Pella Chronicle

July 26, 2013

How to cut back on the sugar in your diet


The Chronicle

Pella —

Many people have a love-hate relationship with sugar. They may love how it tastes, but they also may hate the effects sugar can have on their bodies. As a result, many men and women would love to reduce their sugar consumption.

The American Heart Association reports that the average adult in the United States consumes 22 teaspoons of added sugar every day, which equals 150 pounds per year. Teenagers consume even more, averaging 34 teaspoons every day. According to Statistics Canada, Canadians consume an average of 110 grams, or 26 teaspoons, of sugar daily. These numbers are more than twice the amount of sugar a person should be eating.

Healthy fruits, vegetables and some dairy products each contain sugar. But refined sugar is what can compromise a person's health. When more than 10 percent of a person's total calories come from added or refined sugar, this can prove harmful to both the mind and body.

University of California, San Francisco researchers estimate that the 130,000 new cases of diabetes documented between 1990 and 2000 could be attributed to the increase of sugar-sweetened drinks. Those who drink 1 to 2 servings of sweetened beverages are 26 percent more likely to develop type 2 diabetes in their lifetimes than those who avoid such drinks.

According to a 2008 study published in the journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, high-glycemic foods, or those that are quickly broken down into glucose by the body, can lead to elevated rates of breakouts and acne. That's because sugary foods and drinks may fuel inflammation and the production of excess sebum in the skin, resulting in pimples.

When a person consumes more sugar than he or she needs, the excess may be stored in the body as triglycerides, a type of blood fat. Both high triglycerides and low HDL levels contribute to the hardening of your arteries. This condition increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and heart attack.

Information published in the British Journal of Psychiatry indicates sugar may be responsible for mood swings and other mental disorders. Fluctuations in sugar levels can affect mood and metabolism.

Fortunately, men and women looking to curtail their sugar consumption can do so in a variety of ways.

* Enjoy a sugar-free or low-sugar breakfast. You may begin the day with a sugar rush if you consume too much sugar at the breakfast table. This will inevitably result in a sugar crash, after which you may overeat or gravitate toward more sugary products. Starting the day with whole grains and lean proteins is a healthier way to fuel the body at breakfast time.

* Stock up on fruits and vegetables. When you crave something sweet, grab a piece of fruit or a sweet vegetable, such as corn or beets. You will be consuming fewer calories and eating less processed sugar.

* Opt for whole grains. Whole grains have a lower glycemic index than refined grains, which means they won't turn into a sugary powder keg in your body. They also will help you to feel fuller longer, which reduces the temptation for overeating. Use whole grain pastas and breads when cooking, and opt for these foods when dining out.

* Research the amount of sugar in foods. Read labels and ingredients to determine if sugar is hiding in the foods and beverages you consume. Anything that ends with the suffix "ose" is a derivative of sugar. Some restaurants will even add sugar to foods that don't need them to make them irresistible and addicting, which is often the case with kids' meals.

*Cut sweetened drinks from your diet entirely. Many people consume a substantial amount of sugar in their beverages. To avoid over-consumption of sugar, opt for water, unsweetened teas or diluted 100 percent fruit juice if you need something sweet.

By cutting down on sugar, a person can gradually reduce his or her dependency on the sweet stuff and not even miss it. This may lead to improved dental health and a host of other medical benefits.