It’s no secret we are biologically built to enjoy sugar. Articles and books abound on sugar’s effect on the body and its role in weight loss and other issues such as insulin resistance.
Sugar is lurking in so many foods nowadays—from drinks to additives in cereals and other processed foods to salad dressing.
On average Americans consume about 57 pounds of sugar in a year, according to numbers from the American Heart Association. If you’re looking to quit sugar, you’re not alone. Too much sugar is linked to several diseases so many are looking to quit or curb their intake. We talked to Katherine Carithers MHA, RD, LDN, the clinical nutrition manager at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center, about sugar and how one might quit.
Why do we have such a problem quitting sugary foods?
Katherine Carithers (KC): Sugary foods are very palatable. People like to eat them because they taste good, they get a little energy boost, and many sugary foods are associated with happy and celebratory times. Humans were not made to consume the abundance of sugar that is easily available in our processed foods; however, many people have a challenging time turning down sugary foods when they are available to them.
What are some of the negative things sugar does to your health?
KC: Too much sugar in your diet can lead to weight gain and obesity. Sugar is pro-inflammatory and can lead to serious disease states like diabetes and heart disease.
If someone is trying to curb or quit sugar, what are some ways that aid in success?
KC: It is best for people to analyze their diets and see where they can make the biggest impact on reducing sugar intake. One common recommendation is to avoid sugar-sweetened beverages. This can be a useful strategy, but may not be enough for people who eat a lot of sugar versus drink their calories. Some people find that they crave sweets in the afternoon, or when they come home from work, or when relaxing in the evening. Others may find that their breakfast choices are laden with sugar. It can be helpful to seek the advice of a Registered Dietitian who can perform a nutrition assessment and help you determine where sugar may be hiding in your diet.
Is eating a product with table sugar the same thing as eating a piece of fruit with natural sugars, say an apple or banana?
KC: While processed food with sugar and fruit both contain sugar, people should not fear natural sources of sugar within whole foods. Fruit contains other beneficial antioxidants, vitamins, phytonutrients, and fibers. People are also less likely to binge on fruit compared to candy or other snacks. Keeping fruit intake to about two cups per day is consistent with a healthful diet pattern.
For more information on how to curb sugar in your diet, speak with your health care provider.