Too much sugar in your diet can lead to weight gain and tooth decay.
Many people struggle to stop sugar cravings and restrict their daily sugar intake because sugar is almost unavoidable and contained in many of the foods we eat, especially in irresistible sweets and treats.
Don’t worry, a little sugar won’t harm you, and it might even be just what you need, but if you’re having trouble controlling your sugar intake, it’s worth learning what sugar is, how much sugar you can consume each day, and what too much sugar can do to your body.
What exactly is sugar?
Merriam-Webster’s definition of “sugar” is “a sweet crystallizable substance” that is “essential as a source of dietary carbohydrate.” Sugar, as you can see from this description, isn’t as bad as some people say. It’s simply a mixture of elements that provides energy to your body while still tasting sweet.
Types of sugar
Monosaccharides and disaccharides are two types of sugars – Simple sugars are monosaccharides, whereas complex sugars are disaccharides. It’s still sugar in any case.
The terms oligosaccharide and polysaccharide, which relate to monosaccharide strings, may also be used. Oligosaccharides and polysaccharides are complex carbohydrates, not sugars.
Sugar’s other names
Sugar goes by several names. If you walk into your local grocery store and look at the labels of various packaged goods, you can find sugar hidden under 50 (or more) different names.
Here are some popular sugar names:
- High fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
- Cane sugar
- Agave nectar
- Coconut sugar
- Beet sugar
- Raw sugar
- Sorghum syrup
- Maltose Sucrose
Natural sugars vs. added sugars: What’s the difference?
It’s important to differentiate between added sugars and sugars present naturally in fruits and vegetables.
Natural sugars: These are nutritious foods that are high in water, fibre, and micronutrients. Sugar that occurs naturally is perfect, but sugar that is added is not.
Candy contains a lot of added sugar, and it’s also in a lot of processed foods like soft drinks and baked foods.
Standard table sugar (sucrose) and high-fructose corn syrup are the most common added sugars.
If you want to lose weight and boost your health, you should avoid foods that contain added sugars as much as possible.
Sugar intake recommendations
Different health organizations have various sugar intake recommendations, but the basic principle is the same: enjoy sugar when necessary but don’t consume too much of it.
Also, look for added sugars on nutrition labels. Added sugars are different from sugar found naturally in foods because they are added during fermentation.
Take a look at the sugar consumption recommendations from two major health organizations mentioned below.
United States dietary guidelines
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans are updated every five years by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HSS). According to the 2020-2025 dietary recommendations, added sugar should account for less than 10% of daily calories.
On a 2,000-calorie diet, added sugar can account for less than 200 calories. Sugar has four calories per gram, so that you can consume no more than 50 grams of added sugar per day according to the dietary guidelines.
Many people are unaware of how easy it is to eat more than 50 grams of sugar a day. For example, if you like soda, a single bottle of Coca-Cola can leave you with just 11 grams of sugar for the day, while a bowl of cereal can easily supply those 11 grams.
American heart association guidelines
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), people should eat less than the US HSS recommends, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). Men should eat no more than nine teaspoons (36 grams or 150 calories) of added sugar per day. In contrast, women should consume no more than six teaspoons (25 grams or 100 calories) per day, according to the American Heart Association.
Finally, the amount of sugar you can consume per day is determined by your weight, medical conditions, and exercise goals.
Do alternative sweeteners add to sugar consumption?
It depends on how “alternative sweetener” is described. Sucralose (Splenda), saccharin (Sweet ‘N Low), and aspartame (Equal) are actual artificial sweeteners that don’t count against your daily sugar intake because they aren’t sugar, and your body doesn’t process them like sugar.
Such calorie-free sweeteners, such as monk fruit extract and stevia, are also calorie-free and do not add to the sugar intake.
And if you think you’re using an alternative sweetener, sugar with a different name is always sugar. Turbinado is nothing but raw, unbleached sugar. Don’t be fooled by fancy or unknown names into believing you’re using a low-calorie or zero-calorie artificial sweetener.
Before you substitute all of your sugar-sweetened foods and beverages with chemically sweetened alternatives, educate yourself about how artificial sweeteners affect your body (and how they might not help with weight loss after all).
The effects of sugar on your body
Sugar is needed for most of your body’s functions, but too much sugar can be harmful to your health.
What effect does sugar have on your heart?
Heart disease was previously thought to be caused by a high-fat diet, according to health experts. While the types of fats you eat and the amount of fat you consume can affect your risk of heart disease, recent research indicates that a high sugar diet can also have an effect.
A 15-year analysis of men’s heart disease risk found that those who consumed more added sugar had a much greater chance of dying from heart disease than those who consumed less added sugar.
Excess sugar intake is also linked to obesity, a high body fat ratio, high blood pressure, and sedentary behaviour, all of which are risk factors for heart disease.
The effects of sugar on your brain
Excess sugar, according to studies, can damage your brain both immediately and over time. Sugar can impair your ability to concentrate in the short term, but too much sugar may degrade your brain’s memory and learning processes over time, contributing to cognitive decline and possibly, Alzheimer’s.
What effect does sugar have on your teeth?
One of the most common causes of tooth decay is sugar.
Reduce your intakes of sugary foods and beverages, such as cookies, chocolates, cakes, biscuits, sugary breakfast cereals, jams, honey, fruit smoothies, and dried fruit, and restrict them to mealtimes to avoid tooth decay.
Since the sugars in fruit and vegetables are found inside the structure, they are less likely to cause tooth decay.
The sugars are only produced when fruit and vegetables are juiced or blended into a smoothie. These sugars, once released, can cause tooth decay.
To minimize the risk of tooth decay, limit yourself to 150ml (a small glass) of fruit juice and smoothies per day, and drink it with meals.
Sugary squashes, carbonated beverages, soft drinks, and juice drinks have no place in a child’s everyday diet.
If you’re caring for children, substitute sugary beverages with water, low-fat milk, or sugar-free drinks.
How can you monitor sugar intake?
If you think you’re consuming too much sugar, keeping track of it is the first step toward lowering it. Create a list of your usual diet and then look for ways to change it. The following tips should help.
Knowing which foods are high in sugar (and reading diet labels if you’re not sure) is the first step in controlling your sugar intake. Sugar can be present in a variety of natural and processed foods. The sugar content of some foods can surprise you.
The following are some examples of high-sugar foods and beverages:
- Bread made of white flour or white bread
- Snacks like Pretzels and crackers
- Condiments, dressings, and sauces
- Beef jerky with a variety of flavours
- Drinks that are not alcoholic
- Beverages for athletes
- Granola, cereal, and oatmeal in individual servings
- Protein bars and granola bars
- Canned soup
- Nut butter that has been prepared commercially
Since the above list isn’t comprehensive, it’s always a good idea to read food labels if you’re trying to cut down on sugar. Also, bear in mind that not all of the foods mentioned above are high in sugar.
There are several low-sugar or no-sugar-added yogurt options available, such as plain Greek yogurt. Yogurt made with unsweetened nut milk has a lower sugar content by nature. Bread, sauces, drinks, and most of the products mentioned above are in the same boat.
Sugar control for diabetics
For people with pre-diabetes or diabetes, keeping track of sugar and total carbohydrate consumption is vital for blood sugar control. Excess sugar consumption is a preventable risk factor for Type 2 diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association.
However, the good news is that it can be avoided and probably reversed.
Sugar control for weight Loss
If you’re trying to lose weight, cutting back on sugar is a simple way to get started. According to research, excess sugar consumption, especially from foods with added sugars (i.e., sugars that are not naturally occurring), is linked to obesity and related diseases.
It’s worth noting, though, that obsessing about sugar may negatively impact your relationship with food. Furthermore, consuming sugar-free or low-sugar foods does not necessarily result in improved health.
Many foods with such labels use artificial sweeteners, which may not be compatible with your body, or make up for the sugar loss by adding fats or other flavourings.
How to monitor sugar for other conditions
In general, consuming reduced added sugars is beneficial to your well-being. If you have a medical or psychological condition, reducing your sugar intake can make you feel better.
Discuss your choices with your doctor, and together you can formulate a sugar-reduction strategy that suits your current lifestyle and health status.
Sugar management for fitness
On the other hand, if you live an active lifestyle, you do not want to cut back on sugar. Sugar may be beneficial to people who often exercise, compete in sporting events, or have active hobbies.
This is particularly true if you schedule your sugar intake to correspond with your level of activity. For example, if you intend to run a marathon, consuming sugar before and during the race will help you maintain your energy levels and increase your muscular endurance.
How can you reduce sugar intake?
Start by limiting your intake of sugar from obvious sources if you want to reduce your sugar consumption. This means avoiding sugar-sweetened beverages (such as juice, soda, sweetened coffee drinks, and energy drinks) and other related foods.
Check the labels of familiar foods like crackers, pretzels, cereal, granola, and other prepackaged products. Make healthier substitutions or cut down on high-sugar processed foods.
Finally, try to include fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, protein, and healthy fats in your diet. You’ll have no room for added sugar if you concentrate on certain food groups.
Sugar has a place in a balanced, healthy diet, particularly for active people. Moreover, many healthy foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and grains, contain sugar.
Even so, since too much added sugar is harmful to your health, it’s a good idea to keep track of how much sugar you eat daily and reduce your intake if necessary.