Go ahead – one little bite of that tempting, sugary treat won’t hurt you. Or will it?
Today we uncover the truth about what happens to your body when you eat too much sugar. Here’s what you need to know about sugar, plus how to make choices that keep you happy and healthy.
What is Sugar?
Simply put, sugars are a category of sweet-tasting carbohydrates. As fructose, sucrose and glucose, they’re present in fruits, vegetables and honey. Milk and milk products contain a sugar known as lactose.
Commercially prepared sugars include sucrose (table sugar), high fructose corn syrup, cane juice, and low-calorie sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose.
The Not-So-Sweet Effects of Too Much Sugar
Most people love sweets, at least occasionally. But experts agree: when it comes to the effects sugar can have on your body, you really can have too much of a good thing.
Here are some of the negative effects you may experience if you eat too much sugar:
- Heart Disease: A 15-year study showed individuals who consumed 25% of their daily calories from sugar were twice as likely to die from heart disease as those who ate less sugar.
- Obesity: Some research suggests sugar has an overstimulating effect on the brain. A brain chemical known as dopamine is released when you eat sugar. This “feel-good” response makes you want more, potentially creating a cycle of overeating.
- Anxiety and Depression: Mood disorders may worsen if you regularly eat too much sugar. The reason is the well-known sugar “rush” and then sudden drop, which can make depression worse.
- Dental Disease: Your mother was right – sugar really can harm your teeth. Sugar and other carbohydrates are the preferred food source for oral bacteria, which cling to teeth and cause damage.
- Memory Impairment: At least one study has linked over-consumption of sugar to memory loss.
- Premature Aging of the Skin: A process called glycation causes damaging age-related glycation end products (“AGEs”) to form. These AGEs change the way collagen fibers act, causing premature wrinkling.
How Much Sugar is Too Much?
The World Health Organization formerly recommended that sugars take up 10% of your daily calories. However, the WHO has now dropped that number to 5% in the wake of studies showing the dangers of too much sugar.
Making Smart Choices
When tracking sugar consumption, keep these tips in mind:
- Fresh Fruits – Sugar content varies widely among fruits, so be sure to count sugar grams. Berries, apples, peaches and plums are all good choices.
- Dried Fruits – Raisins, dried apricots, banana chips and prunes are higher in sugar than their fresh forms.
- Fruit Juice – Even without added sugar, fruit juice tends to be higher in sugar than fresh fruits.
- Vegetables – Not all vegetables are low in natural sugar. In particular, watch beets, corn, some potato varieties, and peas.
- “Hidden” Sugars – Check labels for sugars under names such as high fructose corn syrup, cane syrup, barley malt, dextrose, maltose, rice syrup, or beet sugar.
Now that you know what happens to your body when you eat too much sugar, start tracking your intake. Download a free app to track your sugar grams or keep a spreadsheet on your computer.
By keeping your sugar within healthy limits, you can avoid damage and feel healthier. Now that’s sweet!