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It’s time to lose your sweet tooth

By Mariana Barreiro, photo by Precious Alexander

I have a challenge for you. Don’t eat any type of sugar or sweetener for one week. On average, Americans eat 19.5 teaspoons of sugar a day––that’s almost half a cup of sugar. You may not even realize that you are eating that much sugar.

I personally took the challenge for 28 days. It was difficult.

If you go to the store and look at the ingredient list on products, almost everything contains sugar. Foods that you eat everyday like ketchup, salad dressing, mayonnaise and even some grilled chicken from fast-food restaurants are sweetened with sugar. Even “healthy” foods can contain sugar.

For instance, most dried fruits and protein bars contain added sugars.

Although sugar is okay in small quantities, in the U.S., we tend to go big and eat sugar with almost everything.

Some effects of overeating sugar can be acne breakouts and fatigue. I personally experienced fatigue. I would get a sugar rush after I ate sugary foods but my energy levels would crash a little later.

Obesity is one of the most common effects of excess sugar. Through obesity, sugar can indirectly increase someone’s risk for heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

Although everyone’s body reacts to sugar differently, excess sugar will cause physiological damage and unwanted side effects.

To start weaning yourself off sugar, I recommend you monitor your sugar intake to see how much sugar you eat in an average day. It is recommended that you eat a maximum of six to nine teaspoons of sugar per day. To put that into perspective, an average can of soda contains about seven teaspoons of sugar.

Another suggestion is to have 95 percent of your diet be healthy fats, proteins and carbohydrates, and the other five percent can consist of treating yourself.

If you decide to go sugar free, you should allow yourself “treats” every once in a while to create a balanced diet.  This can help prevent giving up and over-indulging.

As an avid ice cream lover, I was looking forward to eating ice cream again. After a month of excluding sugar from my diet, I no longer craved sugary foods.

I treat myself once a week to something sweet like a small brownie, a little bit of ice cream or a Rice Krispies Treat.

I challenge you to keep track of the amount of sugar in your daily diet as well as looking at the ingredient list on products before you buy them. If you are feeling extra adventurous, try to go sugar free for 28 days to see what it feels like. You never know; you might find it a sweet surprise.