How to Combat Your Sweet Tooth and Why It's Important
Chances are, you're eating way too much sugar. And it's affecting your health.
How much is too much?
Americans consume an average of 325 calories of added sugar per person per day. That's more than three times the recommended maximum for women (100 calories, or 25 grams) and twice the recommended maximum for men (150 calories, or 38 grams).
Why does it matter?
Over time, consuming large quantities of added sugar can stress and damage critical organs, including the pancreas and liver. When the pancreas becomes overworked, it can fail to regulate blood sugar properly, contributing to the development of type 2 diabetes. Excess sugar in the diet has also been linked to other chronic diseases, including cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, gout and obesity.
The more you fill yourself up with sweet treats, the less room you have for the healthy, whole foods that provide your body with the nutrients you need. The more cake & ice cream you eat, the less likely you are to munch on vegetables, fruit, whole grains & lean protein. It's not only the extra calories in sugar that are affecting your health. Those treats are also taking the place of the healthful foods you need to be strong & healthy.
Why are we eating so much sugar?
There are obvious sources of sugar in our diets, such as desserts and sodas, but we also need to be aware of the hidden sugar in processed foods, including breads, yogurt, sauces, and many canned foods.
The more you eat, the more you want...
Have you ever noticed that one bite of a sugary treat makes you crave more? Recent research has shown that sugar can have addictive qualities.
Using brain-scanning technology, scientists at the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse were among the first to show that sugar causes changes in peoples' brains similar to those in people addicted to drugs. These changes are linked to a heightened craving for more sugar.
If you're feeling like your sweet cravings are out of control, use our tips below to get off the roller coaster of sugar highs & crashes.
Top Ten Ways to Reduce Sugar Consumption
1. Stop adding sugar to things you eat and drink regularly like cereal, oatmeal, pancakes, coffee or tea. Try cutting the usual amount by half and then wean down from there. It may feel challenging at first, but before long you will learn to enjoy the natural taste of these foods & beverages.
2. Eat fruit. The best way to satisfy your sweet tooth is with fresh fruit. It's delicious, naturally low in calories, and high in vitamins, minerals & fiber. Bonus: as you cut back on added sugars, your fruit will taste even sweeter!
3. Use spices & extracts. Instead of adding sugar, use extracts like almond, vanilla, orange & lemon, or spices like ginger, allspice, cinnamon or nutmeg.
4. Plan & prepare your meals. Knowing what you'll be eating throughout the day, and having your food prepped in advance will help ensure that you're filling up with healthful foods. You'll feel more satisfied throughout the day & less likely to turn to unhealthful foods. Click here for help with meal planning.
5. Cut back (or cut out!) sugary drinks. One 12 oz can of soda contains 46.2 grams of sugar - that's nearly twice the daily limit for women! To make matters worse, calories from liquids are less satisfying than calories from solid food, so we end up consuming more overall.
6. Drink water! And lots of it! Drink at least 8 cups of water per day. Staying properly hydrated keeps your energy up and relieves false hunger pangs. Mineral water & herbal (non-caffeinated) teas count too!
7. Read food labels. Reduce hidden sugars by comparing food labels and choosing products with the lowest amounts of added sugars. Dairy and fruit products will contain some natural sugars. Added sugars can be identified in the ingredients list. Click here for tips on reading food labels.
8. Get your sleep. Sleep deprivation increases our appetites and causes us to favor high-calorie, sweet and salty foods over healthy foods like fruits and vegetables. Get a good night's sleep to help you eat less sugar. Click here for tips on improving the quality & quantity of your sleep.
9. Plan your treats. Even if you follow all the above tips, there will still be times when you'll want to indulge. And we encourage you to give yourself a couple of treats each week. If you try to completely cut out sugar, you'll feel deprived and that can backfire. We recommend that you decide on two treats each week and plan when you'll have them. Then enjoy them guilt-free!
10. And hide the rest! If it's not one of your two planned treats, it doesn't belong in your home. When you keep tempting, high-sugar foods within reach, you are more likely to eat them in a moment of weakness. You'll be less likely to give in if you have to get in the car & drive to a store when your cravings hit.