The truth about added sugar
Everyone loves candy and soda and it's fine as an occasional treat. But a diet high in the added sugar that is often included in these treats can lead to serious health problems. Sugar is also addictive and it can be a difficult habit to break. Making a few simple lifestyle changes can help reduce the sugar in your diet — without depriving you of sweet tastes.
One reason added sugar is a health risk is that while it provides calories it contains few essential nutrients and doesn't boost satiety as much as more nutrient-dense foods. This makes obesity a concern for people who ingest a lot of sugar. A review published in 2014 in Diabetes Care reports that added sugar also increases your risks of developing diabetes heart disease fatty liver and metabolic syndrome which the National Health Institute explains is when you have at least three chronic disease risk factors — such as a large waistline high triglyceride levels low HDL cholesterol high blood pressure or high fasting blood sugar.
Sugar is highly addictive which is why so many people have a difficult time controlling their intake. A review published in 2013 in Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care reports that sugar induces rewards and cravings similar to those from addictive drugs — and that sugar can even be more rewarding than drugs like cocaine. Nonetheless you can still overcome sugar cravings and break sugar addictions.
What about artificial sweeteners?
Artificial sweeteners — calorie-free sugar substitutes like sucralose aspartame saccharin and stevia — are found in many diet foods and beverages. While consuming artificial sweeteners in place of sugar reduces your caloric intake it doesn't necessarily lower chronic disease risks or lead to weight loss. A review published in 2013 in Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism reports that frequent artificial sweetener consumption may actually increase your risks for weight gain type 2 diabetes heart disease and metabolic syndrome. Therefore the naturally occurring sugars found in fruits vegetables and milk products are often better alternatives to added sugar and artificial sweeteners.
How much sugar is safe?
While it's difficult to avoid sugar entirely limiting your intake helps you maintain a healthy body weight and reduce chronic disease risks. The American Heart Association recommends most women eat no more than 100 calories daily from added sugar and men limit sugar intake to 150 calories per day. This equates to 25 grams of sugar for women and 38 grams daily for men (sugar provides 4 calories per gram).
Ways to reduce sugar
There are several ways to reduce added sugar in your diet. Eat natural sugar found in fruits vegetables and milk products in place of sugar from sweets. Replace table sugar with natural sweeteners or spices like honey and cinnamon. Christie Ferriell registered dietitian and diabetes educator at Reid Hospital suggests flavoring water with limes lemons cucumbers or mint leaves instead of drinking sugar-sweetened beverages. She also suggests setting realistic expectations for limiting sugar such as allowing yourself one dessert each week.
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