Cut Down on Sugar and Boost Your Smile
Reducing the sugar in our diets is on many of our ‘to do’ lists. With health forefront in our minds this year - make it the one you put those plans to cut sugar into action. Most of us eat too much sugar – on average, Britons eat 140 teaspoons per week or the sweet stuff. That’s bad news for our health as well as our teeth.
Sugar comes in many forms and confusing labelling may mean you’re eating way more than you think. Sucrose, glucose, fructose, corn syrup... that’s just some of the other names it’s given – and none of it is good for us. Added sugars, such as table sugar, honey and syrups, shouldn't make up more than 5% of the energy you get from food and drink each day. That's about 30g a day for anyone aged over 11.
To reduce your daily sugar intake, try to prepare as many meals as you can from scratch to make sure hidden sugars don’t crop up. For example, many breakfast cereals are very high in sugar – even so-called “healthy” granola and muesli options. Swapping a bowl of sugary breakfast cereal for a plain option could cut up to 22 sugar cubes from your diet over a week. Opt for plain porridge, cereal biscuits or shredded wholegrain pillows to give yourself plenty of healthy fibre and slow-release energy for the morning ahead. Adding fruit or dried fruit will help naturally sweeten and add flavour – raisins, chopped dates, apple and cinnamon, and bananas are all great options that will help stabilise your blood sugar levels. Many shop-bought soups and sauces contain added sugar, so try to prepare lunches and dinners yourself at home to ensure you can cut this out.
If you’re cutting down on sugar, consider your snacks and drinks too. These can really add to your daily sugar intake. If you add sugar to drinks like tea and coffee, try to cut down the amount or add sweeteners instead. Herbal teas are an option to enjoy a sweeter, refreshing flavour without sugar. Fizzy drinks and fruit juices are high in sugar and should generally be avoided altogether. If you snack on sugary foods like chocolate, sweets and cereal bars, try to replace these with healthier choices like unsalted nuts or rice cakes, fruit or homemade plain popcorn. It’s easy and cheaper to make your own cereal bars too – sweet dried fruits like dates can help add flavour and replace your usual sugary option.
If you’re finding the switch to sugar-free too challenging, enjoying a little of what you fancy can help keep your cravings in check. One square of dark chocolate, a fun-sized bar, almonds mixed with chocolate chips... these can take the edge off the craving without overloading your body and teeth with sugar. Keep healthy snacks handy wherever you are, so when you feel a hunger pang, a drop in blood sugar or a craving, you can ward it off. A container of nuts, seeds and dried fruit is a healthy treat that delivers a longer-lasting energy boost than a biscuit.
Sugary food and drinks are one of the main causes of tooth decay. So, cutting down on the sugar in your diet will benefit your oral health, too. Acid is produced when the bacteria in your mouth break down the sugar. This acid dissolves the tooth surface, which is the first stage of tooth decay. Some sugars occur naturally in food and drink, such as fruit, honey and milk. Natural sugars occur in dried fruit, too, so it should only be eaten in moderation. All sugars can cause decay. Eat carefully and try and stick to drinking water and milk.
Every time you eat or drink anything sugary, your teeth are under acid attack for up to one hour. The sugar will react with the bacteria in plaque and produce harmful acids. It is best to eat and drink sugar at mealtimes to limit the amount of time your mouth is at risk. To reduce the chance of tooth decay, brush at least twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste. It is particularly important to brush before bed. This is because the flow of saliva, which is the mouth's own cleaning system, slows down during the night - leaving the mouth more at risk from decay. If you’re worried your brushing technique isn’t up to scratch, our disclosing tablets and unique Plaque GLO disclosing toothpaste for kids will check that all members of your family are properly cleaning their teeth.