As we make our way through the holiday season, the sugar assault is in full advance. Caramels, cookies, fruitcake, and candy canes; eggnog, pie, and lattes. Sugar has gotten a bad rap as of late, and for good reason. While the American Heart Association recommends only 25 g (6 ¼ teaspoons) of sugar daily for women, and 38 g (9 ½ tsp) for men, the average American consumes around 82 g (20 ½ tsp) per day, which averages to about 66 pounds per year.
This overconsumption is leading to serious complications, such as type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, and, of course, cavities and gum disease. Simple carbohydrates like rolls, cookies, and muffins are especially dangerous for you mouth. That’s because certain mouth bacteria use fuel found in carbs such as sugar to grow and reproduce, creating acid as a by-product, which eats away at enamel.
That’s why this holiday season we’re recommending you take it easy on the sugar, and for those who don’t know where to start, we have three easy steps.
Check Your Labels
Most doctors agree that naturally occurring sugars in fruits and vegetables are fairly neutral. It’s the sugar additives that are not, and they’re packed into many of your favorite products, probably without you realizing. That’s because often they’re snuck in under misleading names that can be hard to recognize.
The next time you’re at the grocery, check your labels for these common additives:
- Corn syrup
- High-fructose corn syrup
When you make a habit of looking for these ingredients, it may surprise you how often you’ll find them. Salad dressings, yogurts, granola bars, and white bread are some of the biggest culprits. Our suggestion would be to cut back as much as possible on products with added sugars.
Use a Food Journal
Limiting sweets can be incredibly difficult, especially during the holidays. Another place to start is establishing a baseline calculation of how much sugar there is in your diet, and cutting from there. Food journal applications are bountiful on smartphones, and if that option isn’t available, good ol’ fashion pad and pen will do. Try using your baseline to set daily and weekly goals.
Don’t Go Cold Turkey
Sugar is highly addictive and, just like smoking, is difficult to cut out immediately. If you’ve already been tracking how often you add sugar into your coffee or how many times you’ve reached for a cookie or candy cane while at home, then try cutting back slowly by measurable increments. Keep that second sugar packet out of your coffee, and leave that second candy cane for your kids or significant other.
While you’re trying to kick that sugar habit, it may be a good time to schedule an appointment for a cleaning. Regular checkups help you to prevent small problems from progressing into bigger, more costly ones.