For a long time, fat was the villain in our diets. “Fat free” and “low-fat” versions of our favorite foods emerged on the market, giving us an option to cut out the fat and, presumably, lose weight and live a healthier life. We’re older and wiser now and science has proven that fat isn’t the bad guy it was made out to be. Instead, sweet, ubiquitous sugar is the nefarious ingredient plaguing our grocery store shelves, our kitchens and our diets.
Sugar is natural, right? Sure it is, but just because it comes from the earth doesn’t mean it belongs in our diets. It’s time to give sugar the axe and cut added sugars completely from your diet. It sounds like a daunting task, to avoid added sugars, and that’s because it is. The average American takes in anywhere from a quarter of a pound to half a pound of the sweet stuff every day. But it’s time to bite the bullet and leave your sugar-addled days behind you. Here’s why and how to ditch added sugars.
Why Is Sugar So Bad?
If sugar is in just about everything, it can’t be that bad, right? Wrong. That sweetness could be taking a bitter toll on your health and longevity. Taking in too much sugar has been linked to a variety of diseases and conditions that can impact the way you age. High blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, kidney disease and fatty liver disease have all been linked to consuming too much sugar. Your liver can also suffer, since excess sugar can lead to higher levels of cholesterol and other blood contaminants.
Sugary drinks have been directly linked to cellular aging, too. In a University of California study, it was discovered that habitual soda drinkers had shorter telomeres in their white blood cells than those who reported drinking less soda. Drinking one 20-ounce soda per day equated to roughly 4.6 years of telomere shortening.
How Much Sugar Should You Have?
The American Heart Association advises that women should consume no more than six teaspoons (24 grams) of added sugar each day. This makes up about 100 calories of your daily caloric allowance. That’s the equivalent of about 1.3 Snickers bars or a little more than 7 ounces of Coca Cola. It’s not much when you think about it. The average American consumes nearly five times that.
Men can get away with consuming a little bit more, about 9 teaspoons (36 grams), but compared to what many of us are taking in, that’s still a miniscule amount. Sugar has become so pervasive in our diets that our perception of an acceptable amount has been skewed.
How Can You Cut Out The Sugar?
It might seem impossible to reduce the amount of sugar you’re taking in to meet the daily recommendations, but with a few simple tweaks, a bit of willpower and some planning, it’s not difficult to limit your sugar intake to a healthy amount. Start by swapping out your soda. If you’re a soda drinker or sweet tea devotee, this is the most impactful change you can make. Stick to water, club soda or tea, black or green, without any sugar. Try flavoring your water or club soda with fruit, like lemon or lime, cucumber slices or even a sprig of fresh basil. The Younger In 8 Weeks book has more great ideas on how to spice up your water. Be wary of sports drinks or flavored nutrition waters, though, since they can hide a significant amount of sugar.
Try to flavor your foods with something other than sugar. Try spices that are naturally sweet, like cinnamon, vanilla extract and ginger. This will serve you better than sugar or sugar substitutes. Your dessert doesn’t need to be full of added sugar. Try some beautiful berries dipped in antioxidant-rich dark chocolate, or a serving of your favorite fruit warmed with some vanilla, cinnamon and a dollop of plain Greek yogurt sprinkled with nuts. That sounds far and away better than any candy bar.
Finally, if you really can’t stay away from the sugar bowl, fill it with something else entirely. Really! Stash your keys in it, use it as a place to keep your favorite tea or fill it with treats for your dog. Anything! Just don’t fill it with sugar and you won’t have to worry about it being so easily accessible when you’re itching to add it to your cereal, coffee or tea.