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The Sweet (And Not-So-Sweet) Truth About Sugar

What better time to discuss sugar than as we approach the end of the year—a season filled with an endless supply of holiday candies, cookies, and festive treats? While it's not necessary to eliminate sugar entirely from our diets, moderation is key. In this month’s nutrition write-up, we’ll unpack the complexities surrounding sugar, discussing when and how much sugar consumption is healthy.

How Much is Too Much?

Understanding the difference between added and natural sugars is important. Both types of sugar eventually break down into glucose, but added sugars are much easier to overconsume.

  • Natural Sugars: These occur in fruits and dairy products. For example, plain white milk contains naturally occurring sugar.

  • Added Sugars: These are sugars that are added during food preparation and processing. Examples of added sugars include cane sugar in chocolate milk and other sweeteners like corn syrup, brown sugar, and honey.

Now that we’ve established the difference between natural and added sugar, here are the recommendations for how much added sugar we should eat on a daily basis:

  • Men: No more than 9 teaspoons (36 grams or 150 calories)

  • Women: No more than 6 teaspoons (25 grams or 100 calories)

(Keep in mind: 1 can of soda typically contains about 25g of added sugar. So yes, it’s okay to drink some soda, but the number of added grams of sugar can add up quickly.)

Why Limit My Sugar Intake?

Eating too much sugar can have many negative health effects, including:

  • Increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes through insulin resistance

  • Potential for weight gain, as sugar is not a filling nutrient and is easy to overeat

  • Higher risk of cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, and even dementia

When Is Sugar Okay?

Sugar isn't always the enemy. In fact, consuming sugar about an hour before a workout can provide a quick energy boost. If you enjoy candy and don’t want to give it up, consider eating it as a pre-workout snack. Fruits or granola bars are other nutrient-dense, sweet options.

Simple Swaps to Reduce Added Sugar:

  • Beverages: Choose sparkling water or iced tea over soda and juice. For added flavor, mix a splash of fruit juice into plain water.

  • Breakfast: Swap high-sugar cereals for oatmeal topped with fresh fruits.

  • Smoothies: Make your own smoothie to control sugar levels, using natural sweeteners like ripe bananas.

Remember: it’s okay to eat some sugar. Especially as we go into the holiday season, don’t feel guilty about enjoying your favorite holiday treats. However, remember that portion size matters, and make sure to pair your sugary treats with a healthy diet full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and proteins.

In the world of nutrition, it can often seem like there's a lot to figure out. It seems like everyone is trying to sell a specific diet or plan, but the truth is that everyone’s nutrition needs are unique. Know that you don't have to go on your nutrition journey alone. Check out to sign up for a free nutrition intro session where we can talk about creating a nutrition plan that works best for you.

For more in-depth nutrition information on a range of topics, tune into my podcast RDs vs BS available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or through the website Sugar is one chapter; let’s explore the rest together!

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