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Home/Blog/How Much Sugar Per Day Is Too Much?

How Much Sugar Per Day Is Too Much?

By Joe Boland

December 12, 2023

How much sugar per day

As December rolls around and the end-of-year holiday season begins, it's easy to be inundated with sweets and treats that are loaded with sugar. While it's tempting to load up on cookies and candies, the truth is most people need to cut their sugar intake, no matter how difficult that may seem.

The reasons are plentiful. For starters, excess sugar intake can impact health in a variety of ways — everything from weight to blood sugar , cognitive-related and menopause-related impacts as well as overall health.

The good news is that cutting out excess sugar can help manage many of these effects, and there are several foods and products that can satisfy your sweet tooth without unhealthy added sugar.

So how much sugar per day should you consume? Keep reading to find out.

What Sugar Does to Your Body and Brain

Sugar can have various effects on your body and brain, both in the short term and long term. Here are some of the key impacts in key areas.

1. Blood sugar 

After consuming sugar, blood sugar levels can rise quickly, leading to a surge in insulin production to help cells absorb glucose. Over time, consistently high sugar intake can wreak havoc on one’s blood sugar levels. 

2. Energy crashing after initial boost

Consuming sugar provides a quick energy boost as it is rapidly converted into glucose, the body's primary source of energy.

However, the initial energy boost is often followed by a crash as insulin removes excess glucose from the bloodstream, causing a drop in blood sugar levels. This can result in feelings of fatigue or irritability and cravings for more sugar.

3. Weight

Excessive sugar consumption is linked to unhealthy weight gain. Sugary foods and drinks are often high in calories and can contribute to an increase in body fat. (Learn how many calories you should consume each day.) A sugary diet can also have negative effects on the gut, joints and more. 

4. Hormones

Research shows that excessive sugar consumption, particularly added sugars, can have a negative effect on hormonal balance. When hormones are out of whack, it can wreak havoc on the body, and this can be especially true during menopause for women.

In fact, for some women, sugar can make typical menopause symptoms worse and lead to more discomfort overall.

5. Heart

High sugar intake has been associated with ill effects on the heart, too, including negative impacts on blood pressure and triglyceride levels. 

6. Liver

Our liver health can be affected by sugar intake, as the liver plays a crucial role in metabolizing sugar. Research shows that excess sugar can lead to lead to unhealthy effects on and overuse of the liver. 

7. Sugar addiction

Sugar can activate the brain's reward system, leading to the release of dopamine. This creates a pleasurable sensation, and over time, it can contribute to cravings and addictive behavior.

This can also have a negative effect on oral health. The more sugar you eat, the more it can cause unhealthy bacterial overgrowth that can negatively impact the teeth and gums.

8. Cognitive function

Some studies suggest that high sugar intake may negatively impact cognitive function and  memory. In fact, studies show a link between high added sugar intake and learning and memory impacts, an overall negative outlook, brain fog and more.

9. Mood and overall outlook

Fluctuations in blood sugar levels can influence mood. The initial high followed by a crash may result in mood swings, irritability and difficulty concentrating.

10. Inflammation

Excessive sugar intake has been linked to over-the-top inflammation, which can, in turn, negatively impact neurological health, overall cellular health and more. While normal inflammation in the body is necessary in certain circumstances, inflammation in overdrive due to excessive sugar consumption isn’t beneficial.

How Much Sugar Per Day?

The recommended daily intake of sugar can vary based on factors such as age, sex, activity level and overall health. However, many health organizations provide general guidelines for added sugar intake. It's important to note that these recommendations refer to added sugars and not the naturally occurring sugars found in whole foods like fruits and dairy products.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that adult women should consume no more than six teaspoons/24 grams of added sugar per day, which equates to about 100 calories per day. For men, the AHA recommends no more than 150 calories per day come from added sugars, which is about nine teaspoons/36 grams. 

The World Health Organization (WHO), meanwhile, recommends that less than 10 percent of total daily energy intake should come from added sugars for both adults and children — no more than 50 grams for an average 2,000-calorie diet. This is echoed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The WHO also states less than 5 percent can provide additional health benefits.

Keep in mind that these recommendations are for added sugars, which include sugars and syrups added to foods during processing or preparation. They do not include the sugars naturally present in whole foods like fruits and vegetables. Likewise, you should always consult your healthcare professional about your diet and lifestyle, including sugar intake. 

How to Limit Sugar Consumption

Do you find yourself craving sugar? Overcoming excess sugar consumption can be challenging, but with commitment and gradual changes, it's definitely possible.

In fact, limiting sugar consumption (or going all the way with a no-sugar diet) is a healthy choice that can positively impact your overall well-being. Here are some practical tips to stop the cravings and help you reduce your sugar intake:

1. Acknowledge the problem

Recognize that you have an excess sugar consumption issue and understand the impact it may have on your health. This awareness is the first step towards making positive changes.

2. Reduce sugar intake gradually

If you're used to a high-sugar diet, consider gradually reducing your sugar intake. Start by cutting back on the amount of sugar you add to beverages or swapping sugary snacks for healthier alternatives. This can make the transition more manageable and sustainable.

3. Educate yourself, including reading food labels

Learn about the sources of hidden sugars in food, and familiarize yourself with alternative names for sugar on ingredient labels. Look for terms like sucrose, glucose, fructose, high fructose corn syrup and other sugar-related ingredients. Understanding where sugar hides can help you make informed choices.

4. Be cautious with "low-fat" or "diet" products

Part of that education is recognizing that some low-fat or diet products may contain higher amounts of sugar to compensate for reduced fat content. Check labels, and choose wisely.

5. Clean out your pantry

Remove sugary snacks, candies and processed foods from your home. Having these items readily available can make it more challenging to resist temptation. And ideally, recruit other members of your household to join you on your lower-sugar crusade!

6. Meal plan

Plan your meals and snacks in advance to avoid impulsive choices. Having healthy options readily available can help prevent reaching for sugary snacks out of convenience.

7. Cook at home

Cooking at home allows you to have better control over the ingredients in your meals. You can use less sugar and experiment with natural sweeteners.

8. Eat mindfully

Pay attention to your body's hunger and fullness cues. This can help prevent mindless snacking and overconsumption of sugary foods.

Remember, it's not about completely eliminating sugar but rather about making conscious choices and finding a balance that works for your health and lifestyle. If you have specific health concerns or dietary needs, consult with a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian for personalized guidance.

9. Stay hydrated

Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Also consider eating hydrating foods. Sometimes, feelings of hunger or cravings can be mistaken for dehydration.

You can even make some health-minded drinks with a touch of sweetness by mixing a glass of water with Multi Collagen Protein Strawberry Lemonade, Ancient Elixirs Superfood Matcha or Watermelon Organic SuperGreens.

10. Choose whole foods

Focus on whole, unprocessed foods, like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins. These foods provide essential nutrients without the added sugars found in many processed options.

11. Replace sugary treats with healthier alternatives

Find healthier alternatives to satisfy your sweet tooth. Fresh fruit, dried fruit (in moderation) or a small piece of dark chocolate can be better options.

You can also use low-carb natural sweeteners, such as stevia, erythritol, inulin, monk fruit and yacon syrup. Some other great options to satisfy your sweet tooth include:

You can also even make your own healthy chocolate candy bar or a low-sugar keto chocolate mousse.

12. Avoid sugary drinks

Limit the consumption of sugary beverages, such as sodas, fruit juices and energy drinks. Choose water, herbal tea or infused water instead.

13. Be mindful of sauces and condiments

Some condiments and sauces, like ketchup, barbecue sauce and salad dressings, can contain hidden sugars. Opt for options with little or no added sugar, or make your own at home.

14. Limit processed and packaged snacks

Many processed and packaged snacks are high in added sugars. Choose healthier snack options, like nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables.

15. Choose unsweetened versions

Opt for unsweetened versions of products like yogurt, almond milk and cereal. You can add sweetness with fresh fruit if needed.

16. Limit desserts and sweets

Save desserts and sweets for occasional treats rather than daily consumption. When craving something sweet, consider healthier alternatives, like fresh fruit or a simple square of dark chocolate.

17. Manage stress

Practice stress-reducing techniques, such as mindfulness, meditation or yoga. Stress can contribute to cravings, and finding healthier ways to cope can be beneficial.

18. Get enough sleep

Lack of sleep can disrupt hormonal balance (and insulin is a hormone), leading to increased cravings for sugary foods. Aim for seven to nine hours of quality sleep each night.

19. Celebrate successes

Celebrate your achievements along the way. Recognize and reward yourself for reaching milestones in reducing your sugar intake.

Remember, cutting down on excess sugar intake is a process that takes time and effort. Be patient with yourself, and don't be discouraged by setbacks. Celebrate your progress, and keep moving toward a healthier relationship with sugar.

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