There is so much research coming out regularly about the concerns of the amount of sugar consumed by most Americans. The number most often seem right now is 152. That is the number of pounds of sugar consumed in one year by the average person.
Some argue that the “low-fat” and “fat-free” trends of previous decades led to the increase in sugar consumption. Removing fat often removes flavor, so to offset the bland tastes of low-fat items, more sugar was added. Pretty soon people were overindulging even more because they were not being satisfied. Waistlines have been expanding (as well as dental problems resulting from tooth decay!) and so has the total amount of sugar consumed on a daily basis.
Understanding the situation is a beginning but now what do you do about it.
It’s important to commit to minimizing the amount of sugar you consume. Due to its addictive nature, for many people this means limiting overall exposure while others can enjoy sweets in moderation. Knowing your own needs are the first big step in deciding how to approach your sugar consumption.
A major source of sugar is processed foods. Even items you don’t think of as “sweet treats” contain large amounts of added sugar. Things such as cereal bars or granola bars may be something you reach for as an afternoon snack to provide sustained energy. However upon closer inspection you will find that many popular brands of these bars contain the same amount of sugar of a standard candy bar. So the key is knowing what you are eating not just assuming the category based on the type of food.
A quick way to avoid the added sugars is to stick with mostly whole foods. A common approach for kicking sugar addiction is to eat only whole foods for 10 days. This means not eating anything that comes in a box or a can or has label on the packaging. When those items are eliminated, what’s left is fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and meats.
Additionally, adding in whole foods that have healthy fats (avocados, nuts, seeds, and coconut oil) can help make you full and stabilize your blood sugar. This will give you lasting fuel and minimize the chance for an emergency need for energy which is when we are most likely to reach for a sugary treat.
This leads right into a final key point having to do with preparation. Staying on top of your body’s fuel allows you to control your sources and keep a consistent energy level. Of course we are all busy so it is understandable that this sounds easier to say than to do but the truth is that carrying extra weight or hitting major energy lows as a result of a high sugar lifestyle can take away significantly more time than planning a menu for the day or the week.
It’s important to note we have not focused at all on the effect sugar has on your oral health. We’ll save those details for another day because we first wanted to step back and look at the overall situation of sugar in our daily life. The fact that sugar leads to tooth decay which leads to lots of dental problems is something we all hopefully already know. We realize that the situation isn’t as easy as simply deciding to stop for the sake of less cavities, so taking a look at the bigger picture will ultimately lead to healthier teeth as well.
We can all do this if we take it day by day, focus on whole foods, plan ahead, and enjoy the healthy fats when we can.