How bad is sugar for your body?

High blood pressure, weight gain, fatty liver disease, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, chronic disease — all of these are caused by excess sugar in our diets. Sugar has been a mainstay of our diets for decades, but that’s due, in large part, to the sugar industry, as they bribed Harvard University studies to claim (in the 1950s) that cholesterol and fats were the principal causes of heart disease.

As dietitians and health professionals, our primary responsibility is to provide our clients with the most accurate and impartial information available. This entails scrutinizing the facts, examining the sources of research papers, and being mindful of who sponsors these studies. Above all, we view the health and well-being of our clients as a moral imperative.

We want to be clear:  Sugar is a primary cause of chronic disease, obesity, and cancer in our society. A key ingredient to living healthier is reducing sugars in our diets.

Let’s learn more:

There are naturally occurring sugars, found in fruits and milks, and then there are the added sugars, sneakily slipped into foods like sodas and cookies, going by various aliases such as brown sugar, corn syrup, corn sweetener, fruit juice concentrates, and the “ose” family (dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, sucrose), among others, including honey, invert sugar, malt sugar, and molasses. Beware of sugar and all its names!

When you’re eyeing a product, it’s time to get label-savvy. Deciphering food labels can be perplexing. What does 20 grams of sugar mean? Well, there are 4 grams of sugar per teaspoon, so 20 grams of sugar equals 5 teaspoons. Keep in mind that the American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 added teaspoons of sugar per day for women and 9 for men. So, whether you’re perusing processed foods with an “organic” or “natural” label, remember that added sugar is added sugar, regardless of the packaging.

Let’s retrain those taste buds. Instead of reaching for sweets as your default snack, consider stocking up on savory treats or fruits. Chop up veggies, indulge in toasted pita bread with hummus, savor guacamole and other delectable dips, or craft fruit kebobs adorned with coconut shavings. Gradually reduce your sweets intake until your cravings transform.

Opt for unsweetened products like plain yogurt and oatmeal. This way, you’re in control of how much sugar you add – a drizzle of honey beats 10 grams of added sugars any day (which translates to 2 ¼ teaspoons)!

Don’t let juices fool you. While they may seem like a healthier alternative to soda, those juice boxes and bottles often harbor just as much sugar, if not more. Read those labels diligently and make water your primary beverage. If you’re yearning for flavor, get inventive. Jazz up your H2O with lemon slices, embrace raspberry-lime iced tea, steep your favorite herbal tea flavors, and for an effervescent twist, add soda water.

Remember, sugar isn’t synonymous with flavor. In fact, sugar can mask the true essence of flavors. There are countless inventive ways to make flavors pop without drowning them in sugar. Consider tossing cinnamon sticks into your tea, reducing added sugars when baking by incorporating nutmeg and a medley of spices, or incorporating natural fruit puree alongside sugars.

Lastly, live a little! Who can resist the allure of a gooey cinnamon roll or a slice of grandma’s homemade fudge from time to time? Relish those flavors guilt-free.

Cutting back on your sugar intake isn’t just about improving your health – it’s a strategic move to reduce your risk of heart disease, Type II diabetes, chronic illnesses, and even cancer. By curbing your sugar consumption, you’ll also tackle one of the primary drivers of obesity, which means a reduced likelihood of carrying excess weight.

But it’s not just about the health benefits; reducing sugar will introduce your taste buds to a world of exciting new flavors.