Sugar Awareness Week

Sugar Awareness Week, usually held near the holidays, is a great time to take notice of all the sugar in the typical American diet. It is also an exceptional time to help your family kick the sugar habit. Reducing your family’s intake of sugar can reduce their risk for health issues, cavities, and other dental problems.
While sugar is delicious, it does not have any nutritive value other than providing energy that you could get from other foods. That means sugar does not provide any vitamins or minerals that your body can use. Doctors and dentists often say that sugar provides “empty calories” because the body does need sugar to survive.
Sugar can cause health issues, such as weight gain, but it can also increase the risk for dental problems. In particular, consuming sugar can cause cavities, also known as dental caries. Sugar reacts with bacteria on the surface of teeth to create acid, and this acid can eat away at the enamel that protects teeth.
There are two main types of sugar: natural sugar and added sugar. You can find natural sugar in whole, unprocessed foods, such as fruit, vegetables, dairy, and some types of grains. Fruit contains a type of sugar known as fructose, while dairy contains the sugar lactose. You will find added sugar in processed foods and drinks, and the sugar you add to food and beverages.
Sugar is the most popular ingredient added to food in the United States. The average person in the United States consumes about 22 teaspoons of added sugar each day, according to Harvard School of Public Health. This means that, at about 350 extra calories from sugar each day, the typical American consumes about 2,450 empty calories each week.
Most Americans have tooth decay. A survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that an astonishing 91 percent of all adults aged 20 to 64 had dental caries and 27 have untreated tooth decay. Left untreated, cavities can cause complications, such as pain, abscesses, increased risk for chipping or breaking a tooth, difficulty chewing food, and even tooth loss.

Sugar Awareness Week – One Day at a Time

Day 1: Cut out added sugar from foods. Try a dash of cinnamon on your morning oatmeal instead of sugar, for example. Switch your kids to a breakfast cereal that does not contain added sugar so that you can control how much sweetener they add.
Day 2: Rethink your drink. Sugar-sweetened beverages, such as sweetened coffees and fountain drinks, are a major source of sugar. Believe it or not, even fruit juices can contain unhealthy amounts of sugar. Opt instead for sugar-free drinks, such as black coffee, plain tea, or water.
Day 3: Consider vegetables instead of fruit for healthy snacking. While fruit contains many vitamins and minerals, it can also contain a large amount of sugar. Trade your orange for a celery stalk, for example, or go for a carrot instead of an apple.
Day 4: Learn the other names for sugar. Common alternate names may include high-fructose corn syrup, brown sugar, cane sugar, fruit juice concentrates, corn sweetener, corn syrup, honey, malt syrup, maple syrup, molasses, syrup and white sugar. Less common names for sugar include corn syrup solids, anhydrous dextrose, fructose sweetener, crystal dextrose, evaporated cane juice, cane crystals, and liquid fructose.
Day 5: Read labels. Use your newfound knowledge of alternate names for sugar by reading package labels and avoiding all types of added sugars.
Day 6: Brush after sugary foods and drinks – or at least rinse your mouth with water. Cleaning the sugar from the surface of your teeth reduces the acid-producing reaction between sugar and the bacteria on the surface of your teeth.
Day 7: Watch out for fat-free foods. Three ingredients made food delicious – salt, fat, and sugar. To make fat-free foods palatable, food manufacturers may add extra salt or sugar.
For more information about Sugar Awareness Week, and to learn more about reducing your sugar intake, talk with your dental health professional.