From the candies in every supermarket checkout line, to the added sugar hidden in sauces and breads, it's challenging to get through a day without eating too much sugar. In fact, Americans consume more than 152 pounds of added sugar each year. Though you may not be able to remove all refined sugar from your diet, cutting down is worth the effort. Read labels to avoid excess sugar in processed foods. Eating too much sugar harms your teeth, packs on the pounds, and may even increase your risk of serious health problems.
Dental problems are one of the most well-known results of excess sugar consumption, though you may not know exactly why sugar is bad for your teeth. According to Kids Health, sugary foods contain acids that wear down the protective enamel on the surface of your teeth. To reduce this effect, eat sweet foods with meals rather than on their own, rinsing your mouth if you can't brush after eating, and avoid going to sleep with sugary residue on your teeth.
Possible Weight Gain
Refined sugar, whether eaten alone or in sugar-sweetened beverages or as an ingredient in treats like candies or cakes, is high in calories. If you don't burn off those calories through activity, your body will store them as body fat, causing you to gain weight. Refined sugars are also bad for your waistline because your body burns them quickly, causing your blood sugar levels to first spike and then crash. This can cause increased feelings of hunger, according to David Kessler, a medical doctor and former commissioner of the Federal Drug Administration.
Potential Heart Problems
Too much sugar can hurt your heart just as it can your teeth. The most obvious connection is between excessive weight and heart problems. If you gain weight by eating too much sugar, the extra tissue puts additional strain on your heart muscle. However, sugar does more than put on pounds. Excess sugar consumption raises your triglyceride levels, which is a problem because high triglycerides increase your risk of heart attack and stroke, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Healthy Sources of Sweetness
You don't have to resign yourself to a life without sweets in order to protect your health. Many healthy foods, such as fresh, in-season fruits, offer natural sweetness as well as vitamins, minerals and fiber. You can add small amounts of sugar to these to create delicious snacks that also provide nutrients your body needs. For example, nutritionist and author Ellie Krieger recommends dipping bananas in melted high-quality chocolate and freezing them. This, reports Krieger, gives you antioxidants from the chocolate as well as fiber, vitamins, and potassium from the banana.
- The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite; David A Kessler, MD
- Kids Health: Taking Care of Your Teeth
- National Institutes of Health: MedlinePlus: Triglyceride Levels
- The Food You Crave; Ellie Krieger
- Internal Medicine Journal: Sugar Restriction: The Evidence For a Drug-Free Intervention to Reduce Cardiovascular Disease Risk