There's nothing quite as sweet as adding a little sugar to your tea or meal, but is it good for you? As a senior or someone who cares for a senior, it's important to realize that sugar, while sometimes essential, can negatively affect the body. When eaten in excess, sugar can lead to a number of serious health issues, making it harder for seniors to live comfortably in old age.
Fortunately, reducing the use of sugar or removing added sugar from your diet could help you lower the risk of serious illnesses and help you feel better overall. At all our assisted living communities under the Bethesda Senior Living Communities umbrella in Monument, Colorado, we encourage eating a balanced amount of sugar for a healthier lifestyle.
Sugar isn't necessarily bad for seniors, but you must be cautious about how much added sugar you eat. Added sugar is any sugar you add to your dish outside what's normally in the ingredients. Examples of added sugar include:
For example, an orange has nine grams of natural sugar balanced with fiber and other nutrients. A teaspoon of white sugar is four grams of isolated, added sugar with nothing else to balance it. White sugar is a simple sugar, meaning it's fast-acting and can be used for energy quickly. Unfortunately, eating this sugar on its own can lead to spikes in your blood sugar, followed by a sugar crash when the body releases insulin to balance it out. In a worst-case scenario, overuse of simple sugars can lead to type II diabetes.
Sugar also adds calories to your meals, so if you're struggling with weight loss or want to maintain your current weight, cutting back on sugar can help. In addition to that, it's largely recognized that excess added sugar can lead to heart disease, some kinds of cancer and chronic inflammation. If you have arthritis or joint pain, getting away from sugar could help you feel better more often without pain medications.
The American Health Association suggests that men should eat no more than nine teaspoons of added sugar a day (36 grams), while women should opt for six teaspoons or less (24 grams).
It's a bit of a misunderstanding that "all sugar is bad." The truth is that there are different kinds of sugar, and the two main types, natural sugar and added sugar, can't be considered the same.
Natural sugar occurs naturally in the foods you eat every day. For example, lactose in milk is a natural sugar.
The natural sugars in fruits and other foods tend to be combined with protein and fiber, which means you're less likely to get a blood sugar spike and more likely to feel full longer.
The same can't be said for added sugars. Added sugars are included in addition to natural sugars to sweeten up a product, but they're not always paired with the vitamins and nutrients that would help balance them out.
For instance, did you know that sugary drinks contain an average of 39 grams of added sugar? If you go by the American Heart Association's guidelines, that's more added sugar than anyone should have in a day, let alone in a single drink.
So, the answer to the question above, "Should you remove sugar from your diet?" is no, but you should be thinking about where your sugar comes from and if you're eating more than the recommended daily amount. Keep in mind that the World Health Organization doesn't place a limit on natural sugars, so if you're hoping for something sweet to eat, try a sweet fruit to soothe your sweet tooth.
The American Heart Association suggests some great tips for cutting down on added sugar in your diet. Here are several ideas to keep in mind that you can implement in your own life starting today.
Taking these steps will help you feel better and keep the amount of added sugar in your diet under control. Over time, better control could mean a lower risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, obesity and other serious illnesses.
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