Why You Should Cut Down on Sugar, and How You Can Do It

It’s fairly common knowledge that soda, sugared cereals, candy bars and the like aren’t good for your body, and can help you put on excess weight.

And now the American Heart Association is giving you a few more reasons to cut down on the amount of sugar you consume. A new study out this week claims that too much sugar is a factor in the rise of obesity, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes among populations worldwide.

As a result, researchers are setting new recommendations for the amount of added sugar you should eat. We are not talking about sugars that naturally occur in foods like fruits, vegetables, and grains — but the sugar that is added to foods to make them taste better or seem more appealing.

According to the study, the average American consumes about 22.2 teaspoons of sugar a day. But under the new guidelines, men should only consume about 10 teaspoons — about 150 calories worth per day. And for women, the recommendation is just six teaspoons — about 100 calories. To put that in perspective, a Coke Classic contains about 9.14 teaspoons of sugar. (Since most nutritional labels indicate the amount of sugar in grams, it’s good to know that one teaspoon is about 4 grams.) So one Coke contains much more than a woman’s recommended daily average — and that’s not including any fruit drinks, desserts, sugars and jellies, candy, or packaged cereals you might be tempted to eat during the day.

Keep in mind that sugar lowers stomach acid production, which inhibits digestion of proteins as well as vitamins and minerals. It increases insulin production, which raises cholesterol and LDL (‘bad’ cholesterol), lowers HDL (‘good’ cholesterol). Not only that, but sugar lowers your immunity, making you more susceptible to the colds and flu that come with colder weather.

So if you can find ways to skip the sugary foods and replace them with healthier alternatives, you are making a big step toward your health.

So how do you do it? Where do you trim the sugar out, and how do you keep yourself from curbing that mid-afternoon urge to snack on sweets?

First off, make sure you are eating proper meals. We like sugar because it gives us some quick energy when we are feeling low. A hearty breakfast and lunch full of protein, fiber, fruits, vegetables and whole foods in general will keep your blood sugar from dropping throughout the day and stave off the urge to grab a quick snack. For those times when you need something, bring a bag of nuts, dried fruit, or some other whole-food snack. If you just can’t resist, pick a sweetener with a lower glycemic index, and reward yourself on occasion.