Fit tip: Limit Sugar
How was your weekend? I hope that you were able to get outside and enjoy the beautiful, warm weather! Here is my fitness tip of the week:
Limit your sugar intake for a longer, healthier life.
Do you have a sweet tooth? Are sugary sodas, candy, baked goods and dessert-like coffee drinks a regular part of your diet? If not, congratulations! You are avoiding one of the major causes of health problems in America. If so, you are putting yourself at risk for a wide variety of ailments, some of which are life threatening. Read on to find out why you should curb your sweet tooth now.
A couple of decades ago, the prevailing wisdom was that dietary fat was the biggest enemy of good health and weight control. This led to multiple “fat free” products, and a generally negative view of dietary fat. Interestingly, Americans have become heavier and less healthy since then, and there is a new understanding of why. Recently researchers have become aware that added sugar (not fat) is the single worst ingredient in the modern diet. Indeed, it appears to be the primary factor causing obesity and chronic, lethal disease. For the first time in history, preventable diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and some cancers are killing more people than communicable diseases. It is becoming increasingly apparent that these diseases can often be prevented by controlling sugar intake.
There are many reasons to avoid added sugar. It provides empty calories because it contains no essential nutrients (proteins, essential fats, vitamins or minerals). In fact, if a person’s diet is 10-20 percent sugar, he or she will have major nutrient deficiencies. Sugar also causes tooth decay because it feeds the harmful bacteria in the mouth. Furthermore, excess sugar consumption is associated with serious medical conditions, including diabetes and some cancers, due to physiological changes that cause the pancreas to create too much insulin. Sugar also affects the hormones and the brain in such a way that people lose control over their consumption and gain excess fat, leading to obesity in both adults and children. In fact, one study involving children found that each daily serving of sugar-sweetened drinks was associated with a 60 percent increased risk of obesity. Finally, research has shown that excess sugar can raise cholesterol levels, putting people at risk for heart disease.
Fortunately, there are a number of things we can do to cut our sugar consumption. Read food labels for sugar content – it is hidden in many foods we don’t necessarily consider sweet, including breads and condiments. Also, be aware of the various forms of sugar, including high fructose corn syrup (a particularly addictive sweetener), dried cane syrup or sucrose. Choose unsweetened products when possible (one example is almond milk) and drink unsweetened beverages. Finally, focus on getting plenty of protein and some healthy fats (for example, avocados and olive oil) in your diet rather than eating a lot of simple carbohydrates, which cause your blood sugar to fluctuate and trigger hunger. Most people can enjoy an occasional dessert if they eliminate sugar as a constant part of their diet. If you take these steps, you can improve the quality (and maybe increase the length) of your life.
Have a healthy, active and productive week!