When it comes to our sugar intake, most of us want to do better. Whether it’s avoiding unnecessary weight gain or preventing illness, there are many reasons to reduce the amount of sugar in our diets. Research, however, shows that even those who do their best to avoid sugar often succumb to hidden sugars. For instance, hidden sugars appear in so-called “health foods” like yogurt and granola bars.
According to the American Heart Association, the average citizen consumes a whopping 77 grams of sugar per day—more than 3X the recommended daily sugar intake. These 77 grams of sugar per day adds up to 60 pounds of sugar each year, causing a number of health problems: Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and certain types of cancers, to name a few. Our overconsumption of sugar also leaves us feeling terrible: blood sugar spikes from too much sugar produce symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, and blurred vision.
Here are 3 key tips for reducing sugar in your diet.
Reduce Added Sugars Such as High-Fructose Corn Syrup from Your Diet
What is high fructose corn syrup? Why is it so bad for us? High-fructose corn syrup is added sugar, and added sugar is simply not good for us.
The problem is that when it comes to today’s packaged foods, added sugars are abundant. You’ll find hidden sugars in pasta sauce, bread, salad dressing, ketchup, baked beans, soda, beer, BBQ sauce, peanut, coleslaw, etc. Any added sugar, including high fructose corn syrup, should be avoided when possible. The good news is that, in 2018, the FDA began to require makers of packaged food not only list the total amount of sugar in their products, but also “added sugar” as a separate category.
A simple way to reduce your sugar intake: go through your refrigerator and ditch (or reduce) the foods you eat that contain added sugar.
Replace Sugar with Artificial Sweeteners
Why do we crave sugar? Interestingly, it’s because we eat so much sugar in the first place. For those with a “sweet tooth,” however, there are plenty of artificial sweeteners that can be used in the place of sugar. For example, Stevia, an artificial sweetener, is a fantastic alternative for some—it’s 150x sweeter than sugar and doesn’t cause the same health problems.
At the same time, natural honey, agave nectar, and maple syrup are better for you than processed sugars, although they should still be enjoyed in moderation.
Find Healthy Substitutes for Sweets
One of the best replacements for artificial sweets is nature’s candy—fruit! Fruits contain naturally occurring sugar which, unlike added sugars, are good for you and also contain plenty of the vitamins, minerals, and fiber that your body needs. Fruits, as well as healthy alternatives like nuts, seeds, and trail mix provide a delicious and nutritious alternative to candy and other sugar-filled treats.
The Benefits of Reducing Your Sugar Consumption
Implementing the three key tips above – avoiding added sugars, using artificial sweeteners, and eating healthier snacks – will have many health and wellness benefits:
You will likely avoid the serious illnesses associated with overconsumption of sugar. Remember that sugar is a leading cause of a ton of long-term health problems, including Type 2 Diabetes, heart disease, and certain types of cancer. Reducing your sugar intake will considerably lessen your risk of developing these diseases.
You will have increased energy. Cutting back on sugar in your diet will give you fewer blood sugar spikes, helping you feel more energized throughout the day.
You will sleep better. Reducing your sugar intake will decrease your cortisol levels (the stress hormone), helping you achieve a more restful night’s sleep. This connection between sugar and cortisol makes it especially important that you avoid eating sugary foods before bed.
You will have clearer skin. Although some think this is an old wives’ tale, reducing sugar consumption does lead to less acne and blemishes, and better complexion.
You will feel better. Not only will your overall health improve, but cutting back on sugar will help you to feel better, as well as less sluggish and lethargic.
There is no time like the present to commit to reducing your sugar intake. While the long-term benefits of cutting back on sugar, particularly added sugar, are critical to your health, the immediate upsides are important as well.
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