When you eat foods made from refined sugar and wheat, your blood sugar levels increase sharply and then quickly drop, resulting in feelings of hunger that can lead to overeating. Over time, these erratic rises in blood sugar and insulin can lead to more serious issues like increased risk for unhealthy weight gain, diabetes and heart disease. By making a few healthy lifestyle changes -- and committing to stick with them -- you can eliminate refined foods from your diet and help ensure your ongoing good health.
Purge your pantry and clean out the refrigerator. Toss out granulated sugar and all foods that contain refined sugar and wheat flour. Get rid of processed foods like cookies, crackers, sugary cereals, white bread, packaged pastries and sugary beverages.
Switch to whole-grain food products. Although the refining process creates wheat flour that makes breads and pastries light and airy, it robs the grain of valuable nutrients. The milling process strips away over half of the B vitamins and about 90 percent of the vitamin E. Almost all fiber, which helps keep blood sugar levels stable during digestion, is also eliminated during the milling process.
Check for the word "whole" when buying whole-grain foods. Read the ingredients list on food labels when shopping. Whole-grain products list the grain as the first item and will use the word "whole" before the grain. The first ingredient, for example, is listed as whole-wheat flour.
Look for hidden sugars when shopping. The "Nutrition Facts" panel on packaged foods includes not only naturally occurring sugar, which is not added sugar, but also lists other added sugars. Since finding hidden sugars can be tricky, look on the ingredients list and food label for items such as corn syrup, honey, high-fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrates, fructose, maple syrup, sucrose, brown sugar, dextrose or maltose.
Eat more fresh fruit instead of processed and refined treats like candy, cookies and doughnuts. Refined and processed foods are virtually void of health benefits. Fresh fruits, however, satisfy your desire for something sweet while providing your body with fiber and vital nutrients like vitamins A and C, and minerals like iron and potassium.
Replace sugary sodas and fruit juices with water. According to Harvard School of Public Health, rising consumption of sugary drinks has been a major contributor to the obesity epidemic in the United States. A 20-ounce soda typically contains 15 to 18 teaspoons of sugar and up to 240 calories. Water, however, contains no sugar or calories and is essential for good health and survival.
- Harvard School of Public Health: Type 2 Diabetes
- Harvard School of Public Health: Food and Diet: Beyond Willpower: Diet Quality and Quantity Matter
- Kennesaw State University: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Whole Grains and Heart Health
- Harvard School of Public Health: Health Gains from Whole Grains
- University of Nebraska - Lincoln: Food, Nutrition & Health: Difference Between "Natural " and "Added Sugars"
- Harvard School of Public Health: Added Sugar in the Diet
- Harvard Medical School: Harvard Health Publications: Listing of Vitamins
- Harvard School of Public Health: Sugary Drinks and Obesity Fact Sheet