Varieties of sugar

How much sugar is too much and how does it affect your health?

There is no way to sugarcoat it any longer—eating too much sugar can be harmful to your health. But, not all sugar is created equal. Sugar is naturally found in foods that contain carbohydrates, such as fruits, vegetables, grains, and dairy products. Since these sugars occur naturally in wholesome foods, they generally aren’t cause for concern because they come with some nutritional value. The problem arises with added sugars, which food makers secretly sneak into foods and drinks to make them sweeter. These added sugars add calories without offering nutritional benefits. While these added sugars may make foods and drinks taste good, they can have negative effects on your body, your mind, and your health. How much sugar is considered too much and how can you make healthier choices? Consider the bittersweet truth about the ideal daily sugar intake, as well as excess sugar effects on the body, and tips to slash added sugars in your daily routine.

The latest on daily sugar intake

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), the sugar facts state that Americans consume more than 70 grams of added sugar each day, which is nearly twice the recommended limit of 40 added sugar grams per day. An even bigger sugar shock is that American kids take in a whopping 81 added sugar grams per day. That’s more than 65 pounds every year. So, how low in added sugar do you need to go to be considered healthy? The U.S. dietary guidelines recommend the following:

  • Adult men should consume no more than nine teaspoons of added sugar each day, equal to 150 calories or 36 grams.
  • Women should consume even less, limiting themselves to no more than six teaspoons per day, which would be 100 calories or 25 sugar grams per day.
  • Children should limit their added sugar intake to less than six teaspoons per day as well.

Sources of sugar aren’t always obvious

Shockingly, sugary foods like cookies, cakes, and candy aren’t the only things to blame for Americans’ high daily sugar intake. Unfortunately, there is sugar everywhere, even in foods that aren’t supposed to be sweet. You’ll typically find the sweet stuff added to processed, packaged foods, such as frozen meals, ketchup, fruit-on-the-bottom yogurts, salad dressings, jarred pasta sauces, sports drinks, and breakfast cereals, among many other things. Added sugar can also come from sweeteners you add yourself, including that spoonful of sugar in your coffee or bit of honey spread on your toast.

How sugar negatively impacts your health

Experts agree that sugar effects on the body are not so sweet. At first, eating too much sugar leads to weight gain, tooth decay, acne, premature aging, and a lack of energy. After years of consuming too much sugar, health risks become much more serious. Over time, added sugar effects on the body include many chronic health conditions, such as high blood pressure, inflammation, and insulin resistance. With a steady diet of too much sugar, health risks become even more severe, ranging from developing diabetes to cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Find the sweet spot for cutting sugar

Reducing your sugar overload is as simple as cutting down on foods and drinks that contain added sugars. Luckily, there are many ways to scale back on sweetness without feeling deprived at all. Begin by looking at ingredient labels and skimming for added sugars. Be aware that these added sugars are sneaky and go by many different names on ingredient labels, including brown sugar, corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, malt syrup, molasses, agave, and words ending in “ose”, juice, or sweetener. Once you’ve spotted the foods and drinks with added sugars, try making these smarter sugar swaps:

  1. Cut back on sugary foods like soft drinks, baked goods, candy, and sweetened juices.
  2. Avoid highly processed foods by choosing real, whole foods and cooking at home.
  3. Enjoy fresh, frozen, dried fruits, or canned fruits without any added sugars and in moderation.
  4. Sweeten your oatmeal, pancakes, and yogurt with fresh or dried fruit instead of sugar.
  5. Reduce the amount of sugar in your baking to half or even more.
  6. Replace sugar in baking altogether by enhancing your recipes with spices like cinnamon and ginger, or with extracts like vanilla and lemon.
  7. Have fruit for dessert instead of candy, cookies, or cake.
  8. Drink plain or sparkling water instead of juices, sports drinks, and sodas.
  9. Sip unsweetened coffee or tea.
  10. Buy 100% juice without any added sugars.

If you’re concerned about your sugar intake, speak to your SignatureMD-affiliated doctor to make sure that your love of sugar doesn’t negatively impact your health.