“Sugar and spice and things nice” really aren’t doing your body any favors. Health experts recommend we limit sugar intake to 10 percent of our daily calories, but Americans consume about 14 percent of their daily calories from sugar.
“Added sugar in your diet adds unnecessary calories and can lead to weight gain, but it can also contribute to serious health problems like heart disease and diabetes,” says Long Pham, a dietitian at St. Francis Pavilion Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation. “Keep an eye on nutrition labels and try to stick to natural sugars in your foods, such as those in fruits and vegetables.”
From a bigger waistline to heart problems, those added sugars can do a number on your body. Here are a few things you should know about added sugars and how to cut them from your diet:
Sugar can contribute to high blood pressure
It may surprise people to learn that too much sugar can lead to high blood pressure. Added sugar can cause your body to develop insulin resistance, which puts a strain on your blood vessels. This can lead to hypertension, which is a major risk factor for heart disease.
More sugar in your diet means more fat
Your body uses some of the sugar you consume for energy, but once it is done using the sugar, it stores the rest. The sugar that is stored in your body is usually stored in fat cells, which are deposited in different areas of the body. This extra fat contributes to weight gain and can also lead to fatty liver disease when fat cells accumulate in the liver.
Increased risk of heart disease and diabetes
Excess sugar doesn’t benefit your body, but it does create all sorts of problems for your heart and other systems. The insulin resistance that extra sugar can cause may lead to heart disease and diabetes over time.
Sugar can raise your cholesterol
If you’ve read this far, you know that excess sugar can damage your heart through hypertension and insulin resistance. Yet another way sugar puts your heart through the wringer is by raising your cholesterol. Too much sugar in the diet has been linked to high triglycerides, high LDL cholesterol, and low HDL cholesterol. This unhealthy combination can cause a buildup of plaque on the artery walls and lead to heart disease.
How can you cut back?
Women should stick to less than 6 teaspoons of added sugar a day, and men should have no more than 9 teaspoons of added sugar. For comparison, a normal 12-ounce soda could easily top those thresholds. A great way to cut back on added sugar is to reduce the amount of processed food you eat. Stay away from sugary drinks like soda and use less sugar when you bake. Fill your pantry and fridge with healthy foods so you can grab something quickly while sticking to your goal.
Sugar can certainly make things delicious, but the tradeoff for your health isn’t worth a few extra treats. Satisfy your sweet tooth with natural sugar and keep the added sugar to a minimum in your diet.
This article was originally published by the Daily Herald.