We all know sugar is bad for us. Health experts who disagree about other aspects of diet, seem to come together on the topic of sugar: just don’t eat it.
You are probably used to hearing that weight gain and tooth decay are two common and unpleasant side effects of an obsession with sugary treats. Yet, sugar has other lesser-known but equally dramatic effects on the body’s overall health. Researchers have found that excess sugar consumption weakens your body’s immune system, greatly impacting your body’s ability to fight infections like the common cold and flu.
When our white blood cells are not functioning at their optimum, we become more vulnerable to getting sick.
5 Ways to Reduce Sugar Intake
1. Substitute stevia instead of sugar.
Avoid artificial sweeteners and stick with stevia, which is made from a simple plant extract. Many candies, chocolates, and other sweets are now sweetened with stevia and available in grocery stores. You can also purchase stevia in liquid or powder form to make your own desserts or to sweeten your coffee and tea.
2. Smaller portion size.
Try planning out portion sizes ahead of time. For instance, tell yourself that if you are craving chocolate, you will only eat one or two squares of a chocolate bar. Sometimes allowing yourself to have a small amount of something sweet is more effective than restricting sugar completely. That way, you can still satisfying your craving for sweets without drastically affecting your body’s overall health.
3. Stick to drinking water or tea.
One of the biggest ways people get themselves into sugar trouble is by drinking sugary products like soda and sports drinks. To avoid the temptation of sugary drinks, make sure you are drinking plenty of water throughout the day. You can also drink tea to add some flavor and variety, just make sure your tea is unsweetened or sweetened with stevia.
4. Spread out your intake of sweet foods.
Consider spreading out your intake of sweets throughout the week. Allow yourself to have that small bowl of ice cream, just make sure to have your sweetened tea, lemonade, or chocolate chip cookie several days down the line. Let yourself enjoy sweet treats one at a time. That way your blood sugar levels will stay more stable and your immune system will have more time to recover.
5. Always have wholesome, healthy snack foods available.
Most of us crave sweets when it’s been a while since our last full meal. Common snack foods are loaded with sugar and when you’re hungry, its hard to limit yourself to just a few bites. Plan ahead and have healthy snacks available for when those snack cravings strike. Stock your fridge and shelves with carrots, hummus, nuts, berries, and other wholesome foods.
Remember, as with any new habit, you are bound to make a mistake or two. Don’t beat yourself up. Even moderately limiting your sugar intake will make a positive impact on your health, so focus on reducing your sugar intake one step at a time. Trying out just two or three of the suggestions above will get you on track toward better health and a stronger immune system. With a fully armed immune system, you may just skip your bout of cold or flu this season.
Featured photo credit: ABC News via abcnews.go.com
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