PA Requirements - Blog

How Much Sugar is Too Much Sugar?
Posted by Emily Pazel

Have you started finding empty candy wrappers in your car where your child sits or around your children’s bedrooms? Around this time of the year, you might have noticed a big pile of delicious, colorful candy lying around your home. With trick-or-treating around the neighborhood or attending local fall festivals, the candy might be starting to add up and overflow around the house.

And while you might think it’s harmless to indulge every now and again on sugar, high amounts of it can have present-day consequences along with long-term effects on your body. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), their guidelines call for less than 25 grams – or six teaspoons – of “added sugars” per day for children ages 2 to 18 years old. So, when you find yourself eating one too many candy bars, it might be a good idea to double check the packaging for details and then limit your intake.

With the holidays right around the corner, it’s also important to know that sugar doesn’t have to come packaged in a candy bar wrapper – it can also come from a freshly baked homemade pie or cookies and other desserts that make it to the annual family gathering. So, with that in mind, let’s figure out what the side effects are for eating too much sugar and more healthy ways to approach it.

Side Effects of Eating Too Much Sugar

Interestingly enough, eating appropriate amounts of sugar is a vital source of energy and essential to our survival. However, not all sugars are the same and some can be harmful to the body. For instance, fructose that’s found in fruits and vegetables and lactose in dairy-rich foods is a very natural way for the body to take in sugars, and is not a high concern to your health.

Added sugars, however, which are often found in processed foods, are those we could do without, and most of us consume too much of them,” writes EveryDay Health. “According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025, the average American consumes 270 calories of added sugars or 17 teaspoons, each day.”

And now you might be asking, what is considered “added sugars”? Added sugars, per EveryDay Health, are sugars that are added to food to sweeten it up, which also includes natural sugars like honey and syrup. In fact, finding “sugar” while reading food labels can be tricky because they can be hidden under many different names.

If you start to indulge in too much sugar, there can be consequences that follow you around that might even last your entire lifetime. As per EveryDay Health, there are a few signs you can look out for that might indicate you are ingesting too much sugar:

  • Increased Hunger and Weight Gain: When you start to digest too many sugary products or meals, you might feel like you are full but you are not satisfying what your body needs in order to function; without protein, fiber and healthy fats, the body burns through sugar quickly and can increase your hunger, which tends to lead towards unhealthy snacking later on
  • Fatigue, Low Energy & Irritability: If you begin to feel moody, irritable or even on edge, this could be a sign that you are eating too much sugar; a high-sugar meal or snack without protein and fat can quickly spike your blood sugar levels, which then lead to “sugar crashes”, and the plummeting of your energy level, leaving you feeling fatigued and/or irritable
  • Cravings for Sweets: If you have ever craved sweets, it may be due to an addiction to the feel-good effects that sugar has on your brain; so, eating sugar can increase the dopamine hormones in our brains and lead to wanting or craving more sugar
  • High Blood Pressure: Getting diagnosed with hypertension, indicates that you might be eating too much sugar in your diet; according to research, consuming sugar-sweetened beverages has a significant association with high blood pressure and a higher incidence of hypertension, which can lead to long-lasting, chronic heart issues
  • Joint Pain, Acne & Wrinkles: Other physical issues associated with eating too much sugar can be joined with acne and wrinkles and even joint pain; when you eat too much sugar, you can be affecting your insulin levels, which can then target skin issues and even arthritis
  • Sleep Issues & Brain Fog: If you are having trouble with sleeping, it could mean that you are consuming too much sugar; our sleep cycles and the quality of sleep we get are typically regulated by the light and the temperature of the room, as well as the glycemic control in our bodies; and, if you have ever struggled with moments of brain fog or “mental clarity”, it could be a result of eating too much sugar; in fact, impairments with information-processing speed, working memory and attention were found in people with type 2 diabetes who had hyperglycemia
  • Dental Issues: Lastly, if you have ever visited the dentist and were told that you have cavities, or gum disease, it could be a big indication that you are consuming too much sugar; the bacteria in our mouths likes to feed on simple sugars, so cutting back is a good way to help with your dental health issues

While it might be tough to avoid every amount of sugar that you come into contact with, it’s a good idea to read labels and try to cut back on added sugars in your diet, as well as in your family’s diet. After all, there’s a saying “You are what you eat,” which can be a good indication of whether or not you are eating too many unhealthy foods.

So, if you have a bag full of candy bars waiting to be eaten this holiday season, what are ways to start cutting back on sugar?

Ways to Cut Back on Sugar

Fortunately, cutting back on eating too much sugar isn’t hard to do. In fact, according to the American Heart Association, keeping tabs on how much sugar you digest is an important part of a “heart-healthy lifestyle.”

Sugar doesn’t always come in a candy bar shape and could be sitting right under your nose. So, start by tossing out “table sugars”, such as white and brown sugar, syrup, honey and molasses. Then, swap out the sugary drinks, such as soda, with water. Try to eat fresh, frozen or canned fruits that come in water or natural juice and are not sweetened with syrup. Compare food labels and choose products with the lowest amounts of “added sugars”. And, remember that you can always try to either cut the serving back, try extracts, replace it completely or substitute the sugars. When you decide to add sugar to a bowl of cereal or oatmeal, try to substitute it with fresh cut fruit instead.

While cutting back on sugar isn’t always fun, you can almost bet that you will feel much better not long after making the change in your diet. So, get the whole family involved. Try cooking new recipes, finding healthier snack options and limiting the sugar you try to put into your body. Maybe, it’s time to start a new, healthier tradition this holiday season that gets the whole family together.