We get it. Sugar tastes good. But the more we learn, the more we understand that the effect sugar has on our bodies isn't worth its delectable deliciousness. This taste bud favorite now tops our list of foods to avoid for overall health and wellness. And it's not just about your waistline. Intrigued? You should be.
In 1820, the average American consumed 6.3 pounds of sugar per year according to a study by Whole Health Source. Today studies say we consumer almost 130 pounds per year, making our growing addiction painfully obvious. With sugar's link to everything from hypertension to diabetes to depression and stiffened arteries, it's time to take our sweets more seriously.
Why to reduce it
Most folks assume all the sugar talk these days is rooted in weight loss goals, but it's not. Sugar can do potential damage to many systems in the body, most notably our hearts. "Consuming increased levels of sugar promote an insulin response inside our bodies that taxes the pancreas," says Chirag Shah, D.C., chiropractic director of Chiro One Wellness Centers of Burr Ridge. "Sugar eventually gets stored as fat, which makes the heart work harder and promotes inflammation in the lining of the circulatory system."
Another common misconception is that only diabetics need to be concerned with their sugar intake, but that's not true at all. "Everyone needs to be concerned with sugar because, as a population, we are consuming so much more sugar than in the past," Dr. Chirag says. "And sugar may actually be a toxin to the body – you really don't even need it." A recent CBS Morning News segment discusses this in detail, saying that sugar is much more than the empty calories we know it to be. Its associated dangers may be causing an American health crisis.
How to reduce it
Reducing your sugar intake is important, but Dr. Chirag recommends doing it right. "Like any change, you want to reduce it gradually to avoid a withdrawal response," he says. "In the initial stages of cutting down, you'll feel cravings, but the less you consume and the longer you go, the less you'll crave it." Replace sugary treats with naturally sweet fruit, the fiber will help your body digest the natural sugars. And remember, sugar is hiding in unexpected places. Avoid processed and packaged foods to control your ingredients and know just how much sugar you're eating. Finally, if you drink sugar-laden soft drinks or energy drinks, don't. These beverages are just sugar under another name.
Get started today by making just one sugar-related change: choose water.