National Nutrition Month is coming to a close, but that means one last chance to talk about a sneaky substance that can have a big impact on our health and well-being: SUGAR!
As processed foods have become the norm over the last few decades, food companies have been adding more and more sugar to the foods they sell, because as we know, more sugar makes things taste better! In fact, sugar has become so common in our food supply that we really only notice it when we can’t taste it! Sugar can even be found in foods you would never expect to need added sugar – it might just be disguised under another name, like high fructose corn syrup, dried cane syrup, evaporated cane juice, invert sugar, molasses, sucrose, brown rice syrup, honey, agave or maple syrup. Some studies have even shown that sugar can be as addictive as cocaine!
So why is sugar so bad, besides being so addicting? Our bodies have a difficult time metabolizing extra sugar in our system, so it gets turned to fat instead of being broken down and used for energy. Excess fat leads to a whole host of issues, such as obesity, which in turn can lead to many other issues (heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes…to name a few!). According to the American Heart Association, excess sugar consumption can lead to heart failure. Sugar can also block the hormone that tells us when we’ve had enough to eat, causing us to eat more than we should and in turn causing weight gain. Sugar can also lead to loss of memory and cognitive damage, and even could advance the aging of our cells.
Whew! That’s a pretty big and scary list! If you’re ready to start eliminating some of that excess sugar from your diet, here are some easy tips to follow:
- Read food labels closely. If you don’t see the word ‘sugar’ right away, look for those ‘disguised’ names listed above to make sure there is really no added sugar.
- Quit your soda habit. This can be a hard one for some people, and switching to diet soda isn’t a better alternative. Soda is one of the main culprits responsible for all the additional sugar in our diet today. If you still crave those bubbles, try non-sweetened, naturally-flavored sparkling water. And don’t forget – juice is another big source of sugar too! Always choose the whole fruit over fruit juices to keep sugar consumption under control.
- Choose plain yogurt. Add plain, fresh fruit or cinnamon to your yogurt for a little kick of sweetness. Fruit-flavored yogurts are much more likely to have added sugars and syrups.
- Skip dessert. Either stop eating dessert altogether or at the very least greatly reduce the amount you consume. Even a little amount of a high-sugar food can go a long way in satisfying that sweet tooth, so if you feel you need it, eat a smaller portion while you work on kicking your dessert habit.
- Choose full-fat. Anything labeled reduced fat or non-fat has probably replaced that fat with sugar. Even when it comes to dairy products, you are making a much healthier choice by choosing the full-fat version versus the reduced or fat-free option.
Even if you just start small, you’re making a big step toward kicking that sugar addiction. Pick one way you know you can start kicking the habit today and before you know it, you’ll be a sugar-free superstar!