several times more omega-6 per day than needed.

The bottom line

t A more balanced diet that optimizes nutrition and lowers blood sugar spikes can aid in losing those unwanted pounds and give you more sustainable energy throughout your day. Cutting out sugar is never easy at first, but once it’s gone you may find you feel and look better without it.

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