Excess sugar in our diet has been linked to many chronic diseases like obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer. That said, cutting back is one of the best things you can do for your health.
Daily recommendations of added sugar range from 25 to 45 grams for women and 36 to 50 grams for men. Yet, the average American consumes 82 grams (about 20 teaspoons) of added sugar per day.
Not all sugar is equal. Sugar occurs naturally in foods like fruits, vegetables, dairy and even whole grains. This type of sugar has little effect on your body’s blood sugar and is considered healthy. Fruits and vegetables have other components like fiber that allow our bodies to process that sugar differently. It is the added sugars that are harmful.
If you are ready to reduce your intake, here’s some strategies to follow:
1. Cut back on sugary drinks (soda, sweetened tea) and sweets. A can of soda, for instance, has about 29 grams of sugar.
2. Eating whole foods is one of the best ways to cut back, but if you eat processed foods, read the labels. You will find added sugar in surprising places, such as whole grain bread, ketchup and pasta sauce. It can be confusing because “sugar” may be listed as other things like fructose. The good news is in 2020, the FDA will require food nutrition labels have a separate line to tell consumers how much sugar is added sugar.
3. Gradually decrease the amount of sugar you add to your coffee, tea or food, eventually omitting it completely. It will take time to retrain your palate.
4. Avoid low and nonfat foods, as they usually contain more sugar and sometimes even more calories than their full-fat counterpart.
5. Get more sleep. Research has shown that sleep deprivation increases our craving for high-calorie, sweet and salty food.
6. Try replacing sugar with spice. The palate often misses sugar because it has no other flavors to replace it. For instance, try adding sweet-tasting herbs and spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla to coffee, yogurt or oatmeal.
3 TAKEAWAY TIPs
Cut back or eliminate sugary drinks completely. They account for nearly 50 percent of the added sugars in the American diet.
Eat more whole, unprocessed foods to be fully in control of your sugar intake.
Cut back gradually to retrain your palate.
Dr. Pamela Tuli is a hematologist-oncologist practicing on the Mississippi Gulf Coast since 2007 and is currently with Memorial Hospital at Gulfport. Her medical school and residency training was at Temple University in Philadelphia, and she completed her hematology and oncology fellowship while serving in the U.S. Air Force. She can be contacted at (228)-575-1234.