A new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine last week indicates that cutting down on sugar can even save your life. Researchers found that the average American's sugar intake of about 80 grams (20 teaspoons) per day is associated with about a 20 percent increased risk of death from heart disease.
The American Heart Association recommends no more than six teaspoons of sugar a day for women and nine for men. So with the issue of sugar back in the news just in time for American Heart Month, you may be wondering how to finally cut down on the sweet stuff once and for all. The good news is that the American Heart Association's guidelines don't require that you completely slash added sugar from your diet, so it's easy to approach the change incrementally.
At the Monday Campaigns, we advocate taking a day each week to evaluate our dietary choices and determine how they can be improved upon. This Monday, think about the added sugar in your diet and where you might be able to make some simple changes. Remember, as compared to the sugars that naturally occur in fruit and milk, added sugar is an ingredient listed on a product's label or added to your meal via a granulated sugar or sweetener like honey or agave syrup. Try one of the following tips:
- If you generally have a sugar-sweetened beverage with every meal, try replacing one of those choices with water or a sugar-free beverage this week.
- A sugar packet generally contains one teaspoon of sugar. Try reducing the number of packets you use in your morning coffee or tea by one and see if your taste buds adjust to the difference.
- While juice contains naturally occurring sugar, many versions contain added sugars as well. Try mixing half a cup of juice with half a cup of seltzer for a refreshing low-sugar drink.
- Age-old water is often considered "boring." Zest it up with a squeeze of lemon and see if it takes on a feistier new personality that could become part of your regular routine.
- Soda has a bad reputation for being the leading source of added sugar in our diet, and deservedly so. The issue is that many of us think of soda as a normal part of every meal, when we'd never say the same about another sugary treat. Move soda firmly into the "dessert" category in your mind and when you do indulge, switch to one of the newer 7.5 ounce cans, which contain about five teaspoons of sugar.
- Fruit is naturally packed with fiber and other heart-healthy nutrients. Keep whole pieces on hand and make sure you reach for one first when a sugar craving hits. You may find it satisfies just as well.
If one of these tips hits your sweet spot, amp up your efforts even further next Monday. Try replacing two sweetened drinks a day with water and lemon, or reducing the number of sugar packets you use each morning by one more. Before you know it, you may be down to the recommended number of teaspoons per day, on the road to better health, and wondering how you ever tolerated such sickly sweet diet in the first place.
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