As Americans, we consume roughly the equivalent of 65 lbs of sugar per year. That’s a lot, right? To put it in perspective, even the suggested amount of no more than 9 teaspoons of added sugar per day for men and only 6 per day for women add up to 29 lbs and 19 lbs, respectively. Instead we consume nearly 20 teaspoons per day, more than double the recommended daily amount!
So, what’s the problem with some sugar? Obviously, most people are aware of the negative effects on heart health, blood pressure, cholesterol, and rotten teeth, not to mention risk of diabetes and obesity, but that’s really only the tip of the iceberg. Cancer cells thrive on sugar, and there’s probably also a link between asthma and sugar intake. Also, excess sugar intake can inhibit the ability to get a good night’s sleep and even predispose to depression and dementia. Lastly, if the above reasons aren’t good enough to limit sugar intake, excess sugar consumption makes you look older faster, aging you nearly 5 years faster per 20 oz soda per day. You might as well be smoking for all of the harm it does to your face.
Good thing I really don’t add sugar to my food, right? Unfortunately, roughly ¾ of packaged food contains added sugar, and the companies don’t have to let you know until 2020. Not only that, but many packaged foods marketed as “healthy” are actually some of the biggest culprits. Gluten-free foods typically have more sugar, salt, fat and saturated fat as well as less protein and fiber than their gluten-containing counterparts. Not to mention, these products are typically much more expensive. Other “healthy” products that often contain high amounts of added sugar include smoothies, trail mix, flavored yogurts, oatmeal and salad dressing. Even juices labeled 100% juice often have very high sugar concentrations.
Trading in soda for energy drinks? On average, energy drinks contain about 30 grams of sugar. Sports drinks can have as many as 40 grams, and flavored coffee drinks can clock in at nearly 50 grams. Just one of these per day can push you well past the recommended 24-36 grams per day.
Ready to make a change? Often the first, and simplest, step is limiting sugary drinks. Focus on increasing water, unsweetened tea, unsweetened coffee, and did I mention water intake? Not only will this reduce your intake of added sugar, but being well-hydrated also increases satiety (fullness) thereby decreasing cravings. Next, be sure to check out nutrition labels. In addition to sugar levels, scan ingredients for other sweeteners like honey, anything named syrup, and anything ending in -ose (dextrose, glucose, maltose, fructose, etc.) Finally, use whole fresh ingredients whenever possible so that you get to be in charge of the flavoring/seasoning process.
Good luck kicking that nasty sugar habit!