How to Cut the Sugar

Get Ready For Bariatric Surgery: Avoiding Added Sugars

Weight loss surgery is a great tool to help you to improve your health and take control of your quality of life. The time from the consultation with your surgeon at Barix Clinics to the time of surgery can vary from a few weeks to several months. Use this time to prepare for post-surgery life and put healthy habits in place.

Naturally Occurring Sugar
Some foods naturally contain sugar—fruits, 100% fruit juices, milk and other dairy products–even vegetables. This sugar, perhaps because it is combined with other nutrients (fiber, protein, and fat), seems to be processed differently in the body. We know this because gastric bypass patients who get sick (dumping syndrome) from added sugars generally tolerate these naturally-occurring sugars. These foods also contribute important nutrients to the diet and, in the right balance, are part of a healthy diet.

Added Sugars
Added sugar is sugar that is added to foods and beverages to make them taste sweeter. It is everywhere–from the obvious cakes, pies, cookies, ice cream and soda pop to the sugar hidden in prepared foods like ketchup, salad dressing, peanut butter, and canned fruits. Over the last 30 years, our intake of added sugar has increased a whopping 30%.

Sure, our bodies need glucose, a form of sugar, for life. In fact, we keep a constant level of glucose in our bloodstream so that every cell has access to it for the creation of energy. But, we don’t need to consume sugar, especially added sugar in our diets to maintain a healthy amount of glucose in our bloodstreams. We have mechanisms that allow us to produce glucose from the complex carbohydrates, protein and fat in our diet.

The Problem with Added Sugars
The damage to our health and well-being from excess added sugar in our diets is becoming recognized by the medical community.

  • The American Heart Association recommends that women limit added sugar to 25 grams and men 37 grams a day.
  • The 2015 Dietary Guideline Advisory Committee recommends that we keep added sugar to 10% of daily calories.
  • The World Health Organization recommends limiting added sugars to 10% of daily calories stating that reducing it to 5% would result in further benefits.

Why are these health organizations calling for a reduction in added sugar intake? Too much added sugar in our diets day-after-day and year-after-year isn’t healthy and leads to a slew of chronic health issues.

Raging Hunger.  A chronic intake of the sugar fructose can lead to leptin resistance. Leptin is the hormone that tells your body, “I’m full.” If you develop leptin resistance, you never get that full signal, and develop a drive to eat that just won’t quit. You can imagine that doesn’t fare well for weight control.

Insulin Resistance. Over time, too much added sugar in the diet (in addition to inactivity and obesity) can cause insulin resistance. Insulin regulates the amount of sugar that is in the bloodstream. One analogy is that insulin is like a key that opens the door to let blood sugar out of the bloodstream and into the cells where it can be converted to energy. When someone becomes resistant to insulin, the body produces more and more insulin in an effort to regulate blood sugar. This results in high levels of both glucose (sugar) and insulin in the blood. Insulin resistance can also result in excess fat storage in muscle and liver tissue.

Diabetes. When your body is not able to convert blood sugar into energy and the blood sugar rises to an unhealthy level, diabetes develops. Although the relationship between consuming large amounts of added sugar and developing diabetes is not completely clear, scientists have found that drinking sugary beverages is associated with the development of diabetes.

Weight Gain. Just drinking a single soft drink each day can result in a gain of 15 pounds in one year. It’s as simple as that and each additional serving increases the odds of obesity.

Addiction. Sugar, for some people, can be downright addictive. It has a powerful effect on the reward system in our brain, similar to nicotine and cocaine. Strong cravings for sugar can be hard to resist and can drive overeating.

Cavities.  Eating sweets causes the germs in your mouth to create acid. It is this acid that eats holes in your teeth, forming cavities. Frequent consumption of sweets throughout the day, especially those that are sticky or acidic (like soft drinks), bathe your teeth in acid and accelerate the formation of cavities.

Joint pain. Elevated intake of processed sugar can lead to inflammation, causing joint pain and other inflammation-related diseases.

Brain Dysfunction. A high-sugar diet is implicated in learning and memory problems, anxiety and depression.

Heart Disease. It’s not clear how sugar is related to heart disease, but it can significantly increase the risk of death from heart disease by up to 30%.

How to Limit Added Sugar

To limit added sugars, build your diet on healthy unprocessed foods as much as possible. Select low-fat protein sources (lean meat/fish/poultry, low-fat dairy, beans), fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, and whole grains. Barix Clinics recommends that you limit added sugars to 2 grams or less per serving. Do this by looking at the nutrition facts label to see how much sugar is in a serving. Then check out the ingredient listing. If the product has more than 2 grams of sugar per serving and you see an “added sugar” term within the first five ingredients listed, put it back.

Names for Added Sugar

Brown rice syrup
Brown sugar
Cane sugar
Corn sweetener
Corn syrup
Fruit juice concentrates
High-fructose corn syrup
Invert sugar
Malt sugar
Maple syrup
Organic brown rice syrup
Organic cane syrup
Raw sugar

Tips for Reducing Added Sugar

Where to start? Once you start reading food labels and realize how much added sugar is in our food and beverages, you may feel unsure of how to start to cut back. Here are some tips to get you started:

  • If you drink beverages with added sugar, that’s the first place to start. Sugars from sweetened drinks make up about 35% of the added sugar in most people’s diet. Replace sugary drinks with water, Vitamin Water Zero, Bai water, diet iced tea, SoBe Lifewater, Mio, and Crystal Light.
  • Find some no-added-sugar sweet treats to enjoy in place of sweets. Items sweetened with sugar substitutes can help you satisfy your “sweet tooth” without the sugar. Keep an eye on calories, no-added-sugar doesn’t mean no-calories. Try low calorie no-added-sugar fudgesicles or popsicles, or no-added-sugar pudding.
  • Substitute Truvia (a combination of stevia and erythritol) or erythritol for the sugar in recipes. You’ll cut calories and avoid the damaging effects of sugar. You can find lots of great recipes on our support website:
  • Be sure to have healthy protein-rich snacks available at all times so that you have an option when hunger calls—light string cheese, light Babybel cheese, hard cooked eggs, deli meat, low sugar protein bars, 100-calorie packs of nuts, or low sugar yogurt.
  • Learn to celebrate life’s events without sugary treats. We’ve made these events about the food–try to change your perspective to focus on the people or person, rather than the cake. Although sometimes it is nice to have a treat too and you can–take a no-added-sugar treat to family gatherings, have fresh fruit and yogurt on hand for office birthdays, and enjoy no-added sugar chocolate mousse for your birthday.

Avoiding added sugars is an important behavior to help you reach and maintain a healthy weight after surgery. Start now, before surgery, to put strategies in place to help you limit added sugar and you’ll have a much easier adjustment to the post-surgical lifestyle.

Chocolate Mousse

1 1/2 cups skim milk, cold
1 pkg. fat-free, sugar-free chocolate instant pudding (4 serving size)
1 cup Cool Whip Lite®, thawed

Pour milk into mixing bowl. Add pudding mix. Beat with wire whisk 2 minutes.
Gently stir in whipped topping. Spoon into individual dishes or medium serving
bowl. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Makes 5 servings.

Nutrition Information per serving: Calories 83; Protein 3 grams; Fat 3 grams; Sodium 311 mg






About Deb Hart

Deb Hart is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. For the last 28 years, she has been helping bariatric surgery patients reach their health and weight goals. She teaches people how to set up a lifestyle that supports a healthy weight. Deb set up her own lifestyle to include lots of long walks with her furry family members, workout classes at her local wellness center, meal prepping, and finding new ways to enjoy foods without added sugar.
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