Sugar can be detrimental to our health. Everybody knows if you eat sugar, you will crash, but it does so much more to our bodies. Sugar can worsen and create cavities, contributes to acne, and even increase your chances of developing dementia when you’re older. Although too much sugar can cause these issues, a controlled amount can be a regular part of our lives. In this article, I will discuss how much sugar is too much, how much most people consume, its risks, its uses in exercise, and alternatives.
Why Does The Amount of Sugar I Eat Matter?
According to data from the National Health and Nutrition Survey, the average teenager consumes 119 grams, or over a half cup, of added sugar each day. The American Heart Association recommends everyone under 18 should consume less than 25 grams (6 tsp or 0.12 cup) of added sugar daily.
The average teenager consumes about five times (4.76 exactly) the recommended daily sugar intake! As a teenager, you should pay attention to the amount of sugar you consume. It is surprisingly easy, as all food products (in most countries) state how much sugar they contain.
The Link Between Sugar and Dental Problems
Sugar can cause many health issues but can also worsen dental problems. Research has shown it as the number one risk factor for dental issues.
Sugar has many problematic effects on the body. Some include increased risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and acne.
Common Foods With Lots of Sugar
Many foods are very high in sugar, with some having more than 25 grams in one serving! If you are limiting the amount of sugar you consume each day to a reasonable amount, this list will be helpful for you to know what to avoid. Here is a list of foods with high amounts of sugar and how much they contain per serving:
- Soda, with 44 grams per 8 oz (240 ml) bottle
- Granola bars, with up to 15 grams per bar
- Yogurt, with around 12 grams per container
- Instant oatmeal packets, with 12 grams per packet
- Energy drinks, with 30 grams per 8 oz (240 ml) can
- Chocolate milk, with 23 grams per 8 oz (240 ml) glass
All of those foods and drinks are pretty obviously high in sugar, but many foods have hidden sugar, including:
- Gummy vitamins, with 3-5 grams per gummy
- Fruit juice, with an average of 23 grams per 8 oz (240 ml) glass
- Ketchup, with 4 grams per 1 tablespoon (15 ml)
- BBQ sauce, with 6 grams per 1 tablespoon (15 ml)
- Coffee and coffee drinks (Dutch Bros), with an average of 30 grams per 12 oz (360 ml) drink
Many foods with high amounts of sugar also have lots of saturated fat, sodium, and other harmful ingredients. If you are interested in learning about the effects of saturated fat, check out, What's All The Fuss on Saturated Fats and Should I Eat Them?
Many foods and drinks have more sugar than the recommended intake, with some almost triple. Some foods you do not think have lots of sugar have tons, like ketchup and BBQ sauce.
Many sugar alternatives exist. Some popular artificial sweeteners include:
- Acesulfame K
- Aspartame (brand name: Equal)
- Saccharin (brand name: Sweet'N Low)
- Sucralose (brand name: Splenda)
Many natural sweeteners also exist. Some include:
- Monk fruit
Sugar alcohols are in many food and cosmetic products like gum, toothpaste, and mouthwash. They are also often combined with another sugar substitute. The most common sugar alcohols include:
- Erythritol – 0.2 calories per gram and 70% as sweet as sugar
- Isomaltose – 2 calories per gram and 55% as sweet as sugar
- Maltitol – 2.0 calories per gram and 90% as sweet as sugar
- Mannitol – 1.5 calories per gram and 60% as sweet as sugar
- Sorbitol – 2.5 calories per gram and 60% as sweet as sugar
- Xylitol – 2.5 calories per gram and 100% as sweet as sugar
All sugar alcohols are safe, but Erythritol is the best overall.
Risks of Sugar Replacements
There are seemly infinite amounts of sugar replacements, but not all are good for you. For example, Aspartame causes many detrimental health problems, like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
On the other hand, many sweeteners are okay, like sugar alcohols. All sugar alcohols listed can be consumed safely in reasonable amounts. If you consume more than 15 grams daily, you may experience unpleasant digestive side effects.
Overall most sugar replacements are safe, but some, like Aspartame, are dangerous.
When Sugar is Beneficial
Sugar has many disadvantages when overconsumed, but it can also have advantages in specific situations. If you are running long-distance or riding a bike for long periods, you will likely benefit from some sugar. When you eat sugar, your body rapidly converts it into glucose (energy). It is usually harmful to have such a quick rush of energy into our bodies. When you are doing strenuous exercise, that energy can be beneficial.
Sugar is beneficial for people who are doing strenuous exercise because of the rapid energy it provides.
In conclusion, sugar can have many detrimental health effects on the human body, some worse than others. It can also be beneficial for athletes and anyone doing strenuous exercise. Our diets play a key role in our health, and it is easy to let it slide, but as teenagers, we must keep our health in mind, current and future, to live a long and happy life. Over-consuming sugar as a teenager can lead to addiction and cause many health issues. The choices we make at a young age seriously affect our quality of life in the future.