It’s generally accepted that cutting back on refined and added sugars is a great way to boost weight loss. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that women consume no more than 100 calories per day from added sugar (about six teaspoons) and that men consume no more than 150 calories a day (about nine teaspoons). Americans, on average, consume as many as twenty or more teaspoons of sugar per day.
At about fifteen calories per teaspoon and four calories per gram, calories from added sugars can add up quickly, especially when consumed via processed and convenience foods, snacks and sweet drinks. Afterall, a twelve-ounce can of a carbonated soft drink can set you back anywhere from eight to thirteen teaspoons of sugar. While the common culprits, like soft drinks, candy and cookies, are pretty obvious, refined sweeteners in the form of sugar or corn syrup are also added to cereals, yogurts, dressings and condiments, and other foods to sweeten and change their tastes.
But it’s not just our waistlines that can benefit from cutting down on added sugars. Research has shown numerous benefits beyond weight loss for restricting our consumption of added sugars.
1. Cut back on sugar for a healthier heart.
Consuming quantities greater than recommended over a sustained period of time has been shown to increase blood pressure, lower your good (HDL) cholesterol which is essential to keeping bad (LDL) cholesterol levels in check, and even increase the risk of heart attacks.
In fact, studies have shown that subjects who consumed 10.0–24.9% of their calories from added sugars had a 30% increased risk of cardiovascular disease-related mortality, while those who consume more than 25% of their calories from added sugars faced an even greater rate.
2. Refined sugar may be bad for your brain.
Early research has shown that a diet high in fructose (a common added sugar) could actually slow brain function, hampering learning and memory. Diets high in added sugar can lead to a resistance to insulin which regulates brain cell function in addition to regulating blood sugar levels.
High glucose levels are also suspected to be a risk factor for dementia.
If nothing else, many people who have cut back on their intake of refined sugar have reported increased focus and mental clarity.
3. Diets high in added sugar may lead to decreased liver function.
High fructose consumption is suspected to be a potential factor for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Through a process called lipogenesis, fructose is converted to fat, which can cause the buildup of fat in the liver. Left untreated, this may cause the liver to become inflamed and can lead to the development of scar tissue on the liver, a condition called cirrhosis.
NAFLD is quickly becoming one of the most common liver diseases in Western countries, with an estimated 20-30% of Americans affected. The prevalence of the disease is believed to be rising rapidly in adults, but has also risen in children as well ( from 3% in 2000 to 5% in 2010).
The good news is that while dramatically reducing your sugar consumption isn’t easy, it also isn’t impossible.
Start with common sense cutbacks on sugary drinks (including fruit juices and fruit cocktails, as well as sports drinks and energy drinks), candy and desserts, then tackle the sugars hidden in many so-called healthy foods. Read nutrition labels carefully and be sure to look for these other names for sugar to find added sugar in foods you may enjoy.
Sara Vallejo is a self-confessed happiness, health and self-development junkie from Chicago. She writes professionally in a business development and marketing capacity, and as a volunteer for a digital nonprofit. Miss Vallejo is a passionate mental and holistic health advocate who believes that good health is an ongoing journey best undertaken with supportive peers. Sara’s areas of expertise include nutrition, weight loss, women’s health, mental health and disability issues. She is returning to weight loss and fitness following orthopedic surgery and is excited to encourage and inspire fellow Azumio community members and readers to achieve the best health they can.
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