A couple eating ice cream

The effects of sugar on health

Sugar has gotten a lot of bad press lately. It can be in many foods, sometimes without our knowledge, and can cause a number of diet-related health problems if eaten excessively.  Here’s why you should limit how much sugar you eat.

How much sugar should you eat?

In 2015 the World Health Organization (WHO) called for a reduction in daily sugar intake. To prevent diet-related health problems, the WHO recommends that no more than 10% of your total energy intake be in the form of free sugars, no matter what your age. This corresponds to about 50 grams of sugar for people requiring 2,000 calories a day.

Your energy needs depend on several factors, such as gender, fitness, and age. Talk to a health professional or nutrition specialist to find out more about your nutritional needs.

What are free sugars?

Specialists generally distinguish between the following two types of sugars:

  • Intrinsic sugars or sugars naturally present in unprocessed or slightly processed foods (fruits, vegetables, milk, nuts, grains, etc.).
  • Added sugars, which are those artificially added to foods during processing or preparation.

In the definition proposed by the WHO, free sugars include added sugars and sugars naturally present in fruit juices and some natural sweeteners (honey, maple syrup). That means that all types of sugars in this category should be consumed in moderation.

Are fruit juices bad for your health?

According to several sources, it’s better to limit your consumption of fruit juices, as they contain much more sugar than fruit in its natural form. For example, a serving of apple juice can contain up to 25 grams of sugar, while a whole apple contains less than half that amount. What’s more, by extracting the juice, you lose several essential nutrients, including the fiber that slows down your body’s absorption of fructose.

What are the dangers of eating too much sugar?

Many studies have examined the long-term effects of eating too much sugar on overall health. Most have demonstrated a link between eating large amounts of free sugars and a range of short and long-term health problems.

  • Dental decay
  • Weight gain
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Mood disorders
  • Cardiovascular problems (high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and stroke)
  • Low energy levels

How to avoid eating too much free sugar

Free sugars are found in many forms and in many foods, and it can be hard to limit your daily intake. Here are a few helpful tips:

  • Cook your own food and cut down on eating out. When someone else prepares your food, you don’t know what is being added to it.
  • Reduce your intake of highly processed foods (candy, sauces, condiments, etc.)
  • Choose unprocessed or slightly processed products.
  • Carefully check the Nutrition Facts tables and make sure you note the sugar content per serving.
  • Avoid sugary drinks and fruit juices and replace them with drinks such as water, milk, herbal tea, etc.
  • Cane sugar, maple syrup, honey, coconut sugar, and agave syrup are also free sugars.

Moderation is key!

Don’t worry, you don’t have to give up free sugars completely. The key is to pay more attention to the nutritional content of your meals and to make sure that your nutritional needs are met. 

Eating healthy and taking a greater interest in your food will go a long way to improving your health and well-being!