fig tart fruit dessert

The holidays are a time for indulgence, but when it comes to sugar, you might want to be careful about how much you consume. The excessive amount of added sugar that many people consume has been linked to negative health outcomes. On top of the negative effects of sugar highs and lows, recent research has linked sugar to poor memory, depression, and overeating.

Keep that sweet tooth at bay with these healthy holiday tips.

Your Brain on Sugar

When your diet is too high in added sugar, your brain's ability to produce a chemical called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is diminished. Your brain needs BDNF for basic processes, such as learning and forming new memories.

According to research reported in the journal Psychiatry Research, low levels of BDNF also have been linked to other chronic conditions, such as dementia and depression.

What's more, if you're trying to lose weight, eating too much added sugar may hinder your best efforts. A study reported in the journal Peptides found that eating too much sugar over a long period might interfere with the body's ability to recognize when it’s full.

The researchers theorized that this could lead to overeating, and possibly excessive weight gain.

Tip 1: Swap Desserts for Fruit

The human brain does need sugars to function normally, but those naturally occurring in fruits and grains are best. Fancy a sweet dessert? Try a bowl of berries and cream. By making the switch, you not only avoid sugar-related health problems, but you provide your body with nutrients.

Bonus: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a diet rich in fruits may help reduce your risk of developing cancer and other chronic diseases.

Tip 2: Drink Fewer Sodas and Juices

While you may be aware of the types of sugary foods to avoid, you might not be so careful when it comes to beverages. A single can of soda contains about 33 grams of sugar, or about 11 teaspoons. Drinking a can of pop a day equates to about 35 pounds of sugar a year. Consuming such a high amount of sugar increases your risk for a number of serious health problems, including heart diseasediabetes, and obesity.

Everyone knows that soda isn’t good for you, but many juices contain refined sugars or a mix of super sweet juices. For example, grape or apple juice concentrate is loaded with natural and added sugars. How does that match up to soda?

A 10-ounce serving of ruby red grapefruit juice contains about 40 grams of sugar, or about 10 teaspoons! Drinking ordinary grapefruit juice is slightly better. Unsweetened grapefruit juice contains about 30 grams of sugar per 10-ounce serving. That’s a little more than seven teaspoons.

Take the first step toward reducing your sugar intake. Try to replace at least one sugary beverage with water, seltzer, or herbal tea. Remember to read the nutritional information before you start sipping.

Tip 3: Avoid Added Sugars

By learning what to look for on food labels, you can avoid the added sugars found in many prepared foods. Check vigilantly for ingredients that end in the letters "ose," such as glucose, fructose, dextrose, and maltose.

Other added sugars to watch out for include:

  • cane juice or syrup
  • high-fructose corn syrup
  • corn sweeteners
  • honey
  • molasses
  • nectars
  • fruit juice concentrate

Healthy Hint: Choose Health Over Sugar

You can take steps to cut back on sugar this holiday season. And remember, you don't need to cut out sugar completely. If there's a holiday treat you've been waiting for all year, feel free to allow yourself a little indulgence.

The most important thing is to cut back on the added sugars that you consume on a regular basis. You'll be amazed what a big difference a small change can make over time. Although it can be tough to make healthy food choices, you'll feel better in the long run, leading to happier holidays for years to come.