As Food And Drinks Get Sweeter, Here's How To Limit Your Sugar Intake

Whether you know it or not, you've probably been eating more sugar in the past few years if you regularly consume condiments, bread, packaged snacks, or other processed goods. A new study by Cambridge University found that the amount of sugars and sweeteners added to packaged foods and drinks has increased significantly in the past 10 years. Added sugar can be found in both sweet and savory foods, including baked goods, sauces, cereals, and yogurt.

While it's impossible to completely avoid sugar, there are some simple ways to limit your intake. The easiest way to see how much sugar is in a product is to check the nutrition facts label. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends consuming no more than 6 teaspoons (25 grams) of added sugar per day for women and 9 teaspoons (36 grams) for men. You should also be aware of sugar's many names. Sugar has a lot of different names, so it can be hard to know when it's actually present in a product. Some common names for sugar include cane sugar, beet sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, molasses, and agave nectar. Finally, try to avoid processed foods as much as possible. Whole foods, such as fruits and vegetables, are naturally lower in sugar than processed foods.

How sugar affects your body

While limited amounts of sugar won't cause you much harm, it is important to be aware of what sugar does to your body, especially if you're probably consuming more than you realize. Your body breaks down all types of sugar into glucose, which is then used for energy. However, too much sugar can lead to a myriad of health problems including weight gain, cavities, and an increased risk for diabetes and heart disease (via Harvard Health).

Sugar affects your brain's reward system by releasing feel-good chemicals like dopamine and serotonin. Eating sugary foods can give you a "sugar high," but it's quickly followed by a "sugar low," or a crash (via WebMD). You may crave more sugar to get that initial high back again. When consumed in large amounts, sugar can contribute to mood swings and feelings of depression. In general, it's best to limit your sugar intake and focus on eating whole, unprocessed foods. When you do consume sugar, be sure to balance it out with plenty of healthy fats, proteins, and fiber to help slow down the release of sugar into your bloodstream.