Tips for Cutting Down on Sugar: Ending our Addiction to the Sweet Stuff
Posted on 6/2/2017 by Michael Mettler
|Most of us know that sugar is not good for us. It’s a leading cause of tooth decay and it’s contributing to an obesity epidemic in the U.S. Despite these facts, sugar related dental problems are still the most widespread cause of poor oral health.
Is Sugar Addictive?
Sugar is not just a bad habit but it also has addictive components. The link between sugar and addiction lies in the fact that when we consume sweets, pleasure producing chemicals such as dopamine and opioids are released in our brains. There are many studies that suggest sugar may be more addictive than many illegal drugs.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that figures prominently in addictive behavior. Namely, when a certain behavior (like eating a brownie or a candy bar) causes an excess release of dopamine in the brain, it results in a pleasurable high that people feel a desire to repeat. The trap here is that the more you eat sugar, the more your brains adjusts to it, driving you to eat even more of it. This causes a few negative health consequences such as, cavities and other oral health problems, obesity, and even hormonal changes.
Our team at Walla Walla Dental Care agrees that sugar has addictive properties and we need to start focusing on getting less of it than we do now.
Kicking the Habit
The answer to extricating ourselves from the “clutches” of sugar addiction is to find ways to reduce the amount of sugar we consume, and make it a goal to stop adding sugar to things like coffee, tea, cereal and other foods in order to save our teeth and our bodies from its negative effects. Here are some tips for cutting down and ending your addiction to sugar once and for all:
Ditch the artificial sweeteners, they’re just prolonging the inevitable and making it harder to break your cravings.
Clean out the pantry. You can’t have what’s not available. The same goes for your desk drawers at work; purge them of sugary treats and replace them with health choices such as nuts, seeds and fresh fruit.
Pay attention to food label. You’d be surprised at the number of foods that contain added sugar. (Look for words like sucrose, fructose, maltose and corn syrup.)
Cut out the soft drinks. The World Health Organization (WHO) suggests cutting out our intake of what they call “free sugars” (sugars found in honey and fruit juice as well as sugar we add to food and drinks) to less than 5% of our daily calories. Right now, “free sugars” account for about 14% of the average person’s daily caloric intake.
Watch out for “fat free” products- Many of them add lots of sugar to compensate for the loss of flavor that fat provides.
Set some limits. When it comes to sugar, it’s not only how much we consume, but also how often. Once we consume a sugary food, it takes our mouths about an hour to return to a neutral state. If you eat small amounts throughout the day, that clock restarts every time. So, imagine a coffee lover who likes sweetened coffee and has three coffees throughout the course of the morning. The sugar from the sweetener is having an effect on their teeth for hours at a time.
Make some rules and stick to them. Start with small things like no more eating after 7 p.m., only allowing yourself dessert 2 or 3 nights a week, and cutting down on the amount of sugar you add to your coffee or tea.
The positive news is that we can desensitize ourselves to the effects of sugar by gradually cutting it out of our lives. It’s a goal that offers a big payoff for a healthier mouth, and a slimmer, healthier body too.