Sugar rots your teeth
What your dentist told you when you were a kid is true. “Oral bacteria love sugar just like we do, and when they feast on it, acid gets released as a byproduct,” says Dr. Sanda Moldovan, DDS. “This acid attacks the enamel of the teeth and allows bacteria to penetrate into the deeper layer of the tooth structure, called dentin.” The more sugar you eat, the more acidic the mouth becomes and the faster cavities develop. Plus, sugar feeds yeast growth, which might make the corners of your mouth or tongue red. “This also comes with a velcro-like feeling, or sensitivity to spicy foods,” she says. The sugar link is also a reason why diabetes is one of the diseases your teeth can reveal.
Sugar raises your risk of depression
Among the top foods that could make your depression worse is sugar, according to research. “I like to tell my patients there’s a truth to the saying, ‘You are what you eat,’” says psychologist Deborah Serani, PsyD, award-winning author of Depression in Later Life. “High levels of sugar in the form of simple carbohydrates leads to spikes and crashes in glucose levels, which can worsen mood, increase irritability, agitation, irregular sleeping, and increase inflammation.” Instead, munch on lean protein, complex carbs, and foods with omega-3s, folate, and B vitamins.
So how much can you have?
Many foods have way more sugar than you realize. The USDA’s Dietary Guidelines say no more than 10 percent of your calories should come from added sugar—for a 2,000 calorie diet that’s 200. The American Heart Association is stricter, with a limit of 100 calories for women and 150 for men. “The term ‘added sugars’ indicates sugars that are added to processed and prepared foods, as well as sugars added at the time of consumption,” says Dr. Saltzman. “Most research focuses on these added sugars as potentially harmful.” For example, if you have a Milky Way, which contains 31 grams (124 calories) of added sugar, you’re practically at your limit already. Bottom line? Read nutrition labels to see how much you’re getting.