Consumption of added sugar can take a devastating toll on your health. One of the biggest challenges of managing sugar intake is that it can be difficult to determine how much sugar we actually consume. Adding sugar to our diets is actually unnecessary, since fruits and vegetables already provide us with enough natural sugar to fuel our bodies. However, due to excess consumption of processed foods and soft drinks, both of which contain high levels of sugar and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), Americans are overdosing on sugar.
Uncontrolled sugar consumption leads to a weakened immune system, obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and an increase in bad cholesterol. The average American consumes over three pounds of added sugar each week, or thirty-one teaspoons a day. This means we’re adding about 500 extra calories to our diets daily—that’s one pound of potential weight gain per week.
In addition to the health issues mentioned above, added sugar is known to speed up the aging process, causing wrinkles and loss of elasticity, which leads to sagging skin. It also causes us to have highs and lows in our energy, leaving us sluggish, irritable, and unproductive.
To feel and look healthier, we should consume less than five teaspoons of added sugar daily. Even better, if you can reduce all added sugar from your diet, you will notice a drastic increase in energy and physical health, and you’ll sleep better too!
Start being more mindful of the added sugar you consume each meal. To calculate the number of teaspoons of sugar in your food: first find the total grams of carbohydrates (or sugar) on the nutrition label. Then divide that number by four. This is the number of teaspoons of added sugar. So, for example, a twelve-ounce soft drink with thirty-nine grams of carbs contains over nine teaspoons of sugar.
Here are some more tips to reduce your sugar intake:
Eliminate artificial ingredients and dyes from your diet. Avoid artificial sweeteners (aspartame, saccharin, sucralose), and try to replace them with natural sweeteners like honey, agave, or natural maple syrup. Avoid white flour (enriched, bleached, enriched “wheat” flour), white rice, or anything labeled as “refined”, and replace with whole grains such as whole wheat flour, oats, quinoa, and brown rice. Stay away from soft drinks, since they tend to be full of fattening high fructose corn syrup and can contain up to fifteen teaspoons of added sugar per serving.
Try to skip using sugar-filled, preservative-laden, pre-made sauces when you cook. Instead, use fresh herbs and dried spices to add flavor to your meals without the unnecessary sugar and sodium.
To help curb your sweet tooth, add cinnamon to food like quinoa, vegetables (sweet potatoes, carrots, winter squash), tea, coffee, yogurt, and oatmeal. Cardamom, ginger, and nutmeg are also delicious in smoothies and hot tea. Cloves make a wonderful addition to your crock pot for meats and fish, instead of sugary sauces. For those who enjoy spicy foods, cayenne pepper can help curb your sweet tooth – try it in your hot tea with some lemon.
Cutting back on added sugar doesn’t have to be hard. With the right mindset, a well-planned nutritious diet, and the motivation to be healthier, you can successfully kick your sugar habit in no time.