How Much Sugar is Too Much Sugar?

how much sugar is too much sugar

Sugar has been described as “white death” and “the new smoking” in many recent publications. One striking statistic is that the average American consumes approximately 22 teaspoons of added sugar on a daily basis, which is the equivalent of 35 two-pound boxes per year. The negative effects of sugar include frequent cravings for sweets, feeling sluggish and foggy, breakouts, mood swings, increased likelihood of getting cavities and altered taste buds. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, adults should have less than 10 percent of calorie intake of added sugar.

Daily Intake of Sugar for Adults

If you consume 2,000 calories a day, you are advised to eat less than 200 calories or 50 grams of additional sugar. There are many consequences to consuming too much sugar such as weight gain, metabolic syndrome, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Weight gain from excess sugar consumption occurs because the pancreas releases a hormone called insulin and has to overcompensate. This hormone is triggered when sugar is eaten. It allows cells to transform glucose from food into energy. Insulin resistance occurs when the body cannot respond to normal insulin levels and sugar will not be used properly.

Metabolic syndrome is an assortment of conditions including elevated blood pressure, increased blood sugar and excess body fat around the waistline which heightens the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. One can have a particular outlined condition and not have metabolic syndrome. However, serious health problems can arise if nothing is done about the situation. Lifestyle changes to diet and exercise can put off or prevent further health issues.

Heart or cardiovascular disease occurs when blood vessels are blocked which can lead to a heart attack, chest pain or angina or a stroke. Other forms of heart disease include conditions that affect the heart’s muscle, valves and rhythm. Make healthy lifestyle choices to prevent or treat most forms of cardiovascular disease. Type 2 diabetes happens when individuals have developed insulin resistance.

Sugar is the Culprit for Type 2 Diabetes

An overworked pancreas means that sugar is stored in the blood and cannot be used by the body right away. Multiple factors increase the chances of getting pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes. Being overweight, particularly at the waist, having a sedentary lifestyle, smoking and high cholesterol and triglyceride levels are contributing yet controllable risk factors for type 2 diabetes. A poor diet that consists of lots of red meat, processed meat, dairy products with a high fat content and sweets increases the odds of getting the disease.

consuming too much sugar

If you have a sweet tooth, there are many healthy alternatives in terms of dessert such as baked or grilled fruit. Popular choices of fruit include apples, pears, pineapples and mangos. Sprinkle with spices like cinnamon, cloves or grated ginger. Some berries like blueberries, cherries, strawberries, Acai berries, cranberries and blackberries are full of antioxidants.

Natural Sugar from Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits contain fiber and water which means that natural sugar is absorbed into the body at a slow rate to provide you with steady energy. Choose fresh fruit over dried fruit. Fresh fruit has a high water content and more fiber.

Natural sugar is found is found in fruits, vegetables and milk. Nutrition labels do not distinguish between the amounts of natural sugar and added sugar on many processed foods like yoghurt. A six-ounce container of yoghurt typically has 12 grams of natural sugar and 17 grams of added sugar. The American Health Association (AHA) encourages people to choose foods with natural sugar.

Added sugar is found in high processed foods such as potato chips, candies, chocolates, ice cream, baked goods, soft drinks, energy drinks, sports drinks, canned fruits in syrup, dried fruits, condiments like ketchup and many store bought fruit juices. Some breakfast cereals and crackers have lots of added sugar.

Sports drinks are heavily advertised for athletes because they contain water and electrolytes to restore energy. Coconut water contains natural electrolytes, carbohydrates and a small amount of sodium. With zero calories, drinking water will help with weight loss. Drink water between meals and during workouts to quench your thirst.

Most store bought juices contain preservatives, added sugar, natural flavours and fake colour. Look for juices labelled organic, raw, cold-pressed or HPP. By drinking organic juice, you will not be consuming any pesticides.

Raw juice means that it is freshly made and it is best to drink right away to get the most nutrients. There are many benefits to cold-pressed juice such as a long shelf life and it has the most vitamins, minerals and enzymes due to the extraction process. HPP stands for high pressure processing, which is a method to maintain the best quality for freshness and shelf life. HPP does not use any heat. The bottled beverages are protected against pathogens and any possible food borne illnesses due to the application of intense cool pressure. This process ensures that all the minerals and nutrients are preserved. Water is the best choice because it does not contain any added sugar, artificial flavour or colour.

Sugary cereal is usually full of artificial flavour and colour. Look for healthy breakfast cereals and oatmeal for more protein and fiber. You can eat oatmeal on its own, with milk or add some fresh fruit like blueberries for additional nutrients and taste.

Granola is another great breakfast alternative in moderation. Have a small serving of granola as there are many varieties that can differ in calories, fiber and even added sugar. Read the list of ingredients on the nutrition label carefully to make the right choice.

Sugary foods and drinks are broken down immediately by the body because they lack fiber and water. They do not leave you feeling full at all. Instead, you will want to consume more sugar due to more intense cravings.

Starchy foods like bagels, potato chips, french fries and white rice are complex carbohydrates that are broken down into simple sugars after consumption. Without eating anything more nutritional along with a starchy food, one’s blood sugar level will suddenly rise and fall. Some of the worst culprits are highly processed foods such as pasta, white bread, pretzels, and crackers.

The AHA has found out the maximum caloric recommendations for added sugars. In terms of moderation, women are advised to consume up to 100 calories of sugar a day. The maximum daily recommendation for women is equivalent to 25 grams or 6 teaspoons of sugar. An average 12-ounce can of cola has about 130 calories, which is around the equivalent of 8 teaspoons of added sugar. This can of soda is over the maximum caloric recommendation in terms of added sugar. Refraining from foods and drinks with added sugar is the most ideal for optimal weight loss and overall good health.

Make Changes to Your Sugar Intake

sugar in coffee drinks

There are many ways to make subtle changes to your diet to limit added sugar. Avoid adding sugar to your cup of coffee. There is natural sugar in milk which adds some sweetness from the lactose to balance out the strong taste of caffeine. Choose a natural nut butter like almond instead of store bought peanut butter. Pick plain Greek yoghurt and add pieces of fresh fruit for more taste. There is no need to buy any flavoured yoghurt.

Do not reach for any sugary drinks! Get creative to liven up your water. Add slices of lemon or cucumber to your water instead of adding artificial flavour. Another great way to infuse your water is with some pomegranate or green tea leaves. The refreshing taste from the natural sugar will keep you hydrated and healthy.

The benefits of refraining from sugary foods and drinks far outweigh consuming too much of it. If you eat right, then you will have more energy, be in a better mood and maintain stable blood sugar levels. A good diet and exercise will help to alleviate irritability, cravings for sugary foods and drinks, lethargy, acne and rosacea and those pesky cavities.

Samantha Merz

Samantha lives in Vancouver, BC. Samantha is an avid volunteer in the community, enjoys singing and playing badminton.

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