Sugar’s Influence on Your Health and How to Reduce It

by Metabolic Meals

by Metabolic Meals

Updated Dec 18, 2023

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According to recommendations from the federal Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, no more than 10 percent of our calories should come from sugar. In a regular 2,000-calorie diet, that means we should ingest no more than 10 to 14 teaspoons of sugar a day. Note: we recommend no more than 3 to 4 tsp per day. Unfortunately, fewer than 30 percent of Americans ingest less sugar than the recommended amount, and the increased intake is a significant factor in many chronic diseases.

Fortunately, modifying your sugar consumption and bringing intake levels back to the norm can help you avoid increased health risks, as well as help you immediately improve your overall fitness and well-being.

Sugar and Your Health

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Increased sugar consumption has been shown to increase risks of obesity, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, tooth decay, hypertension, insomnia, dizziness, hair loss, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, weight gain, and more. For instance, excess fructose is stored in your liver, providing glycerol and increasing the formation of fat. Too much sugar creates excess insulin that, in turn, leads to insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes.

Too much sugar also increases uric acid, resulting in heightened risks of high blood pressure and kidney disease. It also wreaks havoc on your hormonal balance, causing failure in the suppression of your appetite hormone, leptin. As you crave and eat more sugar — and everything else, for that matter — the effects will continue to worsen.

Even if you’re aware of the consequences of eating too much sugar, you might not always be aware of how you’re consuming it. Besides obviously sugar-rich candies and treats, other sources can include fruit juices and soft drinks, dried fruits, processed or junk food, rich sauces, and even many foods that are labeled as “low-fat.”

But by recognizing common sugar sources, you can adapt your diet to mitigate or cut out these sources. By replacing them with healthier choices, you can experience a large number of benefits, from improving your physical fitness to reducing your risks of chronic diseases later in life.

Avoiding Sugar-Related Health Risks

A dear friend of mine suffers from Hashimoto’s disease — a disease in which the immune system attacks and damages the thyroid. The chronic thyroid damage caused a significant drop in her hormone levels. After eliminating sugar from her diet, my friend’s thyroid antibodies drastically dropped. Her hormone levels are now within normal range, and she is on a minimal dose of her medication.

Similarly, my uncle was overweight and at high risk for diabetes, mainly because of a sugar-rich diet of processed, artificial junk food and a lack of exercise. Eventually, he eliminated sugar and instead ate only whole foods, quality proteins, and heart-healthy fat. The weight fell off, and his doctor is pleased with his recent blood tests. My uncle is no longer prediabetic, his energy levels have skyrocketed, and surprisingly, he even looks younger!

Besides the experiences of my own close friends and family, many people have turned their health — and their lives — completely around by eliminating excess sugar consumption. You can, as well, with these four simple steps:

1. Eat heart-healthy fat.

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Many people automatically associate the word “fat” with “bad” and therefore stay away from all types when they embark on healthier diets. The truth, though, is that we need fat to absorb essential vitamins such as A, E, K, and D. Healthy fat also helps you feel satisfied and keeps your appetite under control.

Make the switch to full-fat dairy, and make sure you consume two of the most important heart-healthy fats: omega-3 and monounsaturated fats. Omega-3 fats are found abundantly in cold-water fish, grass-fed proteins or in supplements, for people who have significantly depleted levels. Monounsaturated fats can be consumed through olive oil, almonds, and avocados.

2. Ditch fruit juices and sodas.

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You should recognize that sodas are basically liquid sugar and that you should avoid them at all times. Fruit juices, however, sound much healthier, which makes them more dangerously misleading. Even juices that are labeled as pure and not from concentrate contain exceptionally high levels of fructose and can elevate insulin levels, triglycerides, and LDL cholesterol.

Instead of relying on processed and sugar-rich beverages, switch to water as often as possible. Besides being free of sugar, water is essential to every one of your body’s processes and can help ensure more regulated hormone levels and reduced risks of chronic disease.

3. Learn to read food labels.

The best way to know how much sugar you’re currently consuming, and therefore to control your sugar intake moving forward, is to carefully read the label on every product you buy. Many people are surprised to find that “serving sizes” often don’t reflect actual consumption.

For instance, a serving size on a 20-ounce bottle of soda typically refers to only 12 ounces of soda, so the sugar on the label is less than what is in the product. Because most people drink the entire bottle at once, they actually consume much more sugar than they expect, even if they glanced at the sugar content on the label.

As you read labels, you can identify the foods that contribute most to your excessive sugar intake and cut them out of your diet. Eliminating these processed, packaged junk foods will naturally lead you to replacing them with more whole foods.

4. Prep your meals ahead of time.

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Preparing your meals at the start of the week or using a healthy meal delivery service are sure ways to incorporate more whole foods into your diet. Include high-quality grass-fed or free-range proteins that are rich in omega-3s and monounsaturated fats. Also incorporate plenty of organic produce that is rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, essential antioxidants, and more.

You can also use real, whole foods as natural sweeteners to placate your sweet tooth without turning back to sugar. For example, coconut flesh, sweet potatoes, and apple sauce are all great options that don’t contain a lot of fructose.

Just knowing that sugar is dangerous to your health might not be enough to help you protect yourself from it. With these four tips, however, you can learn to identify the culprits in your diet, replace them with whole food alternatives, and learn to live a happier, healthier life.

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