It is easy to have a “love-hate” relationship with sugar. You love it, obviously for the taste; yet you hate it for the effects. From the extremely sweet caffeinated drinks to each munch-y snack, sugar is everywhere and easy to get hooked on.
1. The Dangers of Sugar
The biggest problem sugar presents is quantity. Our society has a bad habit of consuming excess amounts of sugar, which can lead to very big and very bad health problems in the future. Sugar can cause issues such as:
- Tooth Trouble. Yeah, you’ve heard it before. (But after all, we are a dental blog.) Large amounts of sugar show up in the mouth as plaque, cavities and worse dental problems that will cost you big money.
- Weight Gain. While the body can use a certain amount of sugar, the excess sugar goes toward fatty acids and is stored in the liver as fat. Excess sugar also reduces leptin production (hunger-controlling hormone).
- Risk of Diabetes. Diabetes is mostly genetic, but sugar can significantly raise the risk of getting diabetes by insulin resistance.
- Liver Toxicity. Much like the damages that alcohol causes toward the liver, sugar causes similar damage. This could lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
- Heart Damage. Excess amounts of sugar are proven to raise the risk of heart disease – and death of heart disease – by a ton.
- Weakened Immune System. Phagocytosis is the defense system of our bodies (viruses and bacteria getting killed by white blood cells). It has been shown that giant amounts of sugar inhibit that process, leading to a weakened immune system.
- Skin Problems. Wrinkles, acne and possibly cellulite are by-products of too much sugar, because of increased toxins in the blood.
2. Naturally Sweet Foods
While these foods might not be a go-to if you’re craving something sweet, it is helpful to know which foods contain natural sugar, rather than unhealthily processed foods.
- Carrots. Besides improving your eyesight, carrots are a great example of healthy and natural sugar.
- Ways to eat carrots: raw, roasted or cooked in soup or stew.
- Sweet Potatoes. As it happens, sweet potatoes contain fibers that reduce hunger and stress cravings – and they also contain nutrients like Vitamin C, potassium, Vitamin B6 and magnesium.
- Ways to eat sweet potatoes: baked, cooked as fries and in casseroles.
- Berries. Berries are rich in antioxidants and are great if you are looking for variety. (Blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, etc.)
- Ways to eat berries: raw, frozen, in fruit salad or smoothies.
- Apples. Not only are apples great for your teeth, they are a great substitute for sugary snacks!
- Ways to eat apples: sliced, baked, in fruit salad.
Almonds. Stressed? Don’t reach for those Little Debbie’s – eat some almonds! They contain proteins and fibers that will help you feel great and crave less sugar.
- Ways to eat almonds: natural/refrigerated, in salad or trail mix (below).
- Oats/Oatmeal. Oatmeal is a wonderful substitute for sugar. The oats are naturally sweet, tasty AND healthy! They certainly make for a hearty breakfast.
- Ways to eat oats/oatmeal: add berries, in smoothies or bake in place of flour.
- Leafy Greens. Don’t get us wrong, we are not saying that greens are sweet. Anyone with proper taste buds could tell you that. HOWEVER, greens are awesome at fighting back strong sugar cravings! Plus, they’re super healthy for you.
- Ways to eat leafy greens: salads, add in soup or smoothies, make into dip.
- Chickpeas. Don’t reach for a soda next time you’re tired – try chickpeas. Chickpeas are an amazing source of energy because they have tons of magnesium, Vitamin B6 and amino acids. Plus, they’re sweet!
- Ways to eat chickpeas: add in salad or stew, boil for side dish.
- Coconut. While coconut itself has hardly any sugar, it does taste sweet. Coconut flour has been used often to cure a craving for sugar.
- Ways to eat coconut: shredded, in smoothies, baked in granola bars.
Along with naturally sweet food, there is a variety of foods that are great for your teeth. Click here to check out a past blog post on superfoods for your health and teeth.
3. Alternative Sweet Snacks
If you’ve had all the natural sugar one can take, don’t give in just yet. Try one of the snacks below that are sweet and will satisfy you without putting your health at risk:
- Strawberries and Dark Chocolate
- Bananas and Peanut Butter
- Fresh Fruit
- Fruit Popsicle
- Banana Ice Cream
- Graham Crackers and Peanut Butter
- Baked Apple and Cinnamon
- Frozen Grapes
- Trail Mix
Next time you reach for that candy bar or can of soda, stop yourself! Remember the dangers of too much sugar, and try out one of the foods above. You may even discover a new favorite!
What healthy thing do you eat or drink to appease your sweet tooth?