We all know that sweet treat favorites like jelly beans, regular soda, and chocolate bars taste oh-so-good because of the addition of sugar. Eating sugar can appease our need for some sweetness by offering a distinct taste that many of us crave. From celebrating Halloween with a piece of candy to ringing in another birthday with a slice of sugary cake, eating added sugars are a part of life for many of us.
But unfortunately, eating too much sugar does come with some downside. Sure, eating food with added sugar tastes terrific, but eating too many added sugars is simply not recommended for several health reasons. As such, many people are trying to limit their added sugar intake by making smarter food choices that still taste great and satisfy the desire to eat delicious and flavorful food.
If you have ever wondered what the actual risks associated with eating too many added sugars are, read on to gain some serious knowledge bombs.
What Are Added Sugars
Before we dig into the risks associated with eating too many added sugars, we need to establish what added sugars actually are. While many of us understand that adding table sugar to our drinks, baked goods, and other dishes is considered to be added sugar, there are some other less obvious culprits.
Along with traditional table sugar, here are some other sources of added sugars that are popular in many of our diets:
- agave nectar
- brown sugar
- cane juice
- corn syrup
- high-fructose corn syrup
- maple syrup
While there are some obvious sources of added sugars --- like regular soda and gummy bears --- these ingredients can be hidden in certain healthy-sounding items, including specific jarred pasta sauce, protein bars, nut butters, and even salad dressings, depending on the brands and ingredients included.
Added sugars add sweetness to food and drinks. Still, they can also add too many empty calories, and when consumed in excess, can increase the risk of developing certain unsavory health effects.
How No Added Sugar and Low Sugar Foods Benefit Our Health
The American Heart Association recommends that Americans consume no more than 6% of calories each day from added sugars. For most American women, that means no more than 6 teaspoons of sugar every day, on average. A maximum of 9 teaspoons for American men should be the goal, depending on his height, weight, and other factors.
Other expert-based recommendations, like the suggestions established by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, have agreed that limiting added sugars is a wise choice, and have recommended that people over the age of 2 years limit their added sugar intake to no more than 10% of their total calories.
Having these limitations allows people to eat some added sugars every day without overdoing it an opening themselves up to potentially experiencing some unwanted health effects.
So, how does limiting your added sugar intake, and instead focusing on no added sugar options, support your health? Here are some main reasons why limiting added sugars is so frequently recommended.
While weight gain can result from many factors, including genetics and lifestyle choices, data shows that eating too many added sugars may cause a person to take in excessive caloric intake, ultimately resulting in weight gain. Sugar provides carbohydrates, but doesn’t contain any macros that support a feeling of satiety, possibly contributing to overconsumption later in the day.
Sugar encourages tooth breakdown by allowing bacteria to multiply and grow. Over time, this bacteria can wreak havoc on the integrity of the tooth enamel, causing cavities and other dental concerns.
Along with the increased risk of weight gain when too many added sugars are consumed, excessive intake of these ingredients can cause other cardiovascular risk factors as well. One such concern is that excessive added sugars can cause triglyceride levels to increase. When blood levels of this type of fat are elevated, a person may be at an increased risk of experiencing major heart health concerns.
Some data also suggest that excessive added sugar intake is linked to an increased risk of developing dementia, inflammation, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
Clearly, limiting added sugars in the diet can help support overall health by not contributing to these risk factors.
How To Reduce Added Sugar Intake
To limit your added sugar intake, you can simply stop pouring table sugar into your morning coffee and avoid your candy stash when the 3 PM afternoon slump hits. But, since added sugars hide in a slew of unsuspecting places in our diets, from the flavored yogurts that we lean on at snacktime to the sports drinks we guzzle after a hard workout, it is going to take a little more than not sprinkling sugar on your fruit to make a huge difference. To limit your added sugar intake, here are some tips to keep in your back pocket:
- Stick to protein bars made with natural ingredients and are low in added sugars. CORE Bars contain no added sugars while being jam-packed with flavor and important nutrients like plant-based protein, fiber, and vitamin D.
- Skip sugar-laden sodas and lean on seltzer and infused waters for sugar-free hydration.
- Opt for fresh fruit when the sweet tooth strikes instead of candy, cookies, or pies.
- Read your food labels before you make a purchase, and ensure that your choices do not contain large quantities of added sugars.
- When choosing fruity beverages, opt for 100% fruit juice instead of a fruit “drink” that can have added sugars.
- Pay attention to the sauces you are adding to your dishes. Choices like sweet and sour sauce, apricot sauce, and BBQ sauce can contain shockingly high quantities of sugar.
- Swap sugar heavy desserts for better-for-you, no sugar added alternatives like CORE Keto Brownie Bites which are a low sugar option for when you need a sweet treat!
~Lauren Manaker MS, RDN, LD