Sugar seems to have developed a bad reputation for being the major contributor to obesity, type II diabetes, tooth decay, liver diseases, cardiovascular problems, etc. Sugar is naturally found in some food items like milk, fruits, and honey. However, it is the increased consumption of refined sugar or free sugars, that has become a cause for concern for various health organizations. Moreover, you have to reason around a single question which is – What should be the ideal intake of sugar per day?

The basic difference between natural sugar & added sugar

It is essential to understand the difference between natural sugar and added sugar. Vegetables and fruits contain natural sugar. In short, all healthy foods have natural sugar along with other nutrients.

On the other hand, added sugar is added artificially to the food items. Table sugar (sucrose) or high-fructose corn syrup is the most common example of added sugar. Thus, if you are looking to lose weight or maintain a healthy lifestyle then you should look for ways to avoid foods with added sugar.

Why is sugar bad for health?

If you led an active life and exercise regularly, then sugar gives you the extra energy you need for these activities. Unfortunately, most of us lead a very sedentary life, so we don’t need the extra sugar or added sugar in our diet.

Most of the processed food and fizzy drinks that we consume on a daily basis have loads of added sugars that are way beyond what we need.  The high consumption of sugar leads to an increase in our blood sugar levels, which gives us a high.

Unfortunately, this is usually followed by a slump which tends to make us tired and irritable. Regular over-consumption of sugar can cause obesity and heart problems.

How many grams of sugar per day?

According to the World Health Organisation, only 5 percent of our daily calorie intake should come from free sugars. This means about 30 grams of free sugar is recommended per day.  Here is the recommended limit ( American Heart Association AHA) of daily sugar intake for men, women, and children:

  • Men: 37.5 grams (9 teaspoons)
  • Women: 25 (6 teaspoons)
  • Children between the age of 4 to 6: 19 grams (4 teaspoons)
  • Children between the age of 7 to 10:  24 grams (6 teaspoons) 

If you are suffering from obesity or disease like type II diabetes then there is no place for food items, such as soft drinks, processed foods, which has added sugar.

Note: You have to understand that there is nothing called daily sugar allowance. You do not have to consume essentially added sugar since it will do no good for your health. Less added sugar intake will be always better to maintain a good health.

Health problems related to high sugar consumption

  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Suppresses immune response
  • Leads to chromium deficiency
  • Cause tooth decay
  • Changes behavior pattern of children

Why is sugar addictive?

Refined sugars have become an essential part of our daily diet. If you’ve ever tried to cut out sugar from your daily diet, you know how difficult it can be. Does that mean we are addicted to sugar? Well, the answer to this question is ‘yes’, sugar can be highly addictive.

Sugar has an impact on the reward system in our brain known as the mesolimbic dopamine system. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is released by neurons in this system as a reward for sugar consumption. The activation of this reward system can lead to cravings and addiction.

Repeated activation of this reward system can lead the brain to adapt to it. This means that you need to consume more sugar for a similar feeling of reward. This adaptation is similar to the tolerance in drug addicts, which makes them go for higher doses.

People often feel withdrawal symptoms similar to drug addicts when they try to eliminate sugar from their diet.

How to minimize free sugars in your diet?

You must reduce added sugars in your diet to decrease the risk of heart disease. Here are some tips to avoid added sugars

1. Avoid soft drinks

Soft drinks contain vast amounts of added sugars and can be quite addictive, especially for children.

2. Avoid fruit juices

Fruit juices, specially packaged ones, as they contain as much sugar as soft drinks.

3. Candies and sweets

Children are bombarded with advertisements of candies and sweets on a daily basis. Keep your children away from these high-sugar treats are empty calories and should be avoided.

4. Bakery products

Avoid eating cakes and cookies as they are high in sugars and carbohydrates.

5. Low-fat food

When fat is removed from food items to make them fat-free, they can become quite tasteless. So to make them more appetizing, sugar is added. Avoid fat-free products.

6. Drink water

Drink water instead of sugar-laden drinks. Do not add sugar to your coffee or tea. Stevia is an excellent alternative to sugar.

7. Add herbs and spices

Instead of sugar add spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and almond extract to your diet to make them tasty.

8. Add lean protein

Add proteins like fish, chicken, and turkey to your diet. Proteins help to slow down the emptying of the stomach, and this helps control cravings.

 

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Hidden sugar

It is reasonably apparent that the products mentioned above contain sugar and should be avoided. There are, unfortunately, many processed ‘natural’ foods that contain massive amounts of sugars.

It is essential to identify and avoid these foods.

  • Flavored breakfast cereals including the oatmeal variety.
  • Packaged bread including the whole wheat kinds.
  • Granola bars
  • Health drinks like energy drinks and blended juices
  • Flavored yogurts and curds
  • Packaged sauces, dressings and marinades

You must check the ingredients lists of the processed food that you eat. Anything that ends with ‘ose’ like glucose, sucrose, fructose, lactose or maltose has sugar in it. Honey, agave, molasses, and syrups like corn syrup and rice syrup also contain sugar.

Different names for sugar that are added to the ingredient list

  • Brown sugar
  • Malt sugar
  • Raw sugar
  • Corn syrup
  • Invert sugar
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Corn sweetener
  • Honey
  • Syrup

Take away

Most foods do not need added sugar to taste good. Learn to cook without it. Avoid processed food and cook at home whenever possible. Follow these few simple tips to reduce your daily consumption of sugar. If you cannot cut down 100% on daily sugar allowance then at least maintain daily recommended intake of sugar.

Sugar is naturally found in some food items like vegetables, fruits, etc. However, it is the increased consumption of added sugar or sucrose which is a concern for many. Per AHA, daily sugar intake for men should be 37.5 grams, women should consume 25 grams and children should have between 19 to 24 grams