Study after study recommends eating more organic whole foods and less processed foods. Consumers are responding by demanding better nutrition labeling and badgering food manufacturers to rid their products of genetically modified ingredients and harmful chemicals. However, even with consumers’ growing knowledge of healthful eating habits and the greater availability of nutritious food choices, we just can’t stop eating so much sugar.
How much is too much?
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that only 10% of total energy intake comes from sugars. However, they also suggest that 5%, or about 25 grams, would be an even better number to target. As a point of reference, just one can of regular soda can contain up to 40 grams.
Why is it bad?
Sugar consumption is a known contributing factor to growing levels of obesity and other chronic diseases, as well as dental decay. What’s worse is the fact that sugar is highly addictive. Studies have shown that sugar releases large levels of dopamine, which triggers the reward system. The addictive qualities are one of the biggest reasons we keep eating it even though we know it’s bad for us.
It’s big business
Unfortunately, all of the studies outlining the health hazards of sugar and the recommendations for reduced consumption aren’t having a big enough impact on consumers. This is mainly because large food manufacturers know what sells, and they know how to sell it. Holidays are a good example of this, as on just about any given holiday you’ll find that even the smallest grocery stores have some sort of holiday-themed candy or baked goods for sale, and people happily snap them up because they want to be part of the celebration.
It makes us nostalgic
Another reason many people find sugar so irresistible is the association with happy memories. This is especially true if you grew up in a household that only allowed sugary snacks on special occasion, as you’ll almost certainly associate anything sweet with being a treat or a reward. For example, at first mention of a birthday party, it’s almost impossible not to envision a beautifully frosted cake and maybe some ice cream.
Saying no to sugar
It sounds easy enough. Sugar is bad for your health, so just don’t eat it. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Not only is it hidden under various names in processed foods, but it also occurs naturally in foods such as fruit juices, fruit juice concentrates, honey and syrup. Avoiding most processed foods is a good place to start though, as they usually have high amounts of added sugar and often contain other chemical ingredients that could be questionable.
Curb the cravings
Working out on a regular basis can also play a large role in cutting back sugar consumption, as it seems to have a positive effect on eliminating cravings. It’s also a great way to burn some of the excess fuel generated by sugar consumption.