How much SUGAR should you eat per day?

Sugar has a bad reputation when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight and body as a whole. In fact, it is considered an enemy in creating a well-balanced diet.

However, one must realize that sugar is only bad for your health if the consumption is too much. You need a healthy amount of sugar in the body for without it you will not survive. Let us take a look at the uses of sugar in the body.

  1. It is a source of energy – Sugar is the source of energy needed by the muscles to perform its daily work. Sugar is also the source of energy for the brain and the nervous system.
  2. It metabolizes fats – Sugar is needed by the body to metabolize fats and prevent the body from using protein as an energy source.
  3. It backs up energy – Sugar/glucose is stored in the liver and muscles in the form of glycogen. It acts as an energy reserve that can be extremely useful when the blood glucose level drops. To keep an adequate source of glycogen, you need to eat a lot of healthy sugars, which comes from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and dairy products. (1, 2, 3, 4)

Examples of healthy sugars-naturally occurring sugar image photo picture

Image 1: Examples of healthy sugars/naturally occurring sugar.
Picture Source: www.nutritioninside.com

Examples of foods that people think contain healthy sugar but in reality have a lot of unhealthy sugar image photo picture
Picture 2: Examples of foods that people think contain healthy sugar but in reality have a lot of unhealthy sugar.
Photo Source: i0.wp.com/www.musclebuildingfoodshq.com

Distinguishing between healthy and unhealthy sugar

How many grams of sugar per day a person is allowed to consume depends on the type of sugar. There are two types of sugar: the healthy and unhealthy sugar.

Healthy sugars

Natural sugars are healthy sugars such as the ones found in fruits and vegetables. They contain fructose, a natural form of sugar.

Examples of foods containing healthy sugar are grapes, apple, banana, peach, and plum. Other healthy choices include milk, yogurt, starchy vegetables, and whole grains.

Unhealthy sugars

These are sugars that are extremely harmful to the body even in small consumption. They provide calorie but no added nutrients. Over time, they can cause damage to your bodies such as weight gain, obesity, cardiovascular-related disease, and diabetes mellitus type 2.

Examples are soda drinks, donuts, cakes, chocolates, candies, and the likes. (4, 5, 6, 7)

It is important to know how much sugar is too much to avoid diseases image photo picture

Photo 3: It is important to know how much sugar is too much to avoid diseases.
Image Source: abetterstartsouthend.co.uk

What is the recommended daily sugar intake?

What is the normal/health daily sugar intake? How much is too much? To know how much sugar is healthy on a daily basis, you need to distinguish healthy sugar from an unhealthy one.

Healthy sugars also are known as naturally occurring sugar is okay to be eaten on a day to day basis as they do not only contain healthy sugar but also other nutrients like water, fiber, and micronutrients.

On the other hand, unhealthy sugars such as the ones found in processed foods like soft drinks and candies should be taken in a small amount. If you want to lose weight and optimize your health, you need to avoid unhealthy sugar. If you have a sweet tooth, at least limit your intake. (2, 5, 6, 7)

 

Sugar content of popular drinks image photo picture

Image 4: Sugar content of popular drinks.
Picture Source: cdn.shopify.com

What is the sugar limit per day?

The American Heart Association has issued guidelines on the recommended sugar intake a day so that you will know how many grams of sugar is too much and how many grams of sugar a day is healthy.

  • Men – 37.5 grams or equivalent to nine teaspoons.
  • Women – 25 grams or equivalent to six teaspoons.

Note:

It is important to limit the intake to at least 10% or less of the daily calorie intake. For example, if your usual calorie intake a day is 2000, the sugar (unhealthy sugar) should only be 50 grams or about 12 teaspoons.

It is important to perform exercise or at least be physically active so as to help your body burn off sugar. Added sugars/unhealthy sugars are unnecessary in the body so there is really no need to consume them. If you need an instant sugar fix, they can be a great source but make sure you eat them in a small amount. (8, 9, 10)

Is it necessary to completely avoid unhealthy sugar?

If you are suffering from a medical condition such as diabetes, heart-related disease, and obesity, you are highly encouraged to completely avoid unhealthy sugar. If you can’t help it, you can at least limit the intake of unhealthy sugar to once a week in a very minimal amount.

Carbonated beverages, processed foods, and baked goods should be eliminated from your diet if you really want to lose weight and be healthy. Processed foods may seem like do not have any sugar in it but the truth is that it is high in sugar and refined carbohydrates. (2, 4, 8)

The effect of sugar in the body

Consuming too much unhealthy sugar/added sugar can greatly affect the natural balance of hormones in the body causing various abnormalities. Once you increase your intake of unhealthy sugar, the level of sugar in the blood increases significantly causing the pancreas to release insulin.

If the level of insulin is high the body’s response is to store calorie in the body in the form of fat. Too much insulin can also affect the level of leptin, a hormone which acts as a natural appetite suppressant. It is the one responsible for controlling our food intake.

It signals the brain that the body is already full and that you need to stop eating. If you take in too much sugar, you will develop a condition called leptin resistance. The brain no longer comprehends the message of the hormone leptin. Even if your body is already full your brain will continue to make you feel hungry causing you to eat more.

The last thing you know you already have a lot of fats all over your body. Not only it affects your figure, it also affects your level of activity. You will feel sluggish and not have the drive to move your body which could lead to further weight gain. (1, 6, 9, 10)

References:

  1. http://sugarscience.ucsf.edu/the-growing-concern-of-overconsumption.html#.W4GEA_kzbtQ
  2. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-much-sugar-per-day
  3. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/too-much-sugar
  4. https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/food-and-diet/how-much-sugar-is-good-for-me/
  5. https://greatist.com/eat/recommended-sugar-intake-what-it-looks-like
  6. https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/ss/slideshow-diabetes-too-much-sugar
  7. https://www.rd.com/health/diet-weight-loss/too-much-sugar/
  8. https://www.forbes.com/sites/quora/2017/07/07/how-much-sugar-is-too-much/
  9. https://www.jamieoliver.com/news-and-features/features/how-much-sugar-is-too-much/
  10. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/262978.php

Published by Dr. Rajesh MD under Diabetes Information.
Article was last reviewed on January 8th, 2022.

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