Sugar is heavily scrutinized, from documentaries like Fed Up to books like Eve Shaub’s “Year of No Sugar: A Memoir,” because of its link to many potential health problems.
Sugar causes weight gain: All sugars, regardless of how they are labeled, have a similar effect when it comes to raising blood sugar levels and inducing insulin production. Insulin is the body’s primary regulator of fat metabolism. When insulin levels go up, we store fat. When insulin levels fall, we use fat for fuel.
In addition to promoting fat storage shortly after a meal, over time, eating an excess of sugar, as well as increased body fat, can cause the body to become more resistant to insulin, causing an increase in insulin production, which results in storing more fat.
Adding sugar to foods and beverages also makes them more calorie dense, making it easy to consume extra calories when eating these foods.
Sugar increases your risk for heart disease: Sugar increases the risk of heart disease in several ways. For example, as detailed by the Mayo Clinic, eating an excessive amount of added sugar can increase your levels of triglycerides, which are the primary type of fat in the bloodstream and fat tissue. Additional risks for heart disease include insulin resistance and diabetes, as well as increased inflammation levels.
Sugar increases inflammation: Sugar is digested into glucose and can contribute to inflammation, the body’s response to internal damage, which is associated with many chronic diseases, including heart disease, dementia, depression, cancer, and more.
Sugar lowers your immunity: WellnessFX practitioners Karen Graham and Dr. Ross Pelton both warn that a moderate dose of sugar suppresses the immune system for 5 to 6 hours, lowering the body’s ability to fight infection.
Monitoring the Effects of Sugar
Checking in on your biomarkers over time is a powerful way to make strong correlations between what you’re doing to stay healthy and how it’s affecting your numbers and overall health.
If you do a blood test before you begin these 5 steps, you’ll be able to see how your efforts have positively impacted you because your blood regenerates every 120 days.
Whether you’re looking to improve your immunity, lose some weight, or just feel better and optimize your health, reducing your sugar intake is a positive step.
5 Simple Steps to Reducing Sugar In Your Diet
Step 1: Get familiar with the different forms of sugar.
Finding sugar and where it’s hiding can be confusing. There are many names and aliases beyond “sugar” on an ingredient list. Learn to recognize and spot sugar and sweeteners in forms like:
- anhydrous dextrose
- brown sugar
- confectioner’s powdered sugar
- corn syrup
- corn syrup solids
- high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
- invert sugar
- malt syrup
- maple syrup
- nectars (e.g., peach nectar, pear nectar)
- pancake syrup
- raw sugar
- white granulated sugar
Start checking labels for these ingredients and the amounts included.
As detailed by the Mayo Clinic, “The only reliable way to identify added sugars is to look at the ingredient list. Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight. If you see sugar listed among the first few ingredients, the product is likely to be high in added sugars.”
Natural vs. Added Sugar
When reading a Nutrition Facts label, look to distinguish and identify added sugars on the ingredients list. These are sugars that have been added to foods and beverages for taste, texture, and preservation, as opposed to natural sugars which are found naturally in nutritious foods like fruit.
Step 2: Journal and Track a Week of Eating.
Pick a week coming up to journal all your meals, drinks, and snacks. You can easily track this manually by reading nutrition labels and jotting down amounts on paper, or an app like MyFitnessPal. Reading labels and tracking is an effective way to:
- Observe how much added sugar you’re consuming intentionally, whether it’s choosing the cookies and soda at lunchtime or having dessert a few nights a week.
- Grow awareness of how much sugar you’re consuming unintentionally because as we mentioned above, added sugar can and does sneak into food. This is because it is often used as filler for food products you wouldn’t necessarily associate with sugar, from yogurts, bread, and salsa, to lunch meat and canned soups.
- Learn when and where throughout the day you’re consuming sugar – i.e. is it mainly after dinner or starting with a sugary breakfast? Is it candy at your desk after lunch?
Once you’ve tracked a week’s worth of eating, reflect back and tally how much sugar you’re averaging per day. For reference, 4 grams of sugar = 1 teaspoon.
Step 3: Decide on your new goal.
The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that “added sugars make up no more than 10 percent of your daily calories.” For a 2,000-calorie diet, that means no more than 200 calories a day should come from added sugars.
The American Heart Association advises a stricter limit for added sugars — no more than 100 calories a day for most women and no more than 150 calories a day for most men. That’s about 6 teaspoons of sugar for women and 9 for men.
To put this into perspective, a 12-ounce can of regular soda has about 160 calories, or about 10 teaspoons, of sugar.”
Step 4: Pick a meal or beverage with sugar to remove entirely or reduce the amount.
It’s ok to start small. Thanks to your week-long journal/tracking, you now have an overview of your sugar consumption habits, and you can pick an area to reduce, one (or many) at a time. As an example, this could look like:
- Swapping out your lunchtime soda for seltzer water
- Switching your morning flavored greek yogurt for plain yogurt with nuts
- Opting for black coffee a few times a week in place of a sugary coffee beverage
Step 5: Test and Benchmark your progress.
There are multiple ways you can track the effects of sugar on your health.
While it could be helpful to track via subjective methods such as journaling your energy and mood levels, monitoring your sleep quality, and even tracking your weight and body fat percentage, a simple blood test that includes biomarkers like the ones mentioned above – hs-CRP, hbA1c, ApoB, Triglycerides – is an accurate way to see where you’re doing well and where you can improve
How WellnessFX Can Help
We believe in the power in a drop of blood. The key to getting health answers is asking the right health questions.
WellnessFX tests all of the biomarkers listed above and many more. We recommend browsing the full testing menu to see what package fits your needs best.
The posts on this blog are for information only, and are not intended to substitute for a doctor-patient or other healthcare professional-patient relationship nor do they constitute medical or healthcare advice of any kind. Any information in these posts should not be acted upon without consideration of primary source material and professional input from one's own healthcare professionals.