Tame Your Sweet Tooth

Too much sugary food adds excess pounds and health risks. Learn how to reduce your consumption.



How much sugar did you have yesterday?

You might be surprised. The average American consumes more than 21 teaspoons of added sugar daily. It’s easy to do. Many of the foods that line our supermarket shelves—soft drinks, cereals, baked goods—are loaded with it.

Eating sugary foods doesn’t just cause you to pack on extra pounds. A recent analysis of 6,113 adults’ dietary records in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Study found that excessive sugar is also linked to risk factors for heart disease. As sugar intake went up, so did participants’ triglycerides, while HDL (ìgoodî cholesterol) levels went down. And for women, a high-sugar diet was linked to dangerous levels of LDL (ìbadî cholesterol). In fact, the American Heart Association recommends that women get no more than 100 calories (25 grams) per day from sugar and men no more than 150 calories (37.5 grams) per day. (FYI: Sugar is only one type of carbohydrate that affects blood-glucose levels, so if you have diabetes, choose foods that are low in total carbohydrates. For many people with diabetes, having 45 to 60 grams of carbs at each meal is about right.)

Here’s some advice for reducing your sugar load and maximizing your chances to stick with the plan.
•    Cut back slowly. Going cold turkey usually backfires. Instead, gradually reduce the amount of sugar you add to your food by half, then wean down from there. Over time, your taste buds can adjust and you’ll need less sugar.
•    Start the morning right. Instead of dousing your cereal with sugar, add fresh bananas or strawberries, or sprinkle some dried raisins or cranberries on top. Though these toppings are also sweet, their additional fiber slows the release of sugar into the bloodstream.
•    Avoid sugary drinks. Just one 12-ounce can of regular soda has eight teaspoons of sugar. Juice and flavored milk drinks can be just as bad. Instead, drink water, or blend your own smoothies using fresh or frozen fruit, nonfat yogurt, and ice.
•    Check food labels. Sugar has various identities on nutrition labels—corn sweetener, dextrose, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, malt syrup, maltose, sucrose. If these are the first, second or third ingredients listed, figure that plenty of sugar has been added.
•    Satisfy your cravings—gently. Instead of grabbing a chocolate bar, have some plain yogurt with fruit.

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