According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average American consumes about 156 pounds of sugar each year. That’s six cups of sugar per week. Most of that isn’t spooned into your morning coffee or even in your evening dessert but in soft drinks, salad dressings, and other processed foods.
The American Heart Association recommends limiting sugar to 100 calories a day (or 25 grams) for women and 150 calories (or 36 grams) for men. One can of soda contains 39 grams, to put things in perspective.
Excess sugar contributes to risk factors for numerous health conditions, including metabolic syndrome, Type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Did you know that sugar can also damage the skin?
As our largest organ, the skin is impacted by numerous factors, including a process called glycation. The body operates like a machine. When we consume too much sugar (including agave, high-fructose corn syrup, honey), the excess sugar forms a chemical reaction with proteins and fats. The byproduct of that metabolic reaction is something called advanced glycation end products or AGEs.
AGEs, ironically, are a factor in numerous conditions we associating with aging, like age spots, wrinkles, loss of elasticity, as well as changes in protein structure behind health issues like heart disease.
Two factors that accelerate the glycation process are blood glucose levels and UV rays. That’s why we hear so much about sun damage. The aging process itself also contributes to AGEs but these other variables can impact how we age.
How can you reduce the amount of sugar you consume?
- Learn to be Label Savvy: Flavor-added foods like oatmeal or yogurt have added sugar. Look out for ingredients that end in “-ose,” as well as other forms, such as high fructose corn syrup, dried cane syrup, molasses, agave, brown rice syrup, maple syrup, and sucrose.
- Switch Out Soda: Replace sugary soft drinks or ice teas with sparkling or plain water, flavored with a fruit slice or two.
- Choose Unsweetened: When shopping for peanut butter, nut milks, yogurt, and oatmeal, go with unsweetened varieties.
- Start the Day in a Savory Way: Instead of sweetened cereal or pastries, eat an egg dish or cottage cheese with vegetables.
- Indulge in Dark Chocolate Instead of Milk
- Watch Out for Sugar in Pasta Sauce
- Limit Power Bars: Whether you’re using as a meal replacement or a snack, most popular varieties are loaded with sugar. Watch out for sugar alcohols, which can cause digestive upset.
- Dress Your Own Salad: Instead of using bottled dressing, which often includes sugar, use olive oil and vinegar or lemon.
- Streamline Your Coffee Drink: Instead of a double mocha with whipped cream, choose a cappuccino.
- Shop the Outside Aisles: Processed foods are generally in the middle of the market. Focus on whole foods instead of frozen dinners, chips, or crackers.
Changing your sugar habit can not only decrease your risk for many diseases but can also stall the effects of age-related skin changes, a perfect complement to your Simple Beauty skin regimen!