Of all the dietary enemies we hear about, one of the most underestimated is sugar. Many people don't realize the powerful effects of consuming too many sweets, but your body can give off signs that you are eating too much sugar, some of which you may not even realize are connected to what you're eating. Although indulging in cupcakes or cookies from time is generally harmless (and quite tasty), nutritionally speaking, Americans are consuming way too much of the sweet stuff, and it's having an effect on our health.
Just recently, the FDA changed the daily recommendation of sugar intake to no more than 50 grams a day, but most Americans get much more than that. To put it into perspective, one can of soda alone contains about 50 grams of sugar. Even if you're not one to load up on desserts regularly, there are still plenty of sneaky ways that sugar can be making its way into your diet, from fruit drinks, to frozen foods, and even less obvious places such as tomato sauce.
If you suspect your diet may be too high in sugar, consider these six signs you're consuming too much of the sweet treat.
1. You're Breaking Out
"Constant exposure to a high intake of sugar raises our insulin levels and causes stress in the production of our hormones like testosterone," says Rebecca Lewis, RD to Bustle over email. "This has been linked to causing skin inflammation such as acne." Indeed, research from the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has found that acne is directly linked to a diet high in sugar and fat.
2. You're Fatigued
Just as healthy foods can give you energy and keep you alert, unhealthy foods can deplete you and make you fatigued. Eating sweets causes a drastic spike and drop in blood sugar, leaving you depleted of energy. Try replacing something you usually eat with sugar with something with less every now and then, and you may feel more steadiness in your energy levels.
3. You Add Sugar To Already Sweet Things
"Some people literally cannot taste the innate flavors of fresh, whole foods because for decades their palates have been accustomed to the super-intense flavors of ingredients like sugar and salt," says Jay Kenney, PhD, RD, FACN over email. "Anything that’s subtler, like the flavor of a berry, is lost, undetectable." To regain your tastebuds, you have to start removing added sugar.
4. You Shop In The Middle Aisles Of The Grocery Store
"If you’re a middle-aisle shopper, you’re likely buying a lot of hyper-processed, industrialized foods," says Kenney. "The vast majority of highly processed foods contain added sugars – even foods, like rice mixes, that don’t taste sweet." Stick to the outer aisles, where you'll find the most unprocessed, whole foods that don't contain sugar (unless they're natural, of course, like fruit).
5. You Constantly Crave Sweets
"For most people, the more sugar they eat, the more they want," says Kenney. Research from the Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition & Metabolic Care has found that sugar stimulates the brain in similar ways to drugs, which can result in habit formation. Just as you have to kick any other habit, the same goes for cutting out sugar to reduce cravings.
6. Your Focus Is Off
Studies from the journal Neuroscience have found that a high-sugar diet can lower levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which is responsible for memory formation and learning. This, in turn, can also affect your mood, causing you to become depressed.
To help you avoid eating more sugar than your body can handle and process, Lewis recommends checking ingredient labels, avoiding sweetened drinks, and sticking to whole foods.
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