One simple (yet not so simple) thing we can do to improve our health is to lower our added sugar consumption! Many of us consume more added sugars than we realize, which inadvertently causes us to consume extra calories with zero nutrients. According to the American Heart Association, the average American adult eats somewhere between 22 and 30 teaspoons worth of added sugar in a day.
Added sugars are sugars added during food processing and found in packaged foods. Table sugar, syrups, and honey are considered added sugars. Added sugars don’t include the natural sugars in fruits, vegetables, or milk. Consuming high amounts of added sugars is a concern because it can lead to health issues such as chronic inflammation, obesity and overweight, heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, Type 2 Diabetes, fatty liver disease, and a higher risk for osteoporosis (to name a few).
Avoiding added sugar is difficult because it is found in everything from condiments like ketchup to salad dressings, sweets, and pastries. We also load up on added sugar by drinking sweetened beverages like sodas, teas, coffee, alcoholic drinks, and fruit and vegetable juices. Another reason lowering our added sugar intake is challenging is that the more sugar we consume, the more we crave! Sugar activates our brain’s reward and pleasure centers the same way some addictive substances do.
Some experts recommend a palate adjustment or reset to decrease added sugar intake. If you feel like you are ready to take the next step in lowering your added sugar intake, you can do a 7-day challenge in which you take a week to eliminate all sources of added sugars while still enjoying eating fruits and vegetables. This challenge aims to make you aware of the amount of hidden added sugar foods in your home and to get your taste buds accustomed to favoring fewer sweet foods.
While doing a sugar reset doesn't mean you will stop consuming added sugars altogether, the hope is to get closer to the American Heart Association’s recommendations that women do not exceed 6 teaspoons (25 grams) of sugar daily and that men limit their intake to 9 teaspoons (36 grams) daily. If you are hesitant and want a more gradual palate adjustment, you can attempt the added sugar reset as a 28-day challenge. Sugarproof kids is an excellent resource on how to do either of these two versions of a sugar reset.