Reducing added sugar in your diet is the single most effective way to improve your metabolic health and reduce your risk of developing processed food-related diseases.
Overconsumption of added sugar over time causes metabolic syndrome, significantly increasing the risk of chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and liver disease. These processed food-related diseases are the leading cause of early death, decreased healthspan, and COVID-19 complications.
On a day-to-day level, too much added sugar can lead to a “sugar crash,” causing sudden headache, fatigue, irritability, and trouble focusing.
Added Sugar vs. Naturally Occurring Sugar
Naturally occurring sugars are sugar bound in whole foods such as fruit (fructose) and milk (lactose). Added sugars, ranging from honey to high fructose corn syrup, are added to foods and beverages to give them extra sweetness or flavor. When we consume naturally occurring sugars, they are accompanied by beneficial nutrients and fiber that helps slow your body’s absorption of the sugar. Added sugars are refined and often consumed in excess quantities without any of the beneficial nutrients, protein, and fiber.
What Can You Do?
Luckily, there are easy steps you can take to limit added sugar that can quickly improve your metabolic health.
- Think of desserts (cake, cookies, etc.) as a “treat” saved for special occasions like birthdays and holidays. For an everyday sweet tooth craving, opt for fresh fruits instead; smoothie bowls make an excellent substitute for ice cream!
- Swap chocolate milk for whole milk – flavored yogurt for plain yogurt with fresh fruit – soda for sparkling water with natural flavoring – juices for whole fruits.
- Skip the condiments or make your own. Barbecue sauce, ketchup, mayo, and ranch dressing are often loaded with added sugars; swap them with homemade salad dressings, tomato paste, and yogurt dip.
- Read labels on all packaged foods, “added sugars” are required to be listed separately on the ingredient list.
- Participate in a “no-sugar” challenge, like this one from the New York Times, to kick-start new habits.
- Check out Eat REAL’s Family Cooking & Shopping Guide for shopping and meal recommendations to make nutritious meals at home.
Limiting your added sugar consumption will lead to more energy, healthier organs, and greater resiliency against the flu, COVID-19, and other infections.
Eat REAL Certification Reduces Student’s Consumption of Added Sugar
Eat REAL works within the school system to reduce the amount of added sugar in the meals served to children. We help them identify where added sugars are hidden across their menus and find lower or no sugar alternatives. We can then measure their progress and share the impact of their efforts. When students experience a “sugar crash” at school, they may become tired, irritable, and have trouble focusing. Low-sugar breakfast and lunches can improve kids’ short-term memory and attention span at school.
Eat REAL’s newest certified district, Mt. Diablo Unified School District, removed 10 lbs of sugar per student per year from their meal offerings by sourcing minimally processed ingredients. By the spring of 2025, Eat REAL Certified schools have the potential to prevent the consumption of 24,571,859 lbs. of added sugar – that’s 2.8 billion teaspoons of sugar avoided!