From marinara sauce to peanut butter, added sugar can be found in even the most unexpected products. Many people rely on quick, processed foods for meals and snacks. Since these products often contain added sugar, it makes up a large proportion of their daily calorie intake. In the US, added sugars account for up to 17% of the total calorie intake of adults and up to 14% for children. Dietary guidelines suggest limiting calories from added sugar to less than 10% per day. Experts believe that sugar consumption is a major cause of obesity and many chronic diseases, such as diabetes.
Here is why eating too much sugar is bad for your health.
Can Cause Weight Gain
Rates of obesity are rising worldwide and added sugar, especially from sugar-sweetened beverages, is thought to be one of the main culprits. Sugar-sweetened drinks like sodas, juices and sweet teas are loaded with fructose, a type of simple sugar.
Consuming fructose increases your hunger and desire for food more than glucose, the main type of sugar found in starchy foods. Additionally, excessive fructose consumption may cause resistance to leptin, an important hormone that regulates hunger and tells your body to stop eating.
In other words, sugary beverages don’t curb your hunger, making it easy to quickly consume a high number of liquid calories. This can lead to weight gain. Research has consistently shown that people who drink sugary beverages, such as soda and juice, weigh more than people who don’t.
Also, drinking a lot of sugar-sweetened beverages is linked to an increased amount of visceral fat, a kind of deep belly fat associated with conditions like diabetes and heart disease.
Has Been Linked to Acne
A diet high in refined carbs, including sugary foods and drinks, has been associated with a higher risk of developing acne. Foods with a high glycemic index, such as processed sweets, raise your blood sugar more rapidly than foods with a lower glycemic index. Sugary foods quickly spike blood sugar and insulin levels, causing increased androgen secretion, oil production and inflammation, all of which play a role in acne development.
Studies have shown that low-glycemic diets are associated with a reduced acne risk, while high-glycemic diets are linked to a greater risk. For example, a study in 2,300 teens demonstrated that those who frequently consumed added sugar had a 30% greater risk of developing acne.
Also, many population studies have shown that rural communities that consume traditional, non-processed foods have almost non-existent rates of acne, compared to more urban, high-income areas. These findings coincide with the theory that diets high in processed, sugar-laden foods contribute to the development of acne.
Drains Your Energy
Foods high in added sugar quickly spike blood sugar and insulin levels, leading to increased energy. However, this rise in energy levels is fleeting. Products that are loaded with sugar but lacking in protein, fiber or fat lead to a brief energy boost that’s quickly followed by a sharp drop in blood sugar, often referred to as a crash .
Having constant blood sugar swings can lead to major fluctuations in energy levels. To avoid this energy-draining cycle, choose carb sources that are low in added sugar and rich in fiber.
Pairing carbs with protein or fat is another great way to keep your blood sugar and energy levels stable. For example, eating an apple along with a small handful of almonds is an excellent snack for prolonged, consistent energy levels.
Research shows that too much added sugar can:
Increase kidney disease risk: Having consistently high blood sugar levels can cause damage to the delicate blood vessels in your kidneys. This can lead to an increased risk of kidney disease.
Negatively impact dental health: Eating too much sugar can cause cavities. Bacteria in your mouth feed on sugar and release acid byproducts, which cause tooth demineralization.
Increase the risk of developing gout: Gout is an inflammatory condition characterized by pain in the joints. Added sugars raise uric acid levels in the blood, increasing the risk of developing or worsening gout.
Accelerate cognitive decline: High-sugar diets can lead to impaired memory and have been linked to an increased risk of dementia.
Research on the impact of added sugar on health is ongoing, and new discoveries are constantly being made.
SUMMARY: Consuming too much sugar may worsen cognitive decline, increase gout risk, harm your kidneys and cause cavities.
How to Reduce Your Sugar Intake:
Excessive added sugar has many negative health effects.
Although consuming small amounts now and then is perfectly healthy, you should try to cut back on sugar whenever possible.
Fortunately, simply focusing on eating whole, unprocessed foods automatically decreases the amount of sugar in your diet.
Here are some tips on how to reduce your intake of added sugars:
Swap sodas, energy drinks, juices and sweetened teas for water or unsweetened seltzer.
Drink your coffee black or use Stevia for a zero-calorie, natural sweetener.
Sweeten plain yogurt with fresh or frozen berries instead of buying flavored, sugar-loaded yogurt.
Consume whole fruits instead of sugar-sweetened fruit smoothies.
Replace candy with a homemade trail mix of fruit, nuts and a few dark chocolate chips.
Use olive oil and vinegar in place of sweet salad dressings like honey mustard.
Choose marinades, nut butters, ketchup and marinara sauce with zero added sugars.
Look for cereals, granolas and granola bars with under 4 grams of sugar per serving.
Swap your morning cereal for a bowl of rolled oats topped with nut butter and fresh berries, or an omelet made with fresh greens.
Instead of jelly, slice fresh bananas onto your peanut butter sandwich.
Use natural nut butters in place of sweet spreads like Nutella.
Avoid alcoholic beverages that are sweetened with soda, juice, honey, sugar or agave.
Shop the perimeter of the grocery store, focusing on fresh, whole ingredients.
In addition, keeping a food diary is an excellent way of becoming more aware of the main sources of sugar in your diet.
The best way to limit your added sugar intake is to prepare your own healthy meals at home and avoid buying foods and drinks that are high in added sugar.