Cake, cookies, candy, and soda may taste good, but consuming too much sugar harms your teeth and overall health.
Foods with carbohydrates naturally contain sugar. These include fruits, vegetables, dairy, and grains. Processed foods like fruit juice, pastries, ice cream, soft drinks, soup, spaghetti sauce, and ketchup contain added sugar. Many of these items increase your calorie intake but are low in nutrients.
Cutting back on refined, processed, and added sugar is critical for your dental, physical, and mental well-being. Here’s why.
Sugar Causes Tooth Decay
As you likely know, eating too many sweets causes cavities. When plaque makes contact with sugar in your mouth, acid attacks your teeth and causes decay, according to the American Dental Association.
Furthermore, if you don’t have certain nutrients, your mouth tissues are subject to infection, which can lead to gum disease and, ultimately, tooth loss. Reducing sugar intake and following proper dental hygiene help prevent these issues.
Added Sugars Spur Weight Gain and Increase Cardiovascular Health Risks
Consuming high amounts of added sugars can impact your heart health in the following ways, according to Cleveland Clinic:
- Ingesting a lot of added sugar increases your calorie count, which may cause you to gain weight. If you gain more weight than is healthy, it could strain your heart.
- Weight gain can also increase your blood pressure, which puts you at cardiovascular risk.
- Sugary diets elevate triglyceride levels in your body, which raises heart disease risk.
- Sugar-related weight gain can increase your LDL (or bad) cholesterol level.
- When cholesterol buildup pushes against artery walls, it forms plaque. If the plaque breaks open and forms a clot, it can cause a heart attack, according to Harvard Health.
Limiting sugar intake reduces these risks.
Excessive Sugar Consumption Raises Type 2 Diabetes Risk
When you eat sugar, it travels through your bloodstream and raises your blood sugar level. Insulin from your pancreas sends glucose out of your bloodstream and into cells to convert it to energy for your body to use immediately or later, according to the American Diabetes Association. However, people with diabetes have trouble producing and using insulin.
Multiple studies have confirmed that people with a high dietary glycemic load have a high risk of type 2 diabetes, according to an American Journal of Clinical Nutrition review. In contrast, people with a low glycemic load have a significantly lower type 2 diabetes risk.
Dietary Sugar Contributes to Chronic Inflammation
Chronic inflammation occurs when your immune system generates infection-fighting inflammatory cells, but you’re not sick, according to Cleveland Clinic. Several conditions are linked to chronic inflammation, including Alzheimer’s, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and arthritis.
You can curb inflammation by eating less fried food, cured meat, trans fat, and refined carbohydrates in foods like sugar, pastries, and white bread.
Sugar Intake Impacts Mental Health
Eating sweets temporarily spikes your blood sugar, which triggers an eventual crash. Growing evidence suggests these fluctuations can impact mood, registered dietician Isa Kay writes for the University of Michigan School of Public Health.
“Symptoms of poor glycemic regulation have been shown to closely mirror mental health symptoms, such as irritability, anxiety, and worry,” Kay writes.
High sugar intake and glucose instability can also cause depression, according to a study in Scientific Reports. Not only that, but critical mental processes like thinking, memory, and learning rely on glucose. When levels are too low, hypoglycemia can hurt brain functions, like attention and memory, according to Harvard Medical School.
Added sugars hide in many foods, so look at ingredient lists for sugar, brown sugar, fructose, high-fructose corn syrup, glucose, dextrose, and corn syrup. Avoid or cut back on foods with these ingredients.
To guard against cardiovascular disease, the American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than 6 teaspoons (25 grams) or 100 calories a day of added sugar, and men consume no more than 9 teaspoons (36 grams) or 150 calories a day.
Overall, cutting sugar consumption is a crucial step to improving your health.
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