Aspoon full of sugar may make the medicine go down, but these days, most Americans aren’t just consuming the recommended limit of 6 teaspoons of sugar a day, we are ingesting more than 22 teaspoons daily according to the Mayo Clinic! That’s a big number to swallow – about 355 calories big. Tall lattes have become vente, one scoop of ice cream has become three… are we addicted, lazy, tricked or do we just have too much of a sweet tooth to care about the consequences?
Why does it matter?
With a continued obesity epidemic plaguing Americans, we can’t afford to let these little food addictions dictate our daily diet. Obesity is more than just extra pounds; it leads to a whole host of health problems including diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, heart disease (the number one killer of women in the US), and even some cancers according to the CDC. Even if we aren’t obese or overweight, consuming loads of simple carbs and sugars each day can still be sabotaging our health. A diet high in sugars is often low in the vitamins and minerals necessary for normal cell function. These micronutrient deficiencies can lead to anemia, thyroid disorders, poor growth and even blindness in severe cases.
In addition, according to Fishers dentist Dr. Diana Teverbaugh, a nutrient poor diet can lead to gum disease and subsequently more severe consequences like heart disease, pre-term delivery and even low birth-weight babies. Furthermore, as Fishers urologist Dr. David Hall says, by loading up on soda, tea and coffee, we are often forgetting our 6-8 glasses of daily water. This can lead to dehydration, setting some of us up for painful kidney stones and even poor kidney function.
Why the cravings?
I am the first to admit…I’m an addict. I NEED my daily latte, and saying “no” to bread feels like I’m cutting off my hand! Anytime that I have tried “sugar cleansing,” I transform into Mr. Hyde. How is it possible for food to have such a strong hold on my personality, perceived needs and longings? Simple carbs and sugars all have a profound effect on the brain. It isn’t just my lack of self-control that makes me want an extra cookie; studies show that sugar really does lead to the release of neurochemicals (dopamine and opioids) that make my brain happy and leave me wanting more.
So what can we do?
With the New Year, now is the perfect time to resolve our carb cravings and sugar “fixes.” Here are a few simple ways to start:
1) Limit liquid calories
2) Try one spoonful of sugar instead of three
3) Choose whole grains
4) Stick with these changes for at least 30 days
5) Set reasonable goals
How to keep the resolve
Each January, countless Americans start a healthier diet, hit the gym and lose the quick five pounds. The problem with New Year’s resolutions is that most of us won’t stick with them long enough to impact our health. The key to keeping a resolution is to practice it long enough for it to become a habit (about 30 days). Setting reasonable goals is another must! Cutting off your sugar supply completely may only lead to more cravings, fixations and even restrictive eating disorders. Limiting your carbs and sugars may be a better option. Don’t give up! If you “fall off the wagon” today, start again fresh tomorrow.
Here’s to a New Year filled with sweet resolve and healthy cheer!
Dr. Emma Hostetter is a Fishers family physician and public health specialist. Find her blog “The Mom in Me, MD” on the Hamilton County Family web site or visit her at www.themominmemd.com.
Dr. David Hall
Dr. Diana Teverbaugh