It's no secret that sugar is in almost everything you eat, even the foods you'd never expect (opens in new tab). It's also not a secret that sugar intake (opens in new tab) is becoming a huge problem that can lead to major health issues like diabetes and heart disease. That said, even though these issues fall on the more serious end, there are still some signs to look out for when trying to determine how much sugar is too much. We talked to Brooke Alpert, MS, RD, CDN, the founder of B-Nutritious and a member of the American Dietetic Association to learn about how to know when it's time to cut back on the sugar.
Believe it or not, it's actually possible to be addicted to sugar. And, according to Alpert, you'll develop an insatiable appetite for sugar the more you eat it. "By eating a high-sugar diet, you cause a hormonal response in your body that's like a wave, it brings you up and then you crash down and it triggers your body to want more sugar," she tells Delish. When you find yourself constantly craving something sweet, don't overlook it, as there's a possibility that your cravings (opens in new tab) are the sign of a larger problem.
You might have a problem if, on top of your cravings, you find yourself not being satisfied with the amount of sugar in certain foods. Say hello to what Alpert calls sugar overkill, which "causes your taste bud sugar tolerance to go up, so you need more and more sugar to satisfy that sweet craving."
You probably didn't need us to tell you this but if you've noticed lately that you're a few pounds heavier, it might be time to consider cutting back on how much sugar is in your diet. The reason being that eating sugar alone isn't satisfying your appetite—it's actually making you eat even more. "Excess sugar is excess calories, and since it has no protein or fiber, it doesn't fill you up—so you just keep eating it," Alpert says. "When you load up on sugar, your body's told to produce more insulin [and] over time, that excessive output can lead to insulin resistance."
If eating sugar has ever left in a mood that's less than stellar, there's a reason for that. "The blood sugar crash that happens when you're coming off a sugar high can cause mood swings and leave you feeling crabby," says Alpert. "Not to mention, if your energy is also tanking, that just contributes to a bad attitude." It's worth noting that, according to Prevention.com (opens in new tab), high sugar intake can lead to a higher risk of depression since sugar can raise levels of inflammation throughout the body. A study published by The JAMA Network (opens in new tab) in 2015 found that clinically depressed patients had brain inflammation levels that were 30% higher.
This is pretty much a given, but you're not exactly doing your skin any favors if your sugar intake is through the roof. "Some people are sensitive to getting a spike in insulin from sugar intake, which can set off a hormonal cascade that can lead to a breakout like acne or rosacea," Alpert says.
There's a reason your parents constantly told you to lay off the sugar as a child. Not necessarily because your sugar high isn't something they wanted to deal with, but because they knew that eating all that sugar would lead to some not-so-fun trips to the dentist's office. Enter: cavities. "When bacteria chow down on food particles in between the teeth, acid is produced, which causes tooth decay," says Alpert. To expand her point a little, the acid that is released from those food particles that have been left behind combine with the saliva in your mouth to form plaque (opens in new tab). And when that plaque isn't brushed away, your teeth can begin decaying.
Do you ever have a tough time mustering enough energy to make it through your workday? That morning cup of coffee with three sugars isn't helping you out. "Energy is most stable when blood sugar is stable, so when you're consuming too much sugar, the highs and lows of your blood sugar lead to highs and lows of energy," Alpert tell us. "Eating a lot of sugar also means it's likely you're not eating enough protein and fiber."
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