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Sugar Less

We make over 1,000 daily choices that affect our wellness. Today’s choice? Trade ice cream for watermelon, and sugar for health.

It's ice cream cone and frozen yogurt season. But trading them for equally delicious watermelon (seed-spitting contest, anyone?) will make you healthier, more beautiful and even help you ward off disease. Here’s how.

Before you order that double scoop ice cream cone with sprinkles (or any sweet treat of choice), remember that added sugar isn’t only harmful to your teeth—it can be harmful to your body as well. 

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Sugar Less

Sugar, or edible crystalline carbohydrate, occurs naturally as sucrose, yet most of us ingest sugar in its manufactured forms.  Think:  glucose, fructose and high fructose corn syrup.  It’s these manufactured forms—most commonly found in US industrial food preparation—that can contribute to disease development.

MORE: The Less Sugar, Younger Skin Diet

A quick primer: too much sugar in our bodies can lead to insulin resistance. (You may have heard of this term, especially if you or someone you know has diabetes.) Insulin resistance occurs when the body produces, but cannot properly use, insulin. Insulin is the hormone required to process glucose (your body’s main source of energy; like gasoline for your car—you need it to 'run' properly!).  

And, insulin resistance can lead to inflammation.  Too much inflammation in our bodies can cause disease. Depending on where the inflammation occurs will depend on the type of disease that develops. For example, inflammation can lead to heart disease (a major cause of disease for women, especially as we get older).  

Diets high in refined carbohydrates (think white rice, white bread, simple sugars) and low in protein and omega-3s (salmon, nuts and lean meat) can increase your susceptibility to insulin resistance and various inflammatory diseases.

Good news: There’s lots you can do! For starters, pay attention to the ingredients in the food you’re eating. When you're in the grocery store, make sure to read the back of the food item that you're putting in your cart. Forget the health claims on the front of the package (think “low-fat,” “good source of whole grains”)—they don’t always tell the truth! 

QUIZ: Health Vitality Quiz

Instead, turn the package over and look in two places. First, look for the amount of sugar. Ideally, whatever you are purchasing should contain less than 4 grams of sugar per serving. Second, look in the actual list of ingredients. The first five are the most important as they comprise the bulk of what is in that particular item. Look for any words that end in “-ose.” That's code for sugar. Look for enriched flours or white flour...another code for sugar.  

If any of those is in the first five ingredients, put the item back on the shelf. It's that simple. Pay attention to the food you feed yourself and your family today and you can cut your risk of developing insulin resistance, inflammation and disease in the future.

Isn't that sweet! 

Tell me, what steps are you taking to lower your, and your loved ones, sugar intake?

DISCUSS: Is there a healthier way to satisfy my sweet tooth?

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