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For decades, the dental profession has been telling our patients how bad sugar is for our dental health. Our office has always advocated reducing sugar intake to prevent tooth decay. Recently the media has also promoted cutting sugar out of our diet, not only for our teeth but also for our health.
Many of my patients are surprised to hear how much sugar they are still consuming.
Congratulations on your decision to reduce the amount of sugar in your diet! This is not always easy, but it is an important step toward a healthier lifestyle.
Since our bodies do not require added sugar (fruits, vegetables and whole grains provide enough along with the benefits of fiber and other micro-nutrients), here are some simple ways to slowly cut back on sugar and create some sweet alternatives:
* Buy foods as close to their natural state as possible. Fresh or frozen whole fruits give you the benefits of all of their wonderful vitamins, nutrients and phytochemicals! Avoid fruits canned in syrup.
* Try incorporating sweet vegetables like squash, sweet potatoes, yams, onions and beets. Adding these into your meals (soups, roasting, baked ‘fries’) may help eliminate your taste buds’ need for something sweet afterward!
* Sprinkle cocoa powder on a handful of raw almonds. This gives you the essence of chocolate without the added sugar.
* Try infusing your water with oranges, lemons, grapefruit, strawberries, cucumber, or mint–or adding a small amount of 100% fruit juice to sparkling water instead of consuming soda or sugary drinks.
* When baking, you can generally cut sugar by one-third to one-half in most recipes. Try to avoid using refined white sugar and experiment with minimally processed sweeteners including: honey, natural cane sugar, coconut/palm crystals, agave nectar, Stevia , and more. Remember that the goal is to reduce sugar even in its more natural forms.
* Substitute equal parts of unsweetened applesauce for sugar in recipes. Start small and work your way up.
* Spice it up! Cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, coriander, cloves and cardamom will naturally sweeten your foods and help reduce cravings. These are simple ways to enhance coffee (sprinkle on grinds before brewing), whole-grain oats (oatmeal), plain yogurt and baked goods; all of which are major sources of added sugar in many of their commonly found, more processed forms (flavored yogurts, flavored instant oatmeal packets, and fancy coffee drinks).
* Extracts like vanilla, almond, orange and lemon add flavor and an essence of sweetness without the added sugar.
* Purchase plain Greek or regular yogurt and add your own flavors. Vanilla extract, cinnamon, fresh fruit, or lemon zest are all wonderful ways to create flavor and sweetness. If you find yourself looking for something more, try adding a teaspoon of raw honey, 100% maple syrup, agave nectar, coconut/palm crystals or a bit of Stevia.
* Stuff dates with almond butter (or any nut/seed butter)—two of these are very satisfying!
* Purchase nut/seed-butters (almond, cashew, peanut, sunflower) that list nuts/seeds as the only ingredient.
* Purchase low-sugar (less than 8g/sugar per serving) cereals and add fresh or dried fruit (watch serving size when comparing cereals—they vary!). Ezekiel Golden Flax (0g) and Nature’s Path Heritage (4g) are two that I like.
* Experiment! Make fruit ‘ice-cream’ by blending a frozen banana in a food processor with nuts & berries; add milk of your choice for a creamier texture. Make Truglies (Ugly Truffles) by grinding pitted dates, oats, unsweetened coconut and cocoa powder in a food processor. Roll into balls. Ugly, but tasty!
* Make your own smoothies at home with Greek yogurt, bananas, berries, a good quality protein powder and a little milk of your choice. Most of the fruit smoothies sold at coffee shops are filled with added sugar and not much fruit.
* Make your own trail mix with dried fruit, mixed nuts and whole-grain cereal and take to work/keep in the car for a snack instead of caloric nutrition bars, cookies or pastries. Divide into 1/4 cup portions to grab and go!
* Be mindful of processed products like dressings, BBQ sauce, ketchup, cereal, bread, crackers and baked goods—they often contain loads of excess sugar.
Try a few of the ideas that most appeal to you. Even the smallest change is a step in the right direction! If you have any strategies for reducing sugar or alternatives to high-sugar foods , please feel free to share them!
We hope you find our blog to be helpful, engaging and informational to ensure your best dental health.
As always, feel free to contact us with any dental questions or concerns.
--The Vendelis, Evans and Vendelis, D.D.S.Team
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