candy brainHealthy Eats: April 2017

How to crack your sugar addiction:

The average American consumes an average of 128 pounds of added sugars each year and it affects our bodies on every level. Research has found that people who got between 10 and 25 percent of their calories from added sugar were almost three times more likely to die of heart problems than those who consumed less than 10 percent of their calories from sugar. Previous studies have found links between sugar intake and higher levels of triglycerides and LDL cholesterol and lowered levels of HDL cholesterol. Excess sugar is also associated with inflammatory chemicals that can raise heart disease risk, and linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes and even certain cancers.

Sugar interferes with your body’s ability to tell you when you are full and excess sugar hinders fat burning enzymes, encouraging fat storage. Even if you know the health consequences of sugar, it can be very difficult to stop eating because sugar is so highly addictive. Research has shown that when rats eat sugar, their brains flood with dopamine, the same chemical released during gambling and cocaine use. As the rats eat more sugar, their brains reward systems adjust, so the animals need more food to get the same effects. Human brains appear similarly vulnerable and addictive.

World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines propose that people consume less than 5 percent of their daily calories from added sugar. That’s about six teaspoons a day, or about the amount in one 8-ounce bottle of sweetened iced tea. The average American consumes almost quadruple the WHO recommendation – 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day. Sugar has infiltrated so much of our modern food supply that its commonly found where you might never think to look, including healthy cereals, salad dressings and yogurt. So, now that you know the dangers of excess sugar, what are some steps you can take to begin cutting back on your daily consumption of sugar?

Eat no more than 24 grams (or 6 teaspoons) of added sugar in a 24- hour period

Pay attention to labels and try to track your sugar intake for a week. When you see sugar grams on a label, divide by 4 to get the total number of teaspoons. Once you learn how much added sugar is in the foods you consume, you may find those foods just don’t seem quite as appealing.

Cut out trigger foods

It’s often said that sugar begets sugar. If you know that certain foods are your trigger foods – for example, taking one bite of ice cream leaves you scraping the bottom of the carton, try to eliminate those foods from your house. Instead replace sugary treats with fresh fruit, which is naturally sweetened and a much healthier option.

Hydrate correctly

Proper hydration gives you energy, but not if your drinks are loaded with sugar and chemicals. Beverages can be a sneaky source of hidden sugars. Eliminate soft drinks and sugary juices, as well as coffee drinks loaded with sugary syrups and creamers and strive to replace those with water. Adequate water intake can suppress your appetite, boost your metabolism and combat bloating.