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5 Ways sugar hurts your health

Michele Borboa, MS is a freelance writer and editor specializing in health, fitness, food, lifestyle, and pets. Michele is a health and wellness expert, personal chef, cookbook author, and pet-lover based in Bozeman, Montana. She is also...

Sweet talk on health

Though sugar is one of the most maligned foods, it continues to pervade -- in excess -- the American diet. Sugar is one of the major components in many, if not most, food and beverage products from obvious junk foods to so-called health foods, and even foods that aren’t considered a sweet. It’s up to you as the consumer to read labels and choose low-sugar foods, as well as to reduce your family’s intake of the sweet stuff. Here are five ways sugar hurts your health and why you need to limit your sugar intake.

Woman with sugary donut

5 Reasons to reduce your sugar intake

1

Sugar hurts your heart

Research conducted at The Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta shows that as the amount of sugar went up in participants' diets, so did their risk for heart disease. A diet high in sugar is associated with a reduction in HDL ("good") cholesterol. Further, according to the American Heart Association's scientific statement on sugar, a high intake of added sugar increases the risk of high blood pressure, high triglyceride levels, other risk factors for heart disease and stroke, as well as inflammation, which is also associated with heart disease.

2Sugar promotes weight gain

Many foods that are high in added sugar are also high in calories. Consuming too many calories is the primary cause of weight gain and obesity. In addition, added sugars provide calories but no nutrients. Sugar-laden foods, particularly those that lack fiber, can cause carb or sugar cravings that keep you eating nutrient-poor, high-calorie foods and perpetuating a cycle of overeating and weight gain. The new Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggests drinking water instead of sugary beverages and limiting foods with added sugars as a means to promote health and healthy weight maintenance.

3Sugar can lead to type 2 diabetes

Since consuming too much sugar can lead to weight gain, it can also increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The American Diabetes Association recommends limiting sugar intake and opting for artificial sweeteners as a way to satisfy your sweet tooth, curb cravings and control your blood sugar. Limiting your sugar intake and monitoring your calories can help prevent, as well as manage, type II diabetes.

4Sugar zaps your energy

That energy drink or specialty coffee may sound like the best solution to boost your energy, and you will get a surge of energy, but the high sugar content in these drinks is also going to lead to a drastic energy crash once the sugar (and caffeine) is out of your system. You'll end up more lethargic and even hungrier for something high in sugar or empty carbohydrates. Opt instead for whole foods with natural sugars, such as fruit, plain yogurt or even a raw trail mix for sustained energy.

5Sugar is bad for your teeth

According to the American Dental Association (ADA), foods and beverages high in sugar can promote cavities and tooth decay. Sugar feeds the bacteria that produce acids that erode your tooth enamel. Frequent snacking or drinking of high-sugar items increases your risk of cavities and eventually dental disease because it repeatedly exposes your tooth enamel to these acids. The ADA suggests limiting foods with added sugars, brushing and flossing regularly and chewing sugarless gum for 20 minutes after meals to help prevent tooth decay.

More health and nutrition tips

5 Tips to cut sugar without cutting taste
5 Sweet ways to reduce your sugar intake
5 Reasons you need to eat more fiber

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