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21 March 2019

Can we really kick our sugar habit, for better general and oral health?

The vast majority of us will eat sugar on a daily basis, most of us probably in larger quantities than is good for us. Even if we don’t add spoonfuls of sugar to our tea, coffee or morning cereal, sugar is everywhere, hidden in ready made products and often ‘disguised’ using names such as fructose and sucrose.

In today’s Confidental Clinic Surbiton blog, we take a look at how and why we consume too much sugar, the damage that it does to our teeth and overall health, and finally, some advice on how to kick the sugar habit.

Why do we eat too much sugar?

Sugary foods are almost always a popular choice with young children. For some, this taste carries on into our adult years, even if we don’t eat quite as much of it as we thought we might do, once we had the freedom to. It may be that some of its appeal is simply holding on to childhood memories, but it is also true that sugar is ‘hidden’ in many foods and drinks; even savoury ones in many cases, leading to us consuming it ‘accidentally’ in many instances.

The coffees that we buy from coffee shops can be very high in sugar too, sometimes exceeding NHS guidelines for daily consumption in just one drink. ‘Sports’ and high energy drinks are also high in sugar and seem to be gaining in popularity these days.

The reality is that sugar, to most of us, tastes great, so why is there a problem?

Our health

The rise in consumption of sugar has contributed, along with high fat foods, to an obesity epidemic. Over time, this is likely to lead to an increase in illnesses such as diabetes and heart problems, and, despite medical advances, it is quite possible that life expectancy will fall in the years to come unless this issue is addressed. As dentists, we see many of our Surbiton patients that need fillings or extractions due to an over consumption of sugar. Although a good cleaning and flossing regimen will help to minimise this, if you eat too much sugar, you will almost certainly eventually need dental treatment.

How to kick the sugar habit

Sugar can be addictive. Most of us will, at some point, have had a sugar craving and reached for a chocolate bar, or similar, to satisfy it. With so many ready made food products containing often very high levels of it, how can we possibly kick the habit? Whilst some people may be able to say “enough is enough” and simply stop eating it, for most of us a more gradual approach is likely to lead to a more successful result.

The following are some tips which may help anyone looking to cut down or quit sugar entirely.

  • Be kind to yourself. Try to reduce your sugar habit gradually. Start by eating a few less chocolates (or whatever your guilty pleasure is) each day. Gradually cut down any sugars that you add to tea and coffee.
  • Try to rely less on ready cooked meals and try cooking some simple meals at home. There are lots of recipes readily available online to help you.
  • Switch, or partially and gradually switch, to an artificial sweetener
  • Opt for water when you are thirsty instead of a fizzy drink. These nearly all contain not only high sugar levels, but acids too, that will gradually erode the enamel on your teeth.
  • Buy sugar free condiments and products if you use these
  • Have a healthy breakfast. This will help you to avoid the mid morning slump when you are likely to reach for a cake or pastry to give yourself an energy boost.

The reality is that, as adults, we can train our taste buds to enjoy different tastes. Once you have kicked your sugar habit; if you tried adding back the amount of sugar that you used to put into a drink, we suspect you would be surprised how sweet you find it and probably find it to be quite an unpleasant taste.

Good luck to any Confidental Clinic patients who are attempting to reduce their sugar consumption! Remember though, that even with a sugar free diet, you still need to have your teeth and gums checked regularly. You can make an appointment for one, at our Surbiton dental practice, by calling us on 020 8399 1291. We look forward to helping you establish and maintain great oral health!

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