Written By: Stephen Davis O.D.
When I decided that I wanted to eat healthier this year, I knew I needed to pick a small area to focus on. I wanted to work on something that would give me the most bang for my buck.
So what did I pick?
Sugar happens to be my favorite song (Sugar, by Maroon 5) and also my favorite snack. But Donald Hensrud, the medical director of the Mayo Clinic Healthy Eating program said, “If you look at all the things in our diet we can change, pulling away from refined or added sugar will do more good than anything else.”
Why Should We Avoid Sugar?
“Sugar is the universal inflammatory”, says Heidi Turner, M.S., R.D.N., a medical nutrition therapist at The Seattle Arthritis Clinic. “Everyone is sugar intolerant.”
Sugar can negatively affect your body in many ways. It has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, type two diabetes, depression, and cellular aging. Sugar has also been linked to things like acne, and has been proven to drain your energy. Even the healthiest people aren’t exempt from sugar’s negative side effects.
Sugar & Eye Health
Sugar can even negatively impact your vision.
Eating too much sugar can leave your eyes more at risk of developing cataracts, glaucoma, maculopathy, proliferative retinopathy, and blurry vision. A diet high in sugar also increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
In fact, diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in adults in the US.
When your blood glucose levels (sugar) become too high for your body to break down, your lenses can swell. If left untreated, this can lead to diabetic retinopathy and blindness.This is why it is vital for type 1 and type 2 diabetics to manage their diabetes with the help of health care professionals and see their eye doctor on a regular basis.
Increase Good Sugar, Decrease Bad
Not all sugar is created equal. The sugar found in fruits is packed with phytonutrients, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Processed foods high in sugar often have little to no fiber, allowing the sugar to pass quickly through the bloodstream (hence the sugar crash).
Eliminating processed sugar completely from my diet wasn’t realistic for me long term. But switching out the semi-regular bowl of ice cream at night for a smoothie full of fresh fruits was feasible. And instead of snacking from the candy bowl at work all day, I’m trying to pack high protein snacks to fill me up and get me through the day.
You don’t need to change your entire diet or run a marathon to take care of your health. Small, simple, and sustainable changes are often the ones that have the most lasting impact.