If you, like many people, have found yourself eating a bit more sugar while you’re staying home right now, it might be time to cut back. Our friends at Florida Blue Medicare have put together these five important reasons to limit the amount of sugar you’re eating each day.
Are you eating too much sugar? Even if you skip the cookie aisle at the store and say no to sugary drinks, chances are, your diet probably includes more sugar thank you think.
At most, adults should only get about 10 percent of their calories from added sugar, according to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans. This equals about 12 teaspoons a day for typical adults. However, most Americans are consuming about 17 teaspoons of added sugar every day. Why are added sugars a problem? Unlike foods that contain natural sugars, such as fruit and milk, added sugars are high in calories and low on nutrients.
Eating too much sugar puts you at a greater risk for obesity and developing Type 2 diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association, half of adults over 65 have prediabetes, while one-quarter of older adults have already been diagnosed with the condition. But that isn’t the only way sugar can affect your body and your health. Below are five more good reasons why it may be time for you to cut back on the sweet stuff.
1. A healthy heart
Research has shown that eating too much sugar puts you at a greater risk for dying from heart disease. Experts are finding that high blood sugar levels can clog your arteries and may even be more damaging than high cholesterol.
Several recent studies have shown a link between high blood sugar and cognitive decline. A study published in 2018 in the journal Diabetologia found a connection between higher blood sugar and faster rates of brain decline in adults over 50. They noticed this link even in people who had not been diagnosed with diabetes.
3. Joints and mobility
If your blood sugar is frequently too high, it can lead to nerve damage that can affect your joints and mobility. High blood sugar can also contribute to damaging inflammation around your joints.
4. A good mood
Sugar also affects our brain chemistry, putting us more at risk for depression and anxiety. A study looking at 8,000 men over 22 years found that those who consumed high levels of sugar were 23 percent more likely to develop depression than men who ate less sugar. Scientists have found that sugar affects our brain’s chemical reward system in a similar way as some illicit drugs.
5. Your sex life
In men, high blood sugar can increase your chance of developing erectile dysfunction. Studies have shown you are more likely to experience this if your blood sugar is not within normal levels. Women can experience some sexual problems, too, such as loss of interest and vaginal dryness.
Tips to Cut Back on Sugar
So now that you want to cut back, here are some tips that can help.
Become a hidden sugar detective
Even if you read food labels closely, you may miss added sugars in the ingredients list. They are often hiding in plain sight, with names like “agave syrup,” “beet sugar” and “turbinado.” In fact, there are 61 alternate names for sugar. The more you know about these hidden sugars, the easier time you will have avoiding them.
Wean yourself from adding sugar to foods
You don’t have to go cold turkey on sugar. It’s better to slowly reduce the amount you are eating. If you add sugar to your coffee, tea, cereal or other foods, slowly cut back on how much you use. You can also slowly cut back on how many foods you eat with added sugars, like cereals, granola bars and other processed foods.
Find a replacement
Just because you are skipping some of the sweet, doesn’t mean you need to cut out flavor. Try using some of these spices and flavorings in place of sugar. Sprinkle cinnamon in your tea. Use unsweetened applesauce in baked goods. You can also add cardamom or vanilla to your foods.
Banana Ice Cream
Don’t throw out those bananas when they start getting brown! Instead, use them to make this super easy dessert that contains no added sugar.
Other fruits (your choice)
Chop up ripe bananas and put them in a freezer-safe container. You can also chop up any other fruits you want to add in and put them in the freezer too. When your bananas (and other fruits) are frozen, place them in a food processor. You can also use a blender if you don’t have a food processor. Chop up the mixture until you can stir it with a spoon. And voila, you have soft-serve banana “ice cream.”
Johnson, K. Aleisha Fetters. “6 Surprising Effects of High Blood Sugar.” Health.usnews.com, American Heart Association, 30 Nov. 2018, health.usnews.com/health-care/patient-advice/articles/2018-11-30/6-surprising-effects-of-high-blood-sugar.