How to Eliminate Added Sugar From Your Diet in 1 Month

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Sugar has never been considered a health food, but lately, the science against it keeps growing stronger. New evidence shows going overboard on the sweet stuff can lead to high cholesterol and blood pressure and a greater risk of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, not to mention excess weight gain. 

Problem is, most people are eating more sugar now than they ever have. The average person consumes about 20 teaspoons of added sugar a day—300 calories worth!—which is four times more than the amount recommended by most health experts, including the American Heart Association. Annually, all those teaspoons add up to 170 pounds of sugar.

So why are we so addicted to sugar? First off, it is literally addicting. When you eat something sweet, you get a surge of dopamine, the chemical in your brain that brings you pleasure. Added sugar is also tough to dodge. Sweetener hides in foods that don't even taste sugary, like breads, sauces and condiments. What's more, it's so hard to decipher the difference between added sugars and the kinds found naturally in whole foods. Eating naturally occurring sugars—like fructose in fruit and lactose in dairy—is generally considered healthy because they contain nutrients with metabolic benefits, such as fiber and antioxidants. Added sugars (sweeteners put into food for flavor) have no such perks.

Those unhealthy added sugars are the type Health had in mind when we created the 30-Day Sugar Detox. This month-long program takes the guesswork out of ditching added sugars from your diet. In four weeks time, you'll have more energy, look slimmer and feel healthier than ever. 

When you sign up, you'll get: 

•    Life-changing lessons on scoping out added sugar, featuring Health's contributing nutrition editor, Cynthia Sass, RD

•    Easy-to-follow recipes that are delicious and low in added sugar

•    The latest research on sugar addiction from Health's contributing medical editor Roshini Rajapaksa, MD

•    Science-backed tips to conquer sweet cravings from Health's contributing mental health pro, Gail Saltz, MD

•    A crash course in healthy desserts, featuring Health's food director, Beth Lipton

•    Weekly grocery lists curated by Cynthia

•    A printable food diary template for tracking your meals, energy, sleep and more

•    Access to the 30-Day Sugar Detox Challenge community, where you can share the tips and tricks that are working for you, and learn new healthy hacks from others who are taking the course

Join us now and say goodbye to your sugar addiction for good! 

Lessons From the E. Coli Outbreak

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The E. coli outbreak in Germany should be a worldwide wake-up call. More than 2,000 people have been severely sickened, and at least 33 people have died — with the potential for more to follow. Initially, the source was thought to be imported cucumbers, but the latest detective work has identified the culprit as sprouts from a farm in Germany.

E. coli is a ubiquitous bacteria. It lives inside our bodies, in our intestines, and within the intestines of basically all mammals. Previous serious outbreaks have occurred when:

  • Ground beef has been contaminated with the cow’s intestinal E. coli — that’s why hamburgers should be cooked to 160 degrees (it’s always safest to assume that beef is a source of E. coli).
  • Restaurant workers have not practiced good hand-washing, and have contaminated food.
  • Children visiting petting zoos haven’t washed their hands between petting animals and eating.
  • Swimming pools or lakes have been contaminated with E. coli.
  • Unpasteurized dairy products and apple juice and raw milk cheeses have caused outbreaks.

Keeping animal waste away from our growing fields is crucial to the safety of our produce. But it’s not always possible to prevent soil from being contaminated with animal waste. In places where there has been flooding, for example, runoff from an area where animals are kept can contaminate a field. It’s unclear what happened with the German sprout farm.

Most times, an E. coli infection from food just causes some inconvenient diarrhea for a day or two. But some strains of E. coli are more dangerous than others. The severely virulent strains in Germany caused severely painful abdominal cramping, bloody diarrhea, and kidney failure.

Some people are at higher risk for falling ill from E. coli — the very young and the very old, for example, as well as people who have weakened immune systems (due to cancer treatment, HIV infection, steroid use, or anti-rejection organ transplant medications).

If you might have an E. coli infection, your health care provider will probably send off a stool sample to be tested. This identification is important, both to confirm the specific diagnosis for the sake of your treatment, and to identify the specific E. coli strain responsible for your illness. Determining the genetic E. coli fingerprint is important from a public health standpoint, and will be used to try to track down the source if your illness turns out to be part of a larger outbreak.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for E. coli infection. Supportive treatment includes making sure the ill person remains well-hydrated, using intravenous fluids if necessary. Anti-diarrhea medicines are not recommended, since diarrhea serves the purpose of flushing E. coli from your system. While most people will recover within about a week, others will suffer the severe kidney complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS).

The cold, hard truth is that this kind of thing can happen anywhere. The food chain is imperfect, and no amount of monitoring can totally ensure food safety. So what can you do? In addition to following instructions for fully cooking beef products, here are some tips to try keeping your produce safe:

  • Always wash your hand after using the bathroom and before handling food.
  • Rinse all produce before eating — even bagged products that tout themselves as safe to eat have been found to contain E. coli.
  • Rinse before cutting — there’s no way to slice into a melon or an orange without transferring what’s on the rind or skin to the fruit you’ll be eating, so thoroughly rinse the outside first.
  • Don’t be afraid to soap up your produce before rinsing — it’ll improve the cleanliness, and the soap will rinse right off.
  • To improve the chance your produce is safe, peel your fruits and vegetables before eating, and consider cooking them.