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Sugar sweetens foods and makes them tasty, but consuming too many foods and drinks with added sugar can harm your health. Some sugar occurs naturally in food, such as fructose in fruit and lactose in milk, but sugar is also added to foods during processing. This added sugar can lead to a number of health problems, including obesity, heart disease, poor nutrition and tooth decay. Avoiding added sugar as much as possible will reduce the risk of health problems.

Sugar that is added to food contributes zero nutrition to your diet, while adding many calories, increasing the risk of obesity and obesity-related diseases, including diabetes and heart disease. According to the American Heart Association, or the AHA, each gram of sugar has four calories, so if a food has 15 grams of sugar per serving, that’s 60 calories from the sugar alone, not counting the calories from other ingredients. If you consume more calories than your body needs to support physiological functions and fuel exercise, you’ll gain weight. To avoid weight gain and obesity-related conditions, the AHA recommends that women consume no more than 100 calories from sugar a day; men should consume no more than 150 calories from sugar daily.

Filling up on sugary foods and drinks leaves little room for healthy, nutritionally dense foods, which can lead to poor nutrition over time. Your body doesn’t need sugar to function properly, but vitamins, minerals, protein and other nutrients are necessary for health. In a large 2003 government survey known as the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination, or NHANES III, increased intakes of added sugars were found to reduce the intakes of calcium, vitamin A, iron and zinc for most age groups. Another study reported by the American Heart Association found evidence that diets high in sugar are slightly lower in important nutrients, compared to diets containing moderate amounts of sugar.

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Unfortunately, a lot of the factors that influence seasonal allergies—like the weather, where you live, humidity, and rainfall amounts—are completely out of your control. But here’s the good news: Even though you don’t have a say over if and when seasonal allergens may strike, you do have control over how your body reacts to them...and it all starts with your gut health.

So what exactly does the gut have to do with all this? You see, nearly 80 percent of your immune system resides in your digestive tract, and it turns out that the trillions of microbes that also live there—known collectively as your gut microbiome—have a huge influence on the balance and performance of your immune function, including: Crowding out and killing the bad guys. Your friendly flora (called probiotics) produce antimicrobial substances and acids—like lactic acid—that can eradicate bad bacteria and other microbes that can make you sick. Protecting your gut barrier. Your intestinal barrier is an important part of your immune system that protects your bloodstream from the external environment of your gut (and all that goes into it!). The good bacteria in your microbiome help increase your gut barrier’s protective mucus layer, and they work to fortify and seal gaps in the intestinal wall. Increasing antibody levels. Beneficial bacteria promote antibody secretion, and they also increase levels of cells that produce immune-boosting antibodies like SIgA.

It’s clear that your gut microbiome plays a big role in how your immune system handles true threats like harmful bacteria or viruses—but we now know that a lack of enough beneficial bacteria in the gut can contribute to the immune system’s inability to distinguish friend from foe, leading to the dreaded immune system overreactions known as allergies.

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When we're babies, we make a lot of mess with our food. By the time we get to be adults, we've pretty much got food messes under control. But when it comes to Nature Valley granola bars, we're all 2-year-olds again, because basically if you look at a Nature Valley granola bar, it falls apart. Fortunately, Slate decided to get to the bottom of this crumbly mess, and find out exactly why General Mills, which owns Nature Valley, doesn't make it a little easier to eat those crispy, crunchy rectangular snacks. And the answer is ... it's all our fault.

"People love the crumbs, they told me," Slate's Jeffrey Bloomer explained in a video accompanying his report. "They grew up expecting the hardness and mess from Nature Valley bars." It is true, we love the crumbs, particularly the ones we don't have to fish out of our car interiors, beds and computer keyboards: Fortunately, there are ways to eat Nature Valley granola bars that prevent a little less of a crumble catastrophe. General Mills told Bloomer that eaters could try warming the bars up in the microwave to soften them first (but take them out of the package first).

This seems to work, according to one test video, but it turned out the tester preferred the taste of the crunchy, crumbly version to the less messy one. Another solution was to eat a bar over a container of yogurt, which would send the crumbles down into the second part of your snacking experience. And a colleague of Bloomer's at Slate also suggested just pre-crunching the whole bar up in the package before opening. Then just open the package and pour the contents directly into your mouth, so all the crumbs will fall precisely where they're supposed to go!