It’s not always easy to eat a healthy diet. Many foods contain sugar, including those that have natural sugar and those that have added sugar. Scientists and doctors agree that eating too much sugar is bad for your health. But how much sugar is too much? And how does too much sugar affect your health?
Recommended Daily Sugar Intake
According to a review published in the United States National Library of Medicine, adults average 17%, and children average 14% of their daily calorie intake from added sugar. The Department of Health and Human Services published Dietary Guidelines for Americans, stating that daily calorie intake should include less than 10% added sugar.
Many Americans consume more than the recommended amount of added sugar every day.
Manufacturers add sugar to food because it tastes good or offers a burst of energy. Many processed foods contain high amounts of added sugar. People often chose processed foods because they are convenient, require little or no preparation, and taste good.
The American Heart Association (AHA) encourages people to look for added sugar in processed and packaged foods. Added sugar may appear in food ingredients under other names.
The AHA states that added sugar in processed foods may be listed as:
- Cane sugar
- Corn sweetener
- Raw sugar
- High fructose corn syrup
- Ingredients ending in “ose,” (maltose or sucrose)
- Fruit juice concentrate
Foods with Added Sugar
The doctors at Harvard Medical School list some foods that have added sugar, including:
- Packaged baked goods
- All baked goods unless marked sugar free
- Fruit drinks
- Ice Cream
- Salad dressings
- Canned sauces
- And others, check the labels on any food products you buy for sugar in the list of ingredients
Many people recognize that baked goods, soda, fruit drinks, ice cream, and breakfast cereals have added sugar. But not everyone is aware that many other foods contain added sugar too. Sauces and condiments like barbecue sauce and ketchup have added sugar.
Baked goods that aren’t considered sweet, like bread and crackers, may also contain added sugar. That’s why it’s important to read the ingredient list and know the names for added sugar.
Natural Sugar in Food
Nature produces foods with natural sugar. The body uses this sugar for energy the same way as it uses added sugar. The difference, according to researchers, is the nutritional value of different foods with sugar. Fructose is the sugar found in fruits. Lactose is the natural sugar in milk and dairy products. Compared to foods with added sugar, fruits and dairy products have a greater nutritional value.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), fruit provides vitamins and minerals, including:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin B-6
Fruit is also low in fat, cholesterol, and salt, making it a healthy choice for something sweet.
Low or non fat dairy products are also low in fat and cholesterol and provide vitamins and minerals, including:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin B-12
- Vitamin B-6
To make dairy products a healthy choice, people should use low-fat options like skim milk and low-fat cottage cheese. Dairy products also provide protein, another essential nutrient.
Sugar and Your Health
While your body needs sugar for energy, too much sugar can cause damage to your physical and mental health.
Scientists, along with Healthline, a leading online consumer medical resource, point to these health risks caused by too much sugar intake:
- Weight Gain
- Heart Disease
- Acne and Prematurely Aging Skin
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Lack of Energy
- Fatty Liver
- Tooth Decay
Excess sugar molecules in the blood can cause damage to multiple body systems. The damage and decay excess sugar creates can affect every system in the body leading to poor health and disease. Eating too much sugar, especially processed sugar with little nutritional benefit, can affect every aspect of your health.
If you want to eat healthily, be aware of the amount of sugar you eat. Foods with natural sugar provide nutritional benefits, but foods with added sugar often don’t. Added sugar is an ingredient in many processed foods. Learning to read food labels can help identify added sugar in food.