Why is sugar so bad for you? One of the main reasons is that it creates inflammation in the body. Inflammation is a major factor in the development of many chronic diseases. Sugar also raises blood pressure and affects how your body regulates its blood sugar levels. The body also begins to store excess sugar as fat. Basically, eating too much sugar puts you at risk for obesity and chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.
The American Heart Association recommends limiting your daily intake of added sugar to these amounts:
- Women: 25 grams or 6 teaspoons
- Men: 36 grams or 9 teaspoons
Unfortunately, the average person’s sugar consumption is double or even triple these amounts. To put that in perspective, 1 can of soda contains 8 teaspoons of sugar. So, just 1 can alone is more than the recommended amount of sugar for an entire day for an adult woman.
How can you begin to cut down on your sugar intake?
- Check the nutrition facts label. For processed/packaged foods, check the nutrition facts and ingredients listed on the package for how many grams of sugar an item contains. Try to keep track of how much sugar is in the foods you are eating. This will help you limit sugar in your diet.
- Watch out for sugars in disguise. One way to figure out if sugar has been added is to look for alternative words for sugar. Many words ending in “-ose” are sugars; for example, sucrose, glucose, maltose, dextrose. Other sweeteners that you want to avoid or limit include high fructose corn syrup, corn sweetener and any phrase containing the words “syrup” or “sweetener”.
- Be mindful of beverages. One of the main culprits of sugar overload is drinks. Soda, fruit drinks, energy drinks, sports drinks, sweet tea are all high in sugar and very low in nutritional value. Coffee and tea are naturally low sugar options, but adding sugar, honey, or syrups can really add up per cup. Keep in mind one teaspoon of sugar added is about 5 grams of sugar.
- Choose a healthier breakfast. Try to avoid donuts, muffins, pastries, flavored yogurt, flavor package oatmeal, and cold cereal. Instead, choose whole-grain foods low in added sugar. This includes plain oatmeal, whole-wheat toast, and even Greek yogurt.
- Satisfy your sweet tooth, with the right portion size. If you enjoy having sweets every day, limit it to 1 small serving per day. You don’t have to deny your cravings, but you can limit how much and how often you have sweets. Some sweet items, like dark chocolate or fruit, have some health benefits and make good daily treats. A 1-ounce serving of dark chocolate has 8g of sugar. You could easily have half a square of dark chocolate after lunch, and the other half after dinner. Instead of a heavy dessert, choose fruit. Fruit in season at the peak of ripeness is a sweet, guilt-free, healthy alternative.
Protect your health by making changes now to reduce sugar in your diet. Review the tips above and start with something you can easily achieve but would have a large impact. Your body will thank you in the long run!
Author: Lisa Henderson, MS, RDN