Sugar tastes good and adds texture and color to a wide range of foods, but in excess it may be harmful to your health. The average American diet includes a staggering 22 teaspoons of sugar every day, or about 355 calories worth, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. Sugary sodas, breakfast cereals, candy, cakes, cookies, sweetened dairy products, fruit drinks and condiments frequently contain excess sugar. Cutting back on sugar may be difficult, especially since sugars can be found even in processed foods that don't taste sweet; however, the health benefits are well worth it.
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Products high in sugar also tend to be high in calories without the healthy components that fill you up and fuel your body. Sugary sodas, candies and desserts add calories to your daily diet but don't cause you to eat less of other foods. In fact, because of the effect on blood glucose, foods high in sugar may actually make you hungrier sooner than if you had eaten foods low in sugar but high in fiber or healthy fats. In particular, a 2007 meta-analysis reported in the "American Journal of Public Health" linked consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, such as sodas, to a higher body weight and higher caloric intake.
Foods high in sugar can crowd other foods out of the diet that contain healthy vitamins and minerals, increasing the likelihood of a potential nutrient deficiency. A diet high in sugar may raise triglycerides in your blood. High triglycerides can lead to heart disease, so lowering sugar intake may help prevent cardiovascular problems later in life. Cutting sugar consumption may also lower your risk of hypertension.
Mouth bacteria thrive on the sugar found in foods and drinks. When sugar sits on tooth surfaces, these bacteria can grow out of control, causing cavities and gum disease. In addition, sugar consumption can raise the risk of diabetes, a condition that increases the likelihood of periodontal disease, according to the American Dental Association. Diabetes contributes to gum disease by causing an increase in the glucose content of saliva that allows for oral bacterial growth.
Sugar Limit Recommendations
The American Heart Association recommends consuming less than 150 calories per day of added sugar if you are male, which equals about 9 teaspoons of sugar. If you are female, your consumption should remain below 100 calories of sugar a day, or 6 teaspoons. The USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends keeping sugar consumption within the discretionary calories allowed as determined by your age, weight and physical activity level.