In 2016, the U.S. Surgeon General recommended that Americans cut down on their sugar intake. The average American consumes 47 pounds of added sugars per year!! Not only do added sugars contribute to weight gain and make weight maintenance difficult or impossible, research shows that added sugars also:
- Impair memory
- Increase risk of heart disease
- At certain levels, added sugars may even double the risk of heart disease
- Increase hypertension
- Increase risk of Type 2 Diabetes
- Increase risk of joint inflammation, causing muscle and joint pain
- Decrease energy. Simple carbs, like sugar, are processed quickly, causing blood sugar to spike, then crash, causing energy levels to drop.
- Increase breeding ground in the mouth for bacteria, increasing risk of:
- Periodontal Disease
- Increase appetite, causing you to consume additional calories.
While the average American consumes 16% of daily calories from added sugars, he/she should be consuming no more than 8% of daily calories from sugars. While cutting sugar intake in half all at once could be difficult or impossible for some, any gradual decrease will be beneficial to overall health.
Some ideas for decreasing sugar intake include:
1. Eliminate sugar-sweetened beverages. High sugar drinks include orange juice, flavored milk (chocolate, strawberry, vanilla, etc.), sports drinks, handcrafted coffee drinks (i.e. mochas, flavored lattes, cappuccinos).
2. Make dessert an occasional, not a daily, splurge. If you know you’ll be eating dessert for dinner, keep sugar intake low throughout the day. One exception - one ounce of dark chocolate with at least 65% cacao can be a daily treat, as it’s loaded with antioxidants. However, if you won’t be able to stop at one ounce (that’s not much!), don’t start this habit.
3. Read food labels – look at the added sugars. Many everyday foods, including yogurt, cereals, granola bars, and crackers, have lots of added sugar. That sugar content is always listed on the label.
4. Give up refined carbohydrates like white rice, white bread, and white flour. Switch to brown or whole wheat versions and keep portions in check.
5. Get regular exercise. Exercise increases the metabolism of mitochondria, which means they won’t turn sugar to fat.
The bottom line is that you need to tame your sweet tooth. Enjoy a sweet now and then, but always be conscious of the added sugars in everyday foods and work to cut them down. Your waistline, your heart, your pancreas, your mind, your mouth, and your overall health will thank you for it.