Sugar: it’s everywhere these days and it’s bad news for your teeth and body. And yet, the human body seems designed to crave and demand sugar. That might have been a good thing thousands of years ago when food was hard to come by, but not so much today.
In modern society, sugar is in just about everything and our easy access to it is having a negative impact on people’s overall health, including their oral health. Sugar is the main cause of cavities and it can also contribute to gum disease. Plus, it plays a role in the development of conditions such as diabetes and can cause weight gain.
You’ve probably seen plenty of news reports and stories encouraging you to eliminate sugar from your diet. While going cold turkey and quitting sugar completely can be tricky for most people, there are easy ways to cut back and reduce the amount of sugar in your diet.
Here’s what you can do to curb the cravings.
Swap a sugary soda for seltzer
Sugar-sweetened sodas can be particularly bad for the health of your teeth because they bathe the teeth in an acidic, sugary liquid. If you like the fizz of soda, you don’t have to give it up entirely. You just have to get rid of the sugar. One way to do that is to trade your sugary drinks for sugar-free (and artificial sweetener-free) seltzer.
While plain seltzer is available, the flavored varieties can really come in handy when you’re trying to reduce your sugar intake. You can even add fresh fruit to your glass for a little something extra.
Stop sweetening your coffee
Sometimes, cutting back on sugar means making small steps. One small step to take is to stop adding sugar to your coffee or tea in the morning. If that seems like too much for you, try using less sugar, such as just one packet instead of two. You can also try adding milk to your tea or coffee instead of sugar if you don’t like to drink either black.
Skip processed foods
Another way to reduce your sugar consumption is to avoid processed foods as much as possible. Shop around the perimeter of the grocery store, picking up fresh foods like produce, meat, and dairy. Leave the middle aisles, where processed foods like crackers, cookies, and cereals lurk, alone.
If you do have a craving for something sweet, try some fruit or a piece of dark chocolate to satisfy your craving.
Choose plain yogurt
Although yogurt can be a healthy choice that’s low in sugar, many of the flavored varieties also contain lots of added sugar. If you like yogurt, try switching to a plain variety instead of flavored. You can add fruit or jam to it to pep it up a bit if you think the taste is too dull. It’s also worth trying full-fat yogurt instead of non-fat or low-fat varieties. They often taste much better, so that there’s less need for added flavors and sugar.
Take a close look at ingredient lists
Sugar likes to hide in unexpected places, like salad dressings, pasta sauce, and ketchup. The next time you grab your favorite condiment off of the shelf, flip it over and read its ingredients before putting it in your cart. If sugar’s among the first ingredients listed, it’s a good idea to put the bottle back on the shelf and try a variety that doesn’t contain a lot of added sugar. It’s likely you won’t even notice the taste of the missing sugar from your condiment.
Swap candy for other snacks
If you enjoy snacking, it can be worthwhile to trade your candy and sweets for other options. For example, a handful of almonds or cashews can be more filling than a handful of jelly beans, and it won’t contain added sugars.
One thing to keep in mind when swapping your snacks is that you might want to avoid picking options that are very salty or starchy. Potato chips might not be sweet, but the starch they contain can cause cavities.
Choose fruit over juice
Is it better to eat a whole orange or to drink a glass of juice? When it comes to your teeth, the whole fruit is usually better than juice. Juice, like sugary soda, coats your teeth in a wash of sugary liquid. Fruit, on the other hand, can help to scrub your teeth, removing bits of debris from the surface. Whole fruit also contains plenty of fiber, which has other health benefits.
Sugar can be tough to conquer but if you take small steps, you’ll soon see big changes.
Dr. John Paul Gallardo is a periodontal specialist in the Miami area who also provides dental cleanings, exams, and dental implants. To learn more about his practice in Miami, FL, call 305-547-8687 to schedule a consultation today.