If you have a sweet tooth, it’s time to get real about reducing your sugar intake but it’s so much easier said than done.
Recent research released by Duke University supports the idea that sugar is just as addictive as some illegal drugs and the average American eats and/or drinks the equivalent of about 52 teaspoons of various sweeteners daily, according to the USDA, who also recommends limiting consumption to only 10 teaspoons per day. According to the researchers at Duke, the science behind why it’s so hard to say no to that cookie is because both sugar and drugs affect the part of the brain that controls addiction and compulsive behavior.
One practical way to incorporate these findings is in a rehabilitation-related approach to sugar addiction and in the case of many drugs, healthcare providers gradually wean patients off rather than going cold turkey. But if it’s not a drug, what’s the big deal?
Excess sugar consumption can lead to weight gain, obesity, an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure and even leads to higher rates of depression and speeds up the aging process so here are a few specific ways to realistically reduce your sugar intake without missing out on taste and flavor:
Soda: The good news is that a recent Gallup Poll found that 60% of those polled are trying to avoid soda and diet soda in their diets but if you’re one of the millions of Americans who still indulge in a daily one-or-more soda habit, gradually reduce your intake and replace it with fruit-flavored soda water or club soda with fresh lemon or lime. The fruit will give a subtle sweetness with negligible if any, added sugar and the bubbles will still give the fizz you crave.
Salads: You probably have the best intentions when you order a salad out at a restaurant or prepare one at home but most restaurant-made or store-bought dressings are loaded with fat and, you guessed it, sugar. To cut the excess sweetness and calories, order dressing on the side or opt for olive oil and vinegar or lemon juice. Often, the waitstaff will bring it out separately so you have the opportunity to control the portion. If you’re at home, make your own vinaigrette in minutes with olive oil, vinegar, a few drops of mustard and add dried herbs for flavor.
Baked Goods: Again, in your own kitchen, you have the most control over what you eat. If you’re into baking, cut down the sugar in your favorite recipes. Baking requires a chemical balance of ingredients but, for most recipes, there isn’t a noticeable texture or taste change when you only use 3/4 of the recommended sugar. Double the vanilla extract, which adds a rich sweetness without any added sugars, and you won’t even notice.
Coffee: Even the healthiest diets can go off the rails with this daily habit, depending on your coffee order, and, while your morning joe has a long list of benefits, combine the addictive nature of coffee with sugar and it seems almost impossible to resist. Since giving up your latte or mocha could ruin your morning, take baby steps. Each week, order your latte or mocha with one less pump of syrup or sauce until you get down to one pump or less. Save the dessert-resembling beverages for Fridays or special occasions.