Residents of Van Nuys and elsewhere don’t need a special occasion to learn more about the potential risks and benefits of sugar in your life, although there are actually multiple week-long celebrations that take place that they or their caregivers can enjoy.
Some people prefer to commemorate Sugar Awareness Week in mid-November, and others look forward to the January version.
The staff at Accredited Home Care doesn’t have a preference, as long as you take the general principles seriously and look for ways to reduce your sugar intake and in the process help your health. If someone comes up with another sugar week later in the year, the same lessons can be applied.
Generally most of us know that we should go easy on the sugar, but that our typical daily diet contains significantly much more sugar than is recommended. Most foods are better with the sweet taste sugar provides, right?
Truthfully, a small amount actually can play a useful role in our nutrition, especially natural sugars that are found in fruit, vegetables or milk.
But when we get into giant servings of unhealthy food, super-sized soft drinks and energy drinks, and jumbo-sized desserts, that’s where the health risks increase. Even artificial sweeteners that some people use as a substitute for natural sugar may also be harmful.
What kind of risks? Plenty of them, according to WebMD. The online health resource says that excessive sugar can negatively impact teeth, joints, skin, and organs, along with your body weight and sexual health.
It can also increase the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and other inflammation. High sugar consumption is also believed to be a factor on other diseases and health conditions such as diabetes and general obesity.
Plenty of sugar
So how much sugar are we eating, besides too much? The answers vary from person to person and provider to provider, but generally the U.S. Department of Health recommends that sugar should be, at most 10 percent of our daily nutrition, which is about 12 teaspoons for a 2,000-calorie diet.
Healthline says the typical adult American has an average sugar intake of around 17 percent, and children have an average intake of up to 14 percent.
Some products contain even more than natural sugars – these are called added sugars, and they’re worse for our bodies. starting by adding extra calories and not delivering much positive in return such as nutrients. Refined sugars, which can often be found in processed foods, can be even worse.
All in all, the average American has about 270 calories of sugar a day, or about 17 tablespoons.
Trying to measure better
Caregivers, family members and other loved ones trying to reduce sugar intakes for seniors do face some challenges.
Some people may love the taste of sugar. Many never learned healthy eating habits, and many grew up when many people added their own sugar to their meals, often the form a sugar bowl next to the salt and pepper.
However, learning or re-learning these habits can be tricky as well as finding the right balance between a bland diet and too much sugar.
At this point, they also may already have health conditions that benefit from having a close look regularly at their blood sugar levels, such as diabetes.
In this case, there are several tools available to measure levels, starting with an A1C test, which examines glucose levels over a three-month period. This is recommended at least twice a year for those with Type 2 diabetes.
Urine tests can let providers see glucose levels.
There are also glucose monitors which measure current blood glucose levels before and after meals and when resting. These can help establish regular patterns when blood sugar may be especially high or low and can indicate if there are any imbalances that should be shared with a caregiver or health provider.
People with Type 1 are encouraged to test at least four times a day. The frequency for Type 2 can depend on the severity and a provider’s recommendation.
Insulin shots replenish sugar levels that may be lost. These can be given as needed if levels can reach dangerous levels or if sugar isn’t being stored properly. There are also some devices which can monitor your levels all day and inject as needed to provide a constant flow.
Look for ways to cut back
Even if it may be difficult sometimes to constantly measure sugar levels, you can still take steps to reduce them. The John Hopkins Medicine site suggests one easy way is by making changes to your diet by adding more leaner foods with higher protein, such as chicken or turkey. Some extra-lean cuts of ground beef are all right, as are some roasts. More whole grain items such as healthier breads and cereals also are beneficial.
Portion size also can affect the amount of consumed sugar, especially at restaurants which are notorious for over-serving. If someone has a smaller meal, they may be more satisfied and have less blood sugar concerns.
Even opting out of dessert after a meal, eating a smaller size or sharing with someone can go a long way in reducing one’s regular sugar consumption.
Overall, the staff at Accredited Home Care can provide other suggestions for ways to cut out or at least cut down on sugars.