According the American Heart Association, men should consume less than 150 calories from sugar per day (9 tsp. or 38 grams), and they advise women to stick with 100 calories per day from sugar (6 tsp. or 24 grams).
To avoid the increased risk of heart attacks, immune-system suppression and premature aging associated with sugar intake. (Not to mention the storage of excess belly fat.)
So if you decide to drink just ONE can of regular soda, you’re toast.
That’s not even counting all the “hidden” sugar that’s probably
going into your body every day.
And that’s really the question you should be asking yourself:
How Much Sugar Do You REALLY Consume?
- Agave nectar
- Brown rice Syrup
- High-fructose corn syrup
- Evaporated cane juice
- Malt syrup
Watch out for items that list any form of sugar in the first few ingredients, or have more than 4 total grams of sugar.
Sugar can hide in foods where you least expect it. Although they don’t seem sweet, ketchup, barbecue sauce, and pasta sauce can have loads of sugar. So can reduced-fat salad dressings, bread, baked beans, and some flavored coffees. Get in the habit of reading labels. Filter out high-sugar foods before they hit your shopping cart.
Sugar itself doesn’t cause diabetes. But lots of sugar splurges can point you there. Too much of anything, including sugar, can pack on pounds. Heavy bodies have a harder time using insulin, the hormone that controls blood sugar. When your body resists insulin, blood sugar and your risk of diabetes go up.
Honey, brown sugar, and cane juice may sound healthy. But sugar is sugar. Whether it comes from bees or sugar cane, it can cause your blood sugar to rise. Honey and unrefined sugars are slightly higher in nutrients, but their calories still count.
Sugar fuels every cell in the brain. Your brain also sees sugar as a reward, which makes you keep wanting more of it. If you often eat a lot of sugar, you’re reinforcing that reward, which can make it tough to break the habit.
Some people use sugary foods in ways that aren’t healthy, even though it may not be an actual addiction.
Some signs you may have a sugar addiction:
- You crave sugar and sugary foods
- You lose control, and eat more than you planned
- You get a rush when you eat a midday candy bar – the sugar in it — called a simple carbohydrate — is quickly turned into glucose in your bloodstream. Your blood sugar levels spike. Simple carbs are also found in fruits, veggies, and dairy products. But these have fiber and protein that slow the process. Syrup, soda, candy, and table sugar don’t. You get that ‘rush’ followed by a crash.
Your body needs to move glucose out of the bloodstream and into your cells for energy. To do this, your pancreas makes insulin, a hormone. As a result, your blood sugar level may have a sudden drop. This rapid change in blood sugar leaves you feeling wiped out and shaky and searching for more sweets to regain that sugar “high.” So that midday candy bar has set you up for more bad eating.
Maybe you don’t have a sweet tooth but you still crave salty fries, chips bagels, and etc? These starchy foods are complex carbs that the body breaks down into simple sugars. Eaten without better foods, starches can make blood sugar surge and crash like sugar. White rice, white flour, and potatoes do this. Highly refined starches like white bread, pretzels, crackers, and pasta are the worst.
Can you beat your sugar habit by quitting cold turkey? Some sugar detox plans urge you to avoid all sweets. That means all fruit, dairy, and refined grains. The idea is to purge your system of sugar. Diet changes like this are too drastic to keep up. Changes that you can do only for the short term mean you’ll fall back to your old habits.
The good news is you don’t have to give up sweetness – just get it from other sources. Try fresh berries or pureed fruit on oatmeal instead of sugar. Explore fruit that’s dried, frozen, or canned (without too much added sugar).
Eating enough protein is an easy way to combat sugar cravings. High-protein foods digest more slowly, keeping you feeling full for longer. Protein doesn’t make your blood sugar spike the way refined carbs and sugars do. Pick proteins like lean chicken, low-fat yogurt, eggs, nuts, or beans.
Fiber also helps fight a sugar itch in many ways. First, it keeps you full. High-fiber foods also give you more energy. Because they don’t raise your blood sugar, there’s no hungry crash after. Choose fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Or smear some peanut butter on an apple for a protein/fiber combo.
Exercise can help wipe out those sugar cravings and change the way you eat in general. You start to feel better and want healthier foods. Do what you like, such as walking, riding your bike, or swimming. Start out slow, and work toward at least 30 minutes at a time, 5 days a week.