Sugar, in the form of glucose, supplies the body with energy. However, we don’t need to eat any sugar, because our bodies can convert carbohydrates—and even fat and protein, if necessary—to glucose. Although fruits, vegetables, and dairy naturally contain some sugars, those sugars are “packaged” with vitamins, minerals, and fiber and are released slowly into the blood.
“The science is very clear that added sugars carry a lot of health risks. Many studies have shown that added sugars are associated with an increased risk of diabetes, hypertension, and even heart disease,” says Dr. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Many processed and packaged foods contain added sugars. In addition to cereals, breads, crackers, and cookies, these include salad dressings, spaghetti sauces, soups, condiments, and more.
Although beverages are the most important source of added sugars, they aren’t the only ones. There are additional ways to reduce your intake of added sugars:
- Give your taste buds time to adjust. If you’re in the habit of having two spoonful’s of sugar in your coffee or tea, for instance, start by going to one-and-a-half for a week, then down to one.
- Reach for fruit rather than juice. Squeezing fruit breaks down the cells and releases sugar into the juice, so that it enters the bloodstream more rapidly. Moreover, a glass of juice is usually the caloric equivalent of three whole fruits. Instead of drinking fruit juice, eat a piece of fresh fruit.
- Check your cereal box. If you enjoy cold cereal or instant oatmeal for breakfast, look at the labels and choose one with minimal added sugar. It’s also worth noting that cereals made with refined grains are quickly broken down into sugars in the body. To wean yourself off your favorite cereal, try combining it with a whole-grain, high-fiber cereal, and add fruit.
- Adapt your recipes. You can make your favorite recipes less sugary by reducing a little bit at a time—try using one-quarter less sugar than the recipe calls for, then one-third—right up until you notice the difference.