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If you’ve watched any of the recent food documentaries, you’ve probably heard that sugar is one of the most common ingredients in the modern diet, but it’s quite possibly one of the worst foods that you are putting into your body.
Not only does it lack nutritional value, but it’s also said that overdoing your daily sugar intake contributes to weight gain and a damaged metabolism.
Since childhood, most of us have heard that you shouldn’t be eating too much sugar anyway.
But is sugar really that bad?
How much sugar per day can you consume before it becomes detrimental to your health?
What are Some Potential Problems Caused by Sugar?
With all of the advisories against eating too many sweets, I’m sure you’re wondering what are some of the problems associated with sugar.
Here are some of the effects linked to consuming added sugar:
- Eating too Much Added Sugar Increases the Risk of Dying from Heart Disease.
A major study showed that added sugar was linked to death from heart disease, even if you aren’t overweight.
The participants who ate 25% or more of their daily calories as sugar were twice as likely to die from heart disease compared to those who ate 10% or less (1).
- Sugar Can Interfere with Your Immune Function.
Do you find yourself getting sick too often? Eating too much added sugar can be the culprit.
Eating too much sugar can depress your immune system, making you susceptible to germs.
Scientists tested the effect of simple carb sugar (e.g.: table sugars and high fructose corn syrup) on the immune system and discovered that sugar can depress the immune system for hours after consumption.
They only observed the immune system for 5 hours, so it is possible that this depression lasts longer.
You can conclude from this experiment that if you consume simple sugar continuously, you can expect your immune system to be regularly impaired.
Avoid simple sugars in baked goods, candies, and soda.
However, the complex sugar such as from peas, beans, whole grains, and vegetables does not have the same effect on your body.
What are Some Healthy Ways to Eat Sugar?
- All Sugar Isn’t the Same
There are several types of carbohydrates that you can find in food: monosaccharides, disaccharides, and polysaccharides.
Monosaccharides and disaccharides are simple carbohydrates, and polysaccharides are complex carbohydrates.
Simple carbohydrates are the simplest carbs that you can eat and tend to have less nutritional value.
Some of these simple carbs occur naturally, such as in milk, but for the most part, they are added sugar.
Some common foods with simple carbs are:
- Sodas and Juice
- Baked Goods
It’s best to avoid these foods because they add inches to your waistline, and raise your insulin levels quickly.
On the other hand, complex carbs tend to be more nutritious because they contain fiber and are digested slowly.
Many of them also have other minerals that your body needs, and are healthy to eat.
And they are more filling, so you won’t feel the need to eat as much if you consume these foods.
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Foods that contain complex carbs are:
- Starchy vegetables
It is recommended to watch what you eat and consume more complex carbs than simple ones.
Simple sugar isn’t healthy, nor is it nutritious, so you can cut it completely out of your diet if you want to.
Try to eat more vegetables when you can, and if you are craving baked goods or sodas, try substituting fruits and water for them instead.
Added Sugars vs. Natural Sugars
After hearing all of the negative consequences of eating added sugar, you may be leery about consuming sugar altogether.
However, it is important to realize that there is a big distinction between added sugar vs. natural sugars that are found in fruits and vegetables.
Natural sugars that you find in your foods are fine to eat because they are paired with water, fiber, and micronutrients.
However, added sugars are the ones that you should worry about.
These sugars, such as table sugar (sucrose) or high fructose corn syrup, have been added to what you are eating and are the ones that you should avoid.
Common foods that contain added sugar are soft drinks, candy, cakes, and even sugar for your coffee.
If you are attempting to maintain a healthier lifestyle, or you are in the process of losing weight, it is best to try to avoid these sugars as they are harmful to your body and will sabotage your weight loss effort.
Are You Eating Too Much Sugar?
In the average American diet, people are consuming much more sugar than the recommended daily intake.
On average, people are consuming more than 66 pounds of added sugar per person, every year (3).
This is too much, and going over the recommended sugar intake might be a key player in obesity and heart disease in the United States (4).
How Much Sugar Per Day Should You Eat?
After knowing sugar’s negative effects, you may be wondering if you should cut it completely out of your diet.
How many grams of sugar per day can you eat?
Unfortunately, this isn’t an easy question to answer.
Some people can eat sugar without any negative consequences, while others should avoid it as much as possible.
According to the American Heart Association, these are the limits of daily sugar intake:
- Women – 100 calories, or 25 grams, of added sugar
- Men – 150 calories, or 36 grams, of added sugar
To give you an idea of how much sugar that is, one 12oz of coke contains 39g of sugar.
That might not seem like a lot at first but, if you think about it, that is almost 10 sugar cubes in just one drink!
If you work out regularly and eat a healthy diet, you may burn off these amounts pretty easily without much harm.
However, if you live a mostly sedentary lifestyle, having just one soft drink a day can start to add up after a while.
Just remember that there’s no nutritional benefit of eating added sugar, so it doesn’t serve any purpose.
Cut out as much added sugar as you can, and substitute for natural sugars if you are having a sweet tooth.
How Much Sugar Should You Eat if You are Overweight or Obese?
If you are overweight and trying to lose weight, it is recommended to avoid added sugar as much as possible.
Because added sugar contributes to obesity, you would be doing more harm than good if you are eating added sugar every day.
It would be best to try to cut it back to at least once or twice a week at the most.
Losing weight is difficult for a lot of people, and diet plays a huge part in weight loss.
Because of this, watch out for processed foods, baked goods, and soft drinks, all which carry a lot of sugar.
It’s also a great idea to count the calories you are consuming.
That way you are knowledgeable about how many grams of sugar per day you are eating (7).
What Should You Do if You’re Addicted to Sugar?
Unfortunately, it’s possible to be addicted to sugar, so cutting it out of your diet may seem impossible.
Science has shown that sugar stimulates the same parts of your brain as cocaine.
Therefore, people cutting out sugar should be treated the same as other drug abusers (8).
Because sugar can be such a powerful addiction, it can make people lose control over how much sugar they are really consuming every day.
If you notice that can’t control your eating habits, binge eat quite often and fail at controlling what you eat (or you must have cheat meals/days), then it is possible that you are addicted to sugar.
- How Can You Control Your Sugar Addiction?
You must control your sugar addiction, in the same way, someone who is withdrawing from drugs or alcohol – cut it completely out of your diet.
It is the only way truly to overcome your addiction and rebuild your diet.
Through abstinence, you can be successful on your journey to better health.
- How Can You Cut Back on Sugar?
You may be wondering how to minimize sugars in your diet, especially if you are addicted or are becoming health conscious.
First, you should know some of the names of sugar:
- high fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
- dehydrated cane juice
Furthermore, there are certain foods that you should consider avoiding if you are cutting added sugars from your diet:
- Soft drinks: Sodas are full of sugars, and you should definitely avoid them if you are cutting added sugar from your diet. If you need a visual on how much sugar is in your soft drink, this site shows you how many sugar cubes are in each drink.
- Fruit juices: When you think of healthy foods, fruit is one of the first things that comes to mind, right? Well, believe it or not, fruit juice can contain just as much sugar as sodas! It’s best just to leave these drinks on the shelves.
- Low-fat and diet foods: Believe it or not, most foods that have been modified for low-fat content actually tend to have a lot of sugar. If you are trying to maintain a low carb/low sugar diet, kick the low-fat foods to the curb.
- Dried fruits: Although they are healthy and contain plenty of fiber and antioxidants, dried fruits contain a lot of sugar. If you are trying to stay away from eating sweets, avoid dried fruit as much as possible (9).
- Baked goods and candies: This should be a no-brainer. Put down your favorite box of cookies and choose some fresh fruit instead. Unfortunately, while tasty, baked goods and candy contain refined carbs, and are very high in added sugar.
It can be hard to make changes in your diet, but if you are trying to eat healthier, you should definitely cut those foods.
Tips for avoiding sugar:
Drink a bottle of water or herbal tea instead of grabbing a soft drink.
Don’t forget to add lemon or lime for some flavor.
It doesn’t hurt to try adding herbs (e.g. cinnamon or ginger) to your food and drinks to substitute for sugar.
Although it’s not recommended for those trying to break a sugar habit, if you must have a little bit of sweetness in your food or drinks, you should definitely consider artificial sweeteners like stevia.
It works well in your coffee, and if you are trying to make low-carb or sugar-free snacks, it’s a great way to flavor your food without the added sugar.
Above all, make sure to avoid processed foods when possible.
They are loaded with added sugar and will hinder your progress if you’re trying to improve your diet.
It is very important to do what is best for you with regard to your diet.
Everyone is different, and sugar will have different effects for each person.
For some, eating low amounts of sugar will not negatively affect your body; for others, you should avoid it entirely.
It’s a good idea to experiment with your diet to determine which approach is the best for you.
If you believe that you would benefit from less sugar, start substituting foods with less sugar content and don’t be too hard on yourself if you slip up.
Just take one step at a time, and you’ll be fine.