Health Benefits of Reducing Sugar Intake

low sugar foods

Written by Chrissy Arsenault, MBA, RDN, LD 

When we think of sugar, we often think of table sugar. 

But, did you know that sugar is hidden in many different foods that we eat every day, including the foods that we often consider to be ‘good’ foods? Sugar, you’re not so sweet after all.

Here’s the scoop on sugar and why cutting back on it is important for your health in the new year.

What Is Sugar?

Carbohydrates are one of the three macronutrients that provide your body with energy. Sugar is a type of carbohydrate (‘carb’) that comes in many different forms and tastes sweet.

Sugar can either be naturally occurring or added to foods and beverages. Naturally occurring sugars can be found in foods like dairy and fruits. Added sugars are not always explicitly listed on the ingredients list. Instead, they are hidden on the ingredients list as corn syrup, corn sweetener, fructose, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, molasses, raw sugar, to name a few. The major sources of added sugars are beverages, snacks, breakfast cereals, ice cream, and sweets that are often disguised as better-for-you.

How Much Sugar Should I Be Consuming?

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines suggest limiting calories from added sugars to less than 10 percent of your calories per day[1]. This means that if you are exceeding this amount, you may not be achieving a healthy eating pattern that is rich in nutrients. In contrast, the average American is consuming about 270 calories or more than 13 percent of calories per day from added sugars[2]. This percent is shown to be especially high among children and youth.

The FDA has recently published new rules for the Nutrition Facts label to reflect new scientific information and help you make better choices when it comes to food[3]. The new nutrition labels now specify the grams of added sugars in any packaged foods since not all carbs are the same.

Although we need carbohydrates in our eating patterns to support basic bodily functions, consuming added sugars in excess can be harmful to our health. 

Health Benefits of Limiting Sugar

Let’s look at why it’s so important to reduce sugar.

1. Lower Risk of Diabetes

By limiting foods that are high in sugar and consciously choosing foods that are lower on the glycemic index, your blood sugars stay steady and controlled instead of spiking up and down.  

One easy way to curb your sugar intake is by choosing healthier snacks like Munk Pack Keto Granola Bars – they have no added sugar, no high intensity sweeteners, and are low glycemic index. With only 1g of sugar, 2g net carbs, and a delicious and chewy texture, you can’t go wrong.

For those living with type 2 diabetes, reducing sugar intake as part of a diabetes management program can help improve blood sugar levels and reduce complications[4],[5]

2. Healthier Weight

One of the more noticeable benefits of reducing sugar intake is that you can lose weight [6] and keep it off (if you’re looking to lose a couple pounds), or you can maintain your current weight.

Many of the sugary foods in our diet are high in empty calories, but low in nutrient quality overall. This means that by cutting out these sugary foods or eating them in moderation, you have more room to squeeze in nutritious foods that will give you sustained energy while staying full.

Although there are many ways to cut back on calories to lose weight, limiting sugar from sources like sweetened carbonated beverages or snacks with lots of added sugar and high impact sweeteners can be an easy start to starting realizing quick health benefits.

3. Better Mental Health

Some recent studies show that high sugar intake from foods and beverages has a long-term effect on your psychological health and is positively correlated with higher rates of depression[7]. Conversely, lowering your sugar intake is suggested to help with better psychological health.

This is no surprise to those of us who believe that food is medicine. Less sugar means fewer moments where you feel shaky and moody and your blood sugar takes a nosedive. Without your energy levels being on a rollercoaster ride, your mood stays more stable, too.

4. Better Teeth

Who doesn’t want a better smile? But seriously, it’s true that a sweet tooth can result in cavities[8], which are essentially just little holes in your teeth caused by harmful bacteria that break down sugar and produce acid (yuck!). Limiting your sugar can fend off complications to your dental health.

5. A Healthier Heart

A study found that people who ate and drank foods high in sugar had a 38 percent higher risk from dying from heart disease[9]. The researchers also found this same effect of sugar on people who were not overweight and ate many heart-healthy fruits and veggies on a regular basis. Although we don’t know exactly how sugar negatively affects our heart at this time, what’s clear is that less sugar equals better heart health.

Low sugar and healthier snacks like Munk Pack keto bars can help you with your heart health. These sweet and salty bars have 1g of sugar or less, with 2-3g net carbs. And, the nuts in the bars are rich in monounsaturated fats, which can help you reduce the ‘bad’ cholesterol while maintaining the ‘good’ cholesterol in your body.

6. Healthier Blood Pressure 

High blood sugars result in lower nitric oxide, which has shown to potentially contribute to higher blood pressure[10] by stiffening the walls on your arteries. You can keep your arteries working properly by eating nutrient-dense, healthy foods.

7. Less Inflammation

Too much sugar from refined carbs and added sugars increases inflammation[11],[12] in your body. Although inflammation is a natural response in your body to fight injury and infections, chronic inflammation can result in other health complications over time. The good news is that by decreasing your sugar intake, you can prevent your body from going into a constantly inflammatory state.  

8. Potentially Lower Risk of Cancer

Despite the old saying that ‘sugar feeds cancer’, more research is needed to show the link between sugar and cancer. However, we do know that too much sugar causes weight gain and inflammation, and these factors can put you at risk for certain types of cancer, such as breast cancer[13], colon cancer[14], and pancreatic cancer[15].

The Bottom Line

Sugar is all around us. Our bodies need sugar for energy, but too much sugar can be harmful. There are many health-related reasons why it’s important to watch how much sugar we take in from foods and beverages. I believe in order to cut back on sugar for good, you still have to be enjoying great-tasting foods. Check out my list of dietitian-approved low sugar snacks for some inspiration! How are you limiting your sugar intake? Comment below and let me know!

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