4 Steps to Reduce Sugar in Your Diet
If you are like many Americans, sugar constitutes a big part of your diet. It’s no secret that people in this country consume far too much of it. In fact, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says that Americans gobble up 77 grams of sugar every day. That is three times the recommended limit of 60 pounds of sugar each year!
For many, however, it is the hidden sources of sugar that are the culprit. People are often surprised to discover added sugar in ketchup and other popular condiments, coleslaw, pasta sauce, instant oatmeal, and more.
Why is that so bad for your health? Experts say added sugar is harmful for the body in a variety of ways.
The Dangers of Consuming Too Much Sugar
While the body requires sugar, it should come from natural sources, such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Natural sugar is essential for giving us energy and powering the brain. Unfortunately, the Western diet is loaded with added sugar. When our diet includes too much added sugar, it can wreak havoc on the body. It’s tied to a variety of health problems, including:
- Increased risk for heart disease and stroke
- Greater likelihood of tooth decay and dental problems
- Higher odds of developing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
- Greater incidences of type 2 diabetes
- Higher likelihood of experiencing issues related to the kidneys and pancreas
What can you do to break your added sugar addiction and decrease how much you consume? Here are some ideas you can explore.
Ways to Decrease Added Sugar in Your Diet
While there is some disagreement among experts about the daily sugar guidelines, the differences aren’t all that great. The majority of nutrition experts say the daily limit of added sugar should be 25 grams per day for women and 36 grams per day for men. That may seem like a lot until you begin to track how much sugar you consume on an average day.
Kicking the sugar habit can be tough. There are structured programs, like The New Sugar Busters and The 21 Day Sugar Detox, that are boot-camp-style options for quickly eliminating added sugar from your diet. But they can be tough to follow and even more difficult to stick to in the long run.
Much like with other vices, you might be better off starting slowly and cutting back gradually until you are better managing your sugar habit. Here are a few ways you can reduce the amount of added sugar you consume:
- Read the labels: Learn how to read labels and look for how much total and added sugar is in every food item you eat. Once that becomes a habit, you’ll no longer be surprised by all the hidden sources of sugar found in popular foods. This information from the Food and Drug Administration will help you identify total sugars and added sugars by reading the label.
- Test different spices: Condiments, sauces, and dips often contain added sugar. You can skip the extra grams of added sugar (and often added calories!) by experimenting with different spices and herbs. Both are great ways to punch up flavor without adding more sugar to your diet.
- Ditch the soda: Without a doubt, Americans’ addiction to soda is a major contributor to the added sugar epidemic. It’s also linked to obesity and greater incidences of type 2 diabetes. A single can of Pepsi, for example, has 66 grams of sugar. Mountain Dew has 46 grams in one can. That’s double or more the amount of sugar you should be consuming in a day—in a single can of soda! Try to switch to water instead. Add lemon, lime, berries, or cucumber slices for a little extra flavor.
- Focus on whole foods: Another tip to decrease added sugar in your diet is to eat fewer processed foods. Opt for whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, and beans, instead. You’ll feel full longer and be less likely to reach for sugary treats and snacks.
If you are an older adult, you might be wondering how safe it is for you to shift to a diet that is primarily composed of fruits, vegetables, and lean sources of protein. Are Vegan Diets Safe for Older Adults? is a good resource to review to find answers!
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