Researchers in Sweden discovered that frequent consumption of sugar and high-sugar foods is associated with an increased risk of pancreatic cancer. In fact, the more sugar in your diet, the higher your risk of cancer.
Another study (in 2019) looked at the associations between the consumption of sugary drinks, artificially sweetened beverages, and the risk of cancer. This study included 101,257 participants aged 18 and over. The study followed participants for around 5 years and found that those who regularly consumed sugary drinks had a significantly higher risk of overall cancer. Those who drank artificially sweetened beverages, on the other hand, were not at higher risk. The study also found that consumption of 100% fruit juice was linked to increased cancer risk.
This doesn’t mean that sugar causes cancer as there are so many other factors to consider but there is certainly an indirect link between cancer risk and sugar as highlighted by Cancer Research UK.
Cancer and sugar link
Eating too much sugar frequently will eventually lead to weight gain and being overweight or obese is a well-known risk factor for several different types of cancer. According to Cancer Research UK, being overweight and obesity is the UK’s biggest cause of cancer after smoking. So, it’s a wise move to avoid eating too much sugar as this will make it easier for you to maintain a healthy weight. However, there is no strong evidence to say that avoiding sugar will prevent cancer from spreading/growing.
Sugar has many different names
If you want to reduce your daily intake of sugar to be healthier, then you need to be aware of what actually classifies as “sugar”.
Sugar is not only the white sugar you use in your hot drinks and baking. There are many different types of sugar and you should know that the following are all sugars, just in a different form:
- Agave syrup
- Rice and/or barley malt syrup
- Coconut sugar
- Real fruit jam
- Date syrup
- Fruit juices
Although some of the above types of sugar may be healthier than table sugar, they can still result in weight gain when consumed in excess. It’s true they may contain more nutrients than processed white sugar but they are still high in calories so you should use them in moderation.
How to reduce your sugar intake
Read the food labels
The first step you can take to reduce your sugar intake is to familiarize yourself with foods that have sugar added to them. To achieve this you need to start reading the food labels on foods you buy weekly. Check your cupboards first and when you are in the supermarket, read the food labels carefully.
You will be surprised where you will find sugar – in soups, sauces, bread, dips, spreads, the list is never-ending. The next time you shop, pick healthier options, with no added sugar, if possible.
Stop adding sugar to your hot drinks!
We all love a nice cup of coffee or tea in the morning and you may be one of those people who cannot have their hot drink without sugar. But for your health, you should stop adding sugar to your favourite hot drink.
It may be hard in the beginning so start decreasing the sugar you add slowly. If you normally have 3 teaspoons of sugar, reduce that to 2.5tsp. Try this for one week and then the following week, add only 2 teaspoons of sugar to your drink. After that try 1.5 teaspoons and so on.
Over time your taste buds will adjust and you won’t feel the need to add that much sugar to your drink. The final move is to have your drink unsweetened.
If you cannot have your drink unsweetened, buy one of the natural sweeteners that are lower in calories and not harmful to your teeth. My favourite is xylitol but you could also try stevia and see whether you like it.
Stop buying sugary snacks!
If you are a sugar addict then it’s very likely that your cupboards are full of sugary treats such as biscuits, chocolate, and cakes. The problem is when you have these at home you will just eat them all the time and won’t be able to resist the temptation regardless of your good intentions.
If you really want to reduce your sugar intake you need to stop buying this kind of snacks and stocking your cupboards with them. Not having them at home will really help you reduce your sugar intake. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t treat yourself once in a while, just don’t stock your cupboards with this type of food.
Replace sugary foods and snacks with healthier options
Instead of high-calorie, high-sugar foods try healthier alternatives such as:
- Fresh fruit salad with natural yogurt
- Hummus with vegetables such as carrots, peppers, and cucumber
- Almond butter spread on pieces of apple or banana
- Nut mix
- Homemade popcorn with a little salt
Limit consumption of fruit juices and smoothies
If you think you are doing something good for your health by drinking fruit juice or smoothie every day, think again. Fruit juices and smoothies can be packed with sugar, especially the ones you buy in a supermarket. Some fruit juices have sugar added to them while others simply contain just fruit sugars. In any case, it’s not recommended to drink fruit juices too often as they could result in weight gain due to their high-calorie count. Have them only once in a while and don’t make it a habit to drink them every day.