High consumption of sugar, especially in the form of sugar-sweetened beverages, contributes to various diseases including obesity, cardiovascular diseases, and type 2 diabetes. Childhood obesity can also be related to the high consumption of sugar in more than 60% of cases. Hence it is important to check the consumption of sugar and take necessary measures to reduce it to acceptable levels.
Natural sugar vs added sugar
We find natural sugar in several foods such as fruits, milk, etc. Added sugar or caloric sweetener on the other hand is added to food or beverages during the production or preparation stage. The leading source of added sugar are beverages and sweet snacks or desserts. Sources of added sugar are white sugar, brown sugar as well as other caloric sweeteners that we manufacture chemically such as fructose, corn syrup, etc.
Health impact of sugar
Added sugar overloads the liver. The liver metabolizes sugar the same way as alcohol and converts dietary carbohydrates to fat. Over a period of time, this leads to a greater accumulation of fats which may turn into fatty liver disease.
Consuming too much sugar increases blood pressure and chronic inflammation. These thus affect heart functioning and builds up to cardiovascular disorder.
Weight gain and obesity are immediate effects of sugar especially liquid calories. Liquid calories are not satisfying as solid food. This leads to overeating or eating far more calories than required.
Diabetes is directly related to the consumption of added sugar. There are so many additional diseases that start affecting organ systems if diabetes and intake of sugar are not controlled.
How much is okay?
Sugar is not a required nutrient in diet and has no Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA). However, it is recommended that one must not consume more than 150 calories of added sugar per day. The lower the number, the better it is.
Tips to reduce added sugar
- Before buying packed food, make sure you read food label. Most of the times added sugar is listed under total carbohydrates. Hence it is important to check how much added sugar one consumes per serving. Try reduce intake of such foods and look for alternatives having lower values.
- Sugar can be listed under almost 55 different names. A few of them are honey, sucrose, dextrose, maltose, molasses, corn syrup, fructose, cane sugar, mannitol, rice syrup, raw sugar, beet sugar, sorbitol, etc. Ingredients list is also a good source to know about added sugar.
- If you consume added sugar in tea or coffee, try reduce it slowly by just 10% per week and bring it to 50% of your consumption. Our taste buds will also slowly adjust to lower added sugar. Remember that one tea spoon is equal to 4 grams of added sugar and hence calculate daily limit accordingly.
- Those having sweet tooth must keep a track of sweets or foods with added sugar consumed in a day. A good way to reduce it will be not to have sweets in all meals but limit to only one meal. Gradually reduce quantity too.
- Those who consume sugar-sweetened beverages should start reducing the size or portion. For example if you are having 250ml of such beverages, try reducing it to 200 ml initially and to 50% of total quantity. Also try and replace such beverages with healthy options such as fruit juices etc.