Is Sugar at Work the New Cigarette Break?

January 2, 2018

Here’s why cutting down on sugar at work should make your list of resolutions, and a few tips to help.

How often do we reward ourselves or our employees with sweets? Or get ourselves out of that mid-afternoon slump with a little sugar high? Sugary snacks, like donuts, are as synonymous with the office break as a cup of coffee. Even when we’re trying not to eat sugar, it can be hard to avoid — most convenient packaged, processed and fast foods designed for busy workers on the go are high in the stuff.

For decades, we were told that dietary fat leads to obesity and heart disease. We were sold “lowfat” everything, from yogurt to cookies. We traded our bacon and eggs for bagels and low-fat cream cheese.

Now it turns out we may have been duped.

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News outlets were all a-titter recently as new information emerged about the sugar industry suppressing studies that proved that sugar is indeed bad for your health, much in the same way the tobacco industry did. A November 2017 Business Insider article “The Sugar  Industry has Been Quietly Funding One of the Biggest Misconceptions in Modern Nutrition” reveals that sugar giants have been blocking the publication of non-favourable studies since the 1960s. What is worse is that they have also paid Harvard scientists to publish studies to paint fat as the bad guy, thereby shaping health guidelines, grocery store aisles and our dinner tables for decades.

Sugar is addictive and it’s bad for you. What’s more, it may make you stupid, according to a 2012 UCLA article “This is Your Brain on Sugar: UCLA Study Shows High-Fructose Diet Sabotages Learning, Memory.” The study, which addressed the effects of high-fructose corn syrup, found that “eating a high-fructose diet over the long term alters your brain’s ability to learn and remember information.”

That’s the last thing you want at work.

Breaking up is hard to do

How do we break up our sweet relationship with sugar at work? Here are my five top tips to reduce your sugar intake:

    When looking at a food label, sugars will be listed in grams (g). Dividing the number of grams by four will yield the number of teaspoons of sugar. For example, a small flavoured yogurt can have 16 grams of sugar. Dividing 16 by four means there are four teaspoons of sugar in that yogurt.
    Once you start looking at labels you’ll realize that food manufacturers often add much more sugar than you would add yourself. Would you add four teaspoons of sugar to a small yogurt cup? Probably not. Instead, buy unsweetened food, like plain yogurt, and add your own sweetener to your own taste.
    To reduce sugar, be wary of the other names sugar may be called on a food label. This can include: glucose, fructose, maltose,  sucrose, corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, corn sugar, dextrose, caramel, raw sugar and cane sugar. Instead, go with sugars that  you can picture in their natural form, like honey, maple syrup and molasses.
    If you have a sweet tooth and get serious sugar cravings, a sugar detox may be just what you need. Avoid sugar completely for two to three weeks to “reset” your body’s expectations for sugar and the taste for sweetness. After this initial period of avoidance, slowly start to introduce natural sweeteners like honey and maple syrup. You will notice that you get adequate sweetness using less sugar and that high-sugar foods (like pop or candy) will taste unpalatably sweet as your taste buds are no longer primed for a high sugar intake.
    In your quest to reduce your sugar load, you may also want to reduce foods that easily turn in to sugar. These are not typically  sugary” or sweet foods but carbs made out of refined (white) flour like bread and pasta. Try this little experiment (great to do with  kids too). Chew a bite of white bread until it breaks down to sugar in your mouth. It may take a few minutes, but just keep chewing, and eventually it will start to taste sweet. Next, try it with a piece of brown or whole grain bread and see how much longer it takes to break down to sugar. All carbs eventually break down to sugars, and these sugars are required by every cell of the body for fuel, but the slower they break down, the healthier they are.

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Jaty Tam
Dr. Jaty Tam, ND is a Naturopathic Doctor and Founder/Medical Director of Well Street, a workplace wellness provider specializing in holistic and education based wellness solutions to corporations across Canada. A highly sought-after speaker and developer of innovative wellness programs, Jaty empowers her audiences to ignite their highest potential through optimal wellness.

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