There is nothing satisfying about what too much sugar does to your body. You can link excessive consumption to heart disease, certain cancers, obesity, type 2 diabetes, acne, wrinkles and other signs of accelerated aging. It can also damage your brain and liver. It has been studied that certain types of cancers use sugar to fuel their growth.
In early 2016, the United States government said that Americans should seek to keep their intake of added sugars (the sugar added during processing or prepping of foods), to less than 10 percent of daily calories. This would mean a decrease of sugar intake of about one-third for the average American, and a significantly higher reduction for teenagers, who eat about 17 percent of their calories in added sugars. Again, they are talking about added sugar, not the naturally occurring sugars found in dairy and fruit. Sugar is added to foods that don’t even taste sweet like breads, condiments and sauces, and it all adds up.
How did we get here?
People are starting to pay attention to excessive sugar consumption and its risk factors. In 2016, JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) of Internal Medicine revealed and the New York Times reported that the sugar industry paid off scientists in the 1960s to play down the link between sugar and heart disease (see links below). They then went to pin the heart disease blame on saturated fats. This is the likely reason why many Americans are unaware how unhealthy added sugars are for you.
Ways to Scale Back
- Start by reading your food labels. Ingredients are listed in order of how much exists in the product, so if sugar is near the top, that is a red flag. Sugars can be “disguised” on ingredients lists under names like: high fructose corn syrup, molasses, sucrose (any word ending in “-ose”), brown rice syrup, and honey for example. Even seemingly healthy foods like yogurt may contain three or four diverse types of sugars.
- Once you have educated yourself on the different sugars, and started to pay attention to the food labels, you can start making gradual changes by buying foods with “no added sugar.” Also, you can find unsweetened versions of foods in most grocery stores.
- Partnering carbohydrates with proteins, healthy fats and fiber can help you feel fuller longer and will help decrease your desire for sugar. So, if eating toast in the morning be sure to partner it with some eggs or almonds.
- Don’t replace added sugar with fake sugars and sweeteners. Studies have shown that these chemical replacements are not healthy and have the adverse effect of increasing sugar cravings. Natural sugars such as cinnamon, vanilla extract, spices, citrus zests are healthy ways to add sweetness to foods.
- You are what you drink! Soda isn’t the only beverage with added sugars. Some flavored waters have more sugar than what you are supposed to have in an entire day. Read your labels.
You Can Do It!
Substantial changes don’t happen overnight. As with most things, the longest-lasting changes happen slowly over time. Slowly decrease your intake (like slowly decreasing the amount of sugar you put in your coffee one week at a time).
Don’t tell yourself you can never have dessert again. If you avoid wasting your sugar intake on non-dessert foods, there is no reason you can’t indulge in a sweet treat. As you start to make gradual changes, your tastes will change. Soon enough you’ll notice the natural sweetness in healthy foods, and the excessive sweetness of those with added sugars.
If you’re in need of a healthcare provider, contact NorthShore Primary Care for more information. Doctors Jennifer Carandang, MD, Sheila Rice, MD and Rebecca Ware, MD welcome the opportunity to help you maintain a healthy lifestyle. To learn more, visit www.northshorehealthcare.com/primarycare, or call our offices in Amherst at (440) 455-3090 or Avon at (440) 653-8091.