If you’ve ever worried that you eat too much sugar, you’ll know that it’s not an easy thing to give up. Eating sugary foods makes our bodies crave more and more sweet treats, and these can cause many health problems as well as tooth decay and gum damage. Here at Guiney Dental Clinic, we often see teeth that have been damaged by eating too much sugar, and it can be a tricky issue to combat.
Studies show that ‘sweet’ is the first taste that is preferred by humans from birth, and it is true that a little of what you want in moderation is unlikely to cause problems. However, sugar is very difficult to regulate since it is in so many different foods, and it can easily become addictive and create serious issues in your body.
How Much Sugar is Too Much?
Here in Ireland, as in most of the world, we are eating far more sugar today than we were a decade ago. Many foods contain large amounts of added sugars, including products that we might not expect to be problematic. For example, a visit to the cinema during which you consumed a medium portion of popcorn, a fizzy drink and a bag of sweets could contain around 45 teaspoons of sugar. This is a very scary thought!
The recommended daily sugar allowance is 10-14 teaspoons of sugar, and this is surprisingly difficult to stick to if you are eating an average diet that includes convenience foods and snacks on occasion. You can take the Sugar Quiz online here, to check how much sugar you are consuming every day.
How to Beat a Sugar Craving
Sugar cravings can creep up on you and persuade you that just a little of that biscuit, cake or chocolate that you’ve had your eye on will make you feel great. And sometimes it does. But more often, it will spark further cravings and send you back to the biscuit or cake tin for ‘just one more’ little treat.
Eating sugar releases endorphins that make us feel calmer, creating a natural boost, and also gives you a short term energy boost and a dose of serotonin. This means that we feel like it’s doing us good, while it is actually depleting the body and setting us up for an energy crash or slump which will leave us feeling that we need more sugar.
When you experience sugar cravings, you don’t have to give in to them. You could try the following ideas instead:
- Cut it out. Cutting out sugar altogether is a pretty challenging idea for most of us, but it could help to re-set your body’s cravings and adjust your tastebuds so that you do not want to eat sugar so much. Most people find that just cutting out sugar for a few weeks or a month can help them to get control of their cravings and adopt a more healthy approach to sugar in the future. You may find that you experience withdrawal symptoms in the first few days, especially if your diet has been very sugar heavy, so be prepared for headaches and frustration as your body begins to detox.
- Have a little. If you tend to overeat sugary treats, you may be able to cut down on the amount of sugar you consume by eating just a little of the thing you want each time. Try having a couple of squares of chocolate instead of a full bar, or one biscuit rather than a whole packet. This will give you the sweet taste you crave and stop you from feeling that you are depriving yourself, but will also help you to control the amount of sugar you are eating and reduce the damage sustained by your teeth and gums as well.
- Try new foods. When you really want sugar, try to substitute it with something more healthy or have a little alongside a snack that is not sugary to help reduce the craving. Chocolate buttons mixed with nuts and dried fruit makes an excellent snack, and although it does contain some sugar, it is certainly better for your body and your teeth than a bar of chocolate would be. Fruit, which is naturally sweet, is a great snack to substitute for your mid-morning cake or biscuit, and you can re-train your brain to crave these things instead over time.
- Chew gum. Chewing gum can help to reduce cravings and distract you from the sugary foods you want to eat, so carry sugar free chewing gum with you and use it when you feel a craving coming on.
- Distract yourself. If you are able to distract yourself when you are craving sugary snacks, you’ll find that you can re-balance your body pretty quickly and stop craving these foods. Going for a brisk walk or popping out to the garden for five minutes of weeding can change your mood along with the scenery and is a great way to make changes that will benefit your health and your teeth.
- Eat a balanced diet. If you tend to crave sugary treats because you feel hungry, try eating smaller meals more often. Foods that are high in protein can help to nourish your body and make you less likely to indulge in cravings for foods that will not do your body or your teeth any good.
- Opt for good quality treats. Treating yourself is fine in moderation, and if you have a tendency to eat too many sugary treats, try to rein it in by choosing something really special – but small. A rich chocolate truffle can make you feel that you are indulging in a wonderful treat, but it will be better for you than a large bar of cheap, poor quality chocolate.
It isn’t easy to give up sugary treats, but these tips will help you to reduce your intake of sugar and protect your teeth when sugar cravings strike.
Managing Sugars in your Diet for Life:
If you want to reduce your sugar intake in the longer term, and ensure that your smile looks great as you age, here’s our quick guide to managing sugars in your diet.
- Keep a food diary. Work out how much sugar each of the foods you are eating contains and you will start to see patterns that will help you to decide where you can make changes to benefit your health and your teeth.
- Visit your dentist regularly. Talk to your dentist about the amount of sugar you are eating and the impact this is having on your teeth. Remember that many people eat sugary foods because they are feeling stressed, and getting some support to resolve the stress you are under can be a very positive step.
- Avoid artificial sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners are often even more unhealthy than their sugary counterparts, and research shows that they can be even worse for your teeth. Finding savoury alternatives or sticking to naturally sweet foods, such as fruit, is a much better idea in the long term.
- Be patient with yourself. Don’t worry if you find it difficult to get your sugar intake under control at first. Take the time to try different strategies and find out what works best for you, and remember that you are making changes that will benefit you for life, so there is no pressure to get it right instantly.
Do You Need A Good Cork Dentist?
Come and talk to us at Guiney Dental Clinic to make the most of our friendly and experienced approach. We love to work with the whole family to ensure great dental health for life, so for the very best treatment options, call Guiney Dental today on 021-481 0535.