Okay, okay, maybe “fear” is a bit much. As our Campus Health Clinical Nutrition person always says, “There is no such thing as bad food.”
So, let’s start again. “Below are 3 reasons why you should be aware of how much sugar you eat and consider taking steps to reduce your sugar intake.” Wow, that’s way less catchy.
1) It might be addictive.
Here, there is some controversy. Remember back when people were saying that Oreos were as addictive as cocaine? It turns out, that’s a bit of an over-simplification. When you eat sugar, the brain activates its reward system, which releases dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical released in the brain that basically says “Hey that feels good! Let’s do it again!” so it can be powerful for shaping behavior. And while dopamine is released by healthy things, like hanging out with friends, it’s also the chemical in the brain responsible for drug addiction, because it is released in large amounts when doing drugs like cocaine and heroin, which is why they are so addictive. Sugar, some research suggests, is similarly addictive. If you have a few minutes, check out this awesome video about how sugar impacts the brain to understand more. So, is sugar addictive? Well, it can be, if you are eating sugar all the time. Which leads nicely into the next reason to be aware of how much sugar you eat…
2) You eat it all the time, even when you don’t know it.
If you are an average American, you eat 19 teaspoons or more of added sugar a day, which adds up to 285 extra calories in sugar. That’s way too much! There is a whole lot of research indicates that, across the board, we eat way too much sugar. Obviously, eating less dessert is a good way to start, but even this might not be enough. This is partly because sugars are added into lots of tasty things we love, that we don’t even consider to be bad for us, like fruit juices, bread, and cereals. And that sugar adds up quickly, and leads to all kinds of health complications. To counter this, check out how many grams of sugar are on the nutrition label of items you buy, and aim for lower numbers. The American Heart Association recommends limiting sugar intake to 6 teaspoons (30 g) for women and 9 teaspoons (45g) for men.
3) It’s pretty bad for you.
We’ve all known that you should eat sugar in moderation, that’s why it was at the top of the food pyramid! (What? There isn’t a food pyramid anymore?) However, new understandings of sugar’s effect on the body go beyond just the basic “It will make you gain weight.” We now understand that the type of weight you gain is important. And, that sugary foods increase heart risks. Check out this article for a primer on the different types of sugar, and the ways in which they impact you.
So, what do we do with all this information? Well, for starters, just check items for how much sugar they contain. If you are a sugar-addict, read about ways to wean yourself off so much sugar. And be mindful of when you have cravings for sugar. Reducing your sugar intake takes time, but it is a worthwhile endeavor for your overall wellness.
Take Care, Tar Heels, and BEAT DOOK!