You watch your treats, exercise every other day, and drink plenty of water. You’re doing great with your health goals, and ready to rock the next half marathon! However, there’s probably a danger to your health that you overlooked. You’re not alone. The average American consumes 77 grams of sugar per day, which is over double the recommended amount. Even on a day without dessert, your sugar count is likely way over what it should be.
The recommended daily amount of sugar is 37.5 grams for the average adult male, and 25 grams for the average female.
How does the sugar add up so quickly? It’s hidden in our everyday foods! Take a look at how easily sugar consumption can get out of control.
A Hypothetical Daily Diet
- Coffee (two sugars): 8 grams of sugar
- Yoplait strawberry yogurt: 26 g
- Croissant: 6 g
- Chicken salad with poppyseed dressing: 8 grams of sugar
- Orange juice: 21 g
- Granola bar: 25 g
- Hamburger helper, with broccoli on the side: 16 grams of sugar
- Dessert: one serving of ice cream: 20 g
The diet above is not at all unreasonable. In fact, it’s doing pretty well, considering whoever ate that meal plan avoided any soft drinks or energy drinks, and stopped at one serving of ice cream. This meal plan also managed to avoid that cookie at lunch and the free donuts in the breakroom at work. However, it’s still over three times the recommended daily sugar intake.
How Much Can You Cut Back?
Okay, I’ll admit that I packed this meal plan with some of the biggest sneaky-sugar culprits in our diet: yogurt, granola bars, and fruit juices. Eliminate those, and you can cut 72 grams of sugar from the day! But guess what–you’re still at 58 grams, which is over double the recommended daily amount for the average female. So let’s eliminate the ice cream for dessert.
We find ourselves at 38 grams of sugar; just barely over the recommended amount for the average male, and about 50% over the recommended amount for a woman.
You get my point, right? Our daily diets are loaded with sugar, even when we don’t think that we’re eating sweets. If you think that I’m being extreme, start checking the labels in everything that you eat and see if you can go a full week without exceeding the daily recommended amount once. It’s tough to do!
Even better, try a more drastic experiment. Cut added sugars out of your diet entirely. It sounds extreme, but amazing benefits happen once your body is free of harmful sugars.
7 Changes You’ll See When You Eliminate Sugar From Your Diet
- Better Skin: Refined sugar causes insulin levels to spike, which suddenly boosts inflammation in the body. This produces enzymes that break down collagen and elastin, contributing to wrinkles and sagging skin. In addition, this inflammation can exacerbate conditions like eczema and acne. Most people, after eliminating sugar, immediately see smoother, healthier-looking skin. It only takes a couple weeks to see the difference, and it gets even better over time.
- Less Cravings: The trick to sugar is that it’s addictive. That’s why processed foods are loaded with it; it makes us crave MORE. Sugar accesses the same pleasure receptors in our brain as illicit substances like drugs. We find ourselves needing more and more to get the same buzz. For many people, the initial phases of sugar withdrawal can actually be harmful. You might feel listlessness, major cravings, even headaches and cramps. However, once your body has detoxed, you’ll find that you stop craving sugar so much. This can take anywhere from a few days to a few months.
- Dropped Pounds: Even people who aren’t aiming to lose weight when they start on their sugar-free journey report amazing drops in excess pounds–especially in trouble spots like the tummy.
- Healthier Teeth: Sugar and refined starches are the primary cause of cavities and decay. In fact, before refined sugar was introduced into the western diet, people were far less susceptible to tooth problems. While there are many things that can influence how often you need to get a filling, cutting back on sweets is one of the best ways to improve your dental health and reduce your dreaded dental visits.
- Healthy Food Tastes Better: Once our body is trained to crave added sugar, our receptivity to healthy foods (and even naturally sweet foods) is dulled. After a week without added sugar, you’ll start to notice the sweetness in foods with natural sugars: milk, nuts, oatmeal, etc. You’ll realize that fruits are bursting with flavor and sweetness, without any factory enhancement.
- Resistance to the Common Cold: In the hours after you consume sugar, your body’s immune system is suppressed. Many people who cut sugar out of their diets notice that their body is more able to fight off attacks during flu season. Boosted immune function could also be due to the incorporation of more nutritious foods.
- Better mood: Obviously, sugar gives us a quick boost of energy. It can even elevate our mood for a few minutes. But every rush is followed by a crash; sugar can’t sustain that level of energy. Sugar interrupts our body’s natural mood-boosting hormones and cycles. One study found a direct correspondence between sugar levels (glycemic index) and depression.
This list is just a sampling. Cutting out sugar can also improve your sleep, reduce your risk for life-threatening diseases like heart problems and diabetes, and even save you significant amounts of money.
If you’re interested, but not sure if you can cut sugar out of your life completely, try an experiment: take sugar away for two weeks and see what positive changes you see in your life.
Christine is a professional writer and an avid reader who’s passionate about storytelling in all its forms. At any given moment, she’s in the middle of at least three books on anything from human psychology to ninjas. Although she’s a marathon swimmer and enjoys camping in the mountains, she believes there’s nothing better than a carton of ice cream and a Dawson’s Creek marathon.