For the first time ever obesity has reached the 40% mark. This means 4 out of 10 Americans are considered obese. This doesn’t include people that are overweight. As of 2020, it’s estimated that 75% of adults in the US are either overweight or obese. And by 2030 it’s estimated this number will be closer to 85%. So how much sugar can I consume daily before becoming a statistic?
According to the American Heart Association, men should not consume more than 38 grams of sugar and women should limit sugar intake to 25 grams.
Other dietary guidelines suggest that no more than 10% of your daily calorie intake should come from sugar. This would equate to about 50 grams of sugar (based on a 2,000 calorie daily intake).
If you’re a nutrition label reader this should give you pause. Here’s why. A can of soda has around 40 grams of sugar. So depending on which guide you’re following, this might exceed your daily intake.
Additionally, sugar is in a lot of items we eat on a daily basis. A glass of 1% milk will have around 10 grams of sugar. A processed cookie or sugary treat you find at a store could easily have 40-50 grams of sugar.
My point here is, it’s easy to hit your daily limit of sugar without even trying. The good news is, if you’re an active person, you can burn these calories off.
How is Obesity Calculated?
Obesity is based on Body Mass Index (BMI). I personally, and most people, don’t put a lot of stock into BMI. Body Mass Index is a simple calculation using a person’s height and weight. It doesn’t measure any body fat or muscle, it’s just your height and weight.
This is because BMI does not take into account whether the weight is carried as muscle or fat, just the number. Those with a higher muscle mass, such as athletes, may have a high BMI but that doesn’t mean they are overweight or obese.
Those with a lower muscle mass, such as children who have not completed their growth or the elderly who may be losing some muscle mass may have a lower BMI.
Is All Sugar Bad For You?
Naturally occurring sugar, like the sugar in berries and fruits has fiber, vitamins, and nutrients your body uses. Table sugar or processed sugar doesn’t have the fiber, vitamins, and nutrients that come with natural sugar.
That being said, you need to pay attention to the labels on your food (if you’re buying processed foods). Added sugars can be natural or chemically manufactured. A type of sugar can be “natural” (i.e. unprocessed) without being “naturally occurring.”
Examples of natural sugars that manufacturers add to provide sweetness include honey, maple syrup, and coconut sugar. Manufacturers can easily put a label on an item and say it has natural sugars, but that doesn’t give you the all-clear signal to gobble them up.
While added sugar is definitely bad for you, natural sugar needs to be consumed in moderation as well.
Sugar Facts of Interest
- Liquid sugar (think soda and sports drinks) is the single largest source of added sugar in the American diet (36%).
- Overconsumption of added sugar is linked to type 2 diabetes, a disease affecting 26 million Americans.
- There are over 60 names for added sugar on nutrition labels.
- To make foods “low fat” some food companies replace fat with sugar.
- Every day the average American consumes almost 3 times more added sugar than is recommended.
How to Reduce Sugar Intake
To reduce sugar in your diet, an obvious place to start is by limiting your consumption of soda, candy, sweets, cakes, pies as well as the addition of the spoonful of sugar into your morning cereal. But what if you’re already pretty good at that, what else can you do?
Here is a quick hit list of things to watch for:
- Read labels.
- Take sugar out of your house and replace it with fruits, when applicable.
- Beware of sauces like ketchup, BBQ sauce, and dressings.
- Consume fat over sugar.
- Eat single item foods and avoid processed foods.
Dangers of Too Much Sugar
The dangers of consuming too much sugar are alarming.
Eating more than the recommended daily allowance of sugar over long periods can affect the natural balance of hormones that drive critical functions in the body. Consuming sugar increases levels of glucose in your bloodstream, which tells the pancreas to release insulin. Higher levels of insulin, in turn, cause the body to store more food calories as fat.
Insulin also affects a hormone called leptin, which is our natural appetite suppressant that tells our brains we are full and can stop eating.
Imbalanced insulin levels, along with high consumption of certain sugars, such as fructose, have been linked to a condition called leptin resistance, in which the brain no longer “hears” the message to stop eating, thus promoting weight gain and obesity.
To make matters worse, people with leptin resistance also tend to feel sluggish, making it difficult to be active and contributing to further weight gain.
How To Detox From Sugar?
Sugar, while not an illegal drug, has similar effects on the brain as some illegal drugs. When you consume sugar, the brain releases dopamine, a feel-good hormone. Therefore, eating sugar is reinforcing, meaning the more you do it, the more you want to do it.
This is the same chase that drug users go through. You’re constantly chasing that feel-good effect. What is really destructive is that over time repeated activation of the dopamine reward system, causes the brain to adapt to the frequent reward system stimulation.
So when we consume lots of sugar on a regular basis, the system starts to change to prevent it from becoming overstimulated. In particular, dopamine receptors start to throttle back. This means you need to consume more, to get the desired effect. It’s a downward spiral that quickly goes out of control.
So how do you stop?
By stopping all consumption (cold turkey) you may experience withdrawals. These might be intense cravings, irritability, brain fog, and restlessness.
Another alternative is to switch from using sugar to sweeteners.
While this may help reduce calorie intake, you’re still consuming a sugar alternative. And the dopamine chase will still be in effect. Depending on how bad the cravings are and how disciplined you can be, it will determine how to detox from sugar.
Benefits of Limited Sugar Intake
The most prominent thing you’ll notice is a rapid reduction in body fat. Reducing the number of calories you’re consuming, especially if they’re empty calories, will have a significant impact on your weight.
Once you’ve eliminated sugar or drastically reduced it, your digestive system will thank you. You’re likely to become more regular and your guts will feel much better. Meaning reduced irritable bowels, and upset stomachs.
Lower chance of heart disease. When you reduce sugar intake your bad cholesterol is likely to drop as well. Thus, a lower chance of developing heart disease.
Lower blood pressure is another big one. When you consume sugar, your heart is working harder than it needs to be. This additional stress on your heart and arteries can cause long-term damage.
Better sustained energy. The rollercoaster ride of sugar spikes reduces your overall energy levels. Once you’ve eliminated sugar from your diet, the crash effect goes away and is replaced with a steady level of energy.
Studies have shown that frequent intake of high sugar foods could contribute to the formation of acne, and thus do long-term damage to your skin making it look dull.
Conclusion of Daily Sugar Consumption
Everybody is different, but at the end of the day, you need to account for the amount of sugar you’re consuming. If you’re an active person, you can burn off calories consumed by added sugar.
Some people can handle a little bit of sugar in their diet, while for others it causes cravings, binge eating, rapid weight gain and potential for diseases.
Every individual is unique and you need to figure out what works for you. Choose a diet based on whole foods, rather than highly processed alternatives, to be fully in control of your sugar intake and not consume an excess amount of it.
What tricks do you use to limit sugar intake? Leave a comment below.