Is Sugar Really That Bad?
This is a question I get a lot as a Health Coach. No one really wants to believe it is, but as I dug deep, it's hard to ignore some cold hard facts. Sugar is an unregulated ingredient, which means that companies can put as much added sugar in a food product as they want, making it more palatable and addictive by the gram. And unless you actively search out the information on how much added sugar you should have in a day, the info eludes us. But don't fear, I found some:
Added sugar consumption guidelines from the American Heart Association (AHA):
Men- no more than 36 grams of added sugar a day/nine teaspoons/150 calories
Woman- no more than 25 grams day/six teaspoons/100 calories
Children should have less than 25 grams of added sugar daily/six teaspoons/less than 100 calories a day.
With those quantities in mind, if you look at what we are really eating you'd be shocked at the numbers. According to an article in WorldAtlas the people of the United States consume more sugar than any other country in the world. On average, Americans consume 126.4 grams of added sugar a DAY! That represents 1/4 of a pound of sugar a day, and American children are consuming over 76 grams of added sugar a day, three times more than what the AHA recommends.
Does it matter if we are eating too much sugar?
The AHA says that eating food high in added sugar is tied to developing a string of health concerns including heart disease, obesity, and high blood pressure. And other reports state that consuming too much added sugar has been linked to acne, dental issues, may increase your risk of depression and increases cellular aging. People with highest added sugar intake also have the lowest micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) consumption because they are eating empty calories with no nutritional value, leading to feelings of fatigue, damaging metabolism, and causing immune system run down because we are not getting the correct energy we require to thrive.
The Pumpkin Spice Latte
Here is the perfect example of a food we love, but probably have no idea how much sugar is in it. One grande Pumpkin Spice Latte has 50 grams of sugar, over double the amount of sugar a child is supposed to have in a day, yet, numerous children and adults all over the United States will drink this as their breakfast, or a mid-day pick me up. This latte on top of the other added sugar they are consuming a day, and it's easy to see how we can get to that average of consuming 124 grams of sugar a day.
How can we minimize added sugar in our diets?
Read labels, and almost anything with a food label will have added sugar in it. Watch those grams and add them up!
Eat real food, fruit does contain fructose but also has water, fiber and a plethora of micronutrients our bodies need! On the flip side- avoid processed packaged foods that are sometimes loaded with 2-3 different types of added sugars, and avoid anything that has a commercial on TV, it is just bad news.
Avoid sugary drinks! 1/3 of all calories Americans consume come from drinks with added sugar. The CDC reports that 6 in 10 youth (63%) and 5 in 10 adults (49%) drank a sugar-sweetened beverage on a given day. Sugary drinks include soda, fruit drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks, sweetened waters, and coffee and tea beverages with added sugars. Pro-tip: drink fruit infused water instead, add some lemon or lime!
Be aware that added sugar has numerous other names, and just because it's a "health food" doesn't make it healthier, agave, honey, organic cane sugar, coconut sugar are all added sugars.
Replace sweet salad dressings with olive oil and vinegar, and watch the added sugar grams in sauces and dressings, especially BBQ.
Increase your protein intake to reduce cravings, and it also makes you feel full and satisfied for longer.
Eat well-balanced meals- fiber, greens/fruits, protein and good healthy fats. Think a flavorful green salad with grilled chicken, olive oil and vinegar, and avocado, the perfect meal!
The Bottom Line
Awareness is critical, just the simple act of reading labels will help you cut the amount of added sugar from your diet tremendously. Trading in sugary drinks for citrus infused water will make a significant impact on your health. Once you start to cut the added sugar grams out, watch for an uptick in energy, more mental clarity and an overall feeling of wellbeing. You deserve to feel your very best; making small mindful tweaks to your diet will help your mind and body hum and give you high energy to accomplish the things your heart desires.
In good health,