Life is sweet! However, for many of us, we take that too literally by overindulging in the sweet treats of life. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, the average American consumes 22 teaspoons of added sugars a day in the form of foods, drinks, and sweets. A 12oz can of soda alone can have 39 grams of sugar. That equates to 9.75 sugar packets!!!
Let’s do the simple math here…
22 teaspoons of sugar x 365 days a year = 8,030 teaspoons of sugar. If 1lb is equal to 96 teaspoons, that totals a shocking 84 POUNDS OF SUGAR a year!! For an average 10-year-old, that would be equivalent to their weight.
But We Need It! Right?
If you stated that our bodies need sugar to survive, you’d be absolutely correct. Our bodies and brains need sugar in the form of glucose. However, the American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 – 9 teaspoons a day. Unfortunately, as you can see from the math equation above, the quantities of sugar most Americans consume on a daily basis is more than DOUBLE what we need.
7 Ways to Reduce Sugar Intake and Your Cravings
Get Rid of It!
The first step is to eliminate all the junk in your house. If sugar is not present in your home, you can’t eat it. Donate it to a local church or food bank, or perhaps just throw it away. Either way, it is a good idea to remove sources of sugar from your house.
Deciding what to eat when you are already hungry is a recipe for poor choices. If you truly want to avoid eating those easy, grab-and-go, sugar-filled, processed foods, you need to properly plan ahead. Some good food choices can include simple things like:
- Baby Carrots
- Nuts & Seeds
- Beef Jerky Sticks
- Almond Butter & Apples
Drink More Water
If you're hungry between meals, it is a good idea to pour yourself a tall glass of fresh drinking water first to make sure you're not dehydrated. Sometimes people think they're hungry when they're actually just thirsty. Plus, drinking water before a snack or meal will help fill you up faster.
Get More Sleep
It is no secret that sleep is important. From a sugar perspective though, sleep is vital for balancing blood sugar and maintaining the correct levels of the hormones that manage insulin. In fact, just one night of impaired sleep can leave a person with the blood sugar levels of a pre-diabetic.* This lack of adequate sleep is certainly not the best idea for someone trying to master sugar cravings.
Exercise releases some of the same endorphins that sugary foods do. The best part is that you don’t need to become an avid runner or a workout fiend. Sometimes just a brisk walk will get those endorphins flowing and help you dodge those sugar cravings.
Planning exercise into your weekly routine is a great way to beat sugar consumption long term. Once you structure a good routine, you’ll body will probably start to crave the endorphins from exercise as much as it did from eating sugar.
Sugar with Fiber
When those sugar cravings do surface, you should opt for naturally sweet fruits and vegetables. Not only do these sweet food options satisfy our sugar cravings, but they are high in fiber, which allows the body to slowly absorb the natural sugars. It is a good idea to try apples, carrots, strawberries, blueberries, snap peas, or persimmons. You may want to visit your local farmer’s market to see what’s in season.
Don’t Eat Artificial Sweeteners…They Can Increase Your Sugar Cravings!
While it may be tempting to try and replace your sugary treats with a zero-calorie taste-a-like, many researchers believe artificial sweeteners actually increase your appetite and cravings for sugary food. That doesn’t make sense, right?! Well, let’s think about it. If you trick your brain into saying you have consumed “sugar”, and it looks for sugar molecules in order to break it down, what is going to happen when your body can’t locate it? Now your body is going to crave it.
While our bodies do need some sugar, I think most of us realize we need to limit our levels of sugar consumption. As we head into a new year, we encourage you to try some of these sugar craving reduction strategies. You will notice a significant improvement in not only your dental health but also your overall health.
If you are struggling with sugar consuming a large part of your diet or have questions about how to protect your teeth from sugary foods, contact our dental team. We look forward to helping you establish a new, healthier diet as we enter this new year!