Some people who stay away from daily desserts think sugar isn’t a health concern. Think again. Thanks to the sugar added to most of our foods, Americans are consuming about three pounds of sugar a week.
How much should we be consuming? About six teaspoons or 25 grams of sugar a day. “But I only put one teaspoon in my coffee each morning, so I’m good!” you might think to yourself. Unfortunately, sugar is everywhere: salad dressings, yogurt, almost any drink that isn’t water and more. In fact, I just popped two breath mints in my mouth, and those alone exceeded 25 grams of sugar.
All of this sugar has a lasting negative impact on our bodies. Here are three examples:
Turns You into an Addict
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter in our brain that allows the cells to send signals to each other and is often associated with the reward system in our brains. Eat a bunch of sugar? Your body feels a surge of dopamine that some liken to doing drugs. Do it regularly and your body will begin to crave that rush of chemicals. Sound familiar? You may be addicted to sugar.
Adds Inches to Your Waist
If you aren’t ready to cut out sugar for yourself, do it for the kids in your life. Childhood obesity has more than doubled in the past 30 years, and many in the health care field link it to the increase in sugar. For example, a typical carton of chocolate milk contains about four teaspoons of added sugar. While some companies are working to reduce that to two teaspoons, it is still a lot. Stick to plain, unflavored milk.
Not a milk drinker? A can of coke has 39 grams of sugar – or over eight teaspoons. Remember, we’re only supposed to consume six teaspoons all day. Also, these drinks don’t satiate our appetite, so we are more likely to eat more to get that full feeling.
The added sugar in our foods can add over 500 calories every day to our diets, all of which are devoid of nutritional value. Eating or drinking this extra sugar means packing on weight. Carrying extra pounds not only makes it harder to fit into clothes, it also leads to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer. One recent study found, “Most US adults consume more added sugar than is recommended for a healthy diet. We observed a significant relationship between added sugar consumption and increased risk for [cardiovascular disease] CVD mortality.”
Rots Your Teeth
Your dentist probably drilled this information into you when you were little, but people aren’t getting the message. Over-consuming sugar leads to all kinds of nutrient deficiencies. Your teeth suffer from that as well as from the bad bacteria that will grow more quickly thanks to sugar.
Your smile is one of the first things people will notice when they meet you. Do you want to present a sickly looking first impression or a healthy smile of pearly whites?
Of course, some foods naturally contain sugars. Should we just stop eating fruit? No, and the U.S. Food and Drug Adminstration is going to help in this battle to fight sugar as an additive. They’ve proposed the use of new dietary labels that will differentiate between “sugars” and “added sugars” so that you can determine if you’re being duped into eating an unnaturally sweet food.
Image: Melissa Wiese