Updated: Apr 23, 2019
How Much Sugar is Too Much?
My stepson, Liam, contacted me recently to ask me about how to eat sugar-free. When I delved a little further, I found that he 1) was concerned for his health (yay!) and 2) he ate too much processed food.
I am glad he recognized that sugar is NOT good for you and wanted to do something about it. And I am glad he came to me for guidance.
The problem is that sugar is everywhere. It’s naturally occurring in fruits and vegetables. It’s also added to just about every processed food there is. Why? Because when they make “food items” fat- free, they load it with sugar for taste. And unfortunately, he is in the military and it appears that the choices he has in the mess are mostly fast-food options. Sometimes it is not only a personal choice, it is also a systemic one.
And this “added sugar” is a factor in many chronic and inflammatory diseases that are impacting us every day. Too much sugar is associated with weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and cavities.
So just how much sugar is “too much”?
Before we talk about the “official” numbers you need to know the difference between “added” sugar and “naturally occurring” sugar.
Fruit and other healthy whole foods contain sugar. They also contain water, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other phytochemicals. They are good for you! Eating fruits and vegetables is a well-proven way to reduce your risks of many chronic diseases.
“Added sugars,” on the other hand, are problematic. In 2013, the American Heart Association calculated that about 25,000 deaths per year were due to sweetened beverages. In fact, take a look at this and you decide for yourself about added sugars. “Added sugars” are also in baked goods, candies, soups, sauces and other processed foods. You can find sugar on the ingredient list as many names, often ending in “-ose.” These include glucose, fructose, sucrose, etc.
"Total sugars" = "Naturally occurring sugars" + "Added sugars."
In the USA, nutrition labels on food do differentiate between naturally occurring and added sugars, and it is suggested not to exceed 50 g/day. Unfortunately, this is still more than the American Heart Association’s recommended maximum of 24 g/day added sugar for women, and 36 g/day added sugar for men.
What is a better daily sugar goal?
I am going to go out on a limb and say this. If it has a label on it, don’t eat it. That’s right,
ditch as many processed foods as possible, regardless of their sugar content. There are a ton of studies that show that processed foods are bad for your health. Period. I wouldn’t recommend eating your “daily value” of sugar from sweetened processed foods. I don’t recommend even 50 g of "added" sugar per day. Get your sugar from whole, unprocessed fruits first.
Tips to reduce your sugar intake
● Reduce (or eliminate) sugar-sweetened beverages; this includes soda, sweetened coffee/tea, sports drinks, etc. Instead, have fruit-infused water. Or try drinking your coffee/tea "black" or with a touch of cinnamon or vanilla instead.
● Reduce (or eliminate) your desserts and baked goods and bake your own instead. You can easily reduce the sugar in a recipe by half. Or try my delicious (no added sugar) dessert recipe below.
● Instead of a granola bar (or other sugary snack), try fruit, a handful of nuts, or veggies with hummus. These are easy grab-and-go snacks if you prepare them in a “to-go” container the night before.
¾ cup almond milk (unsweetened)
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp cocoa powder (unsweetened)
½ banana, frozen
Add everything into a blender
Pulse until thick and ice is blended.
If you are interested in trying a sugar-free diet like the one I sent to Liam, contact me. I will send you a free one-week sugar free diet, with the shopping list, the recipes and the meals all mapped out for you.