December 9, 2019

What does too much sugar do to your body?

Diet | Health Tips


By now, you’ve heard that too much sugar is not good for you. Even though you are aware of how much sugar you consume, you may not be aware of foods that have hidden sugars. Jessica Regan, former OrthoIndy clinical nutrition manager and dietitian, explains hidden sugars, how sugar affects the body and how to cut sugar during the holidays.

What is a hidden sugar?

Hidden sugars are ingredients in food and drinks that are disguised on food labels as other ingredients. Many added sweeteners such as corn syrup, brown sugar, brown sugar syrup, honey, dextrose and fructose, are all considered hidden sugars. 

Below is a list of common food items that shockingly have more grams of sugar than you may realize.

  • Pasta sauces. 6 to 12 grams of sugar per half-cup serving. As a solution, check the label before purchasing or make your own pasta sauce. 
  • Granola bars. Depending on the coating or chocolate chips added, there can be 8 to 12 grams of sugar per serving. As a solution, try making your own granola bar. 
  • Yogurt. 12 to 33 grams of sugar per 8-ounce serving. As a solution, try plain Greek yogurt as a substitute to your normal yogurt brand. 
  • Oatmeal. 10 to 15 grams of sugar per packet. As a solution, try a ‘reduced sugar’ variation or plain oatmeal.

View the full list of hidden sugar items

What does too much sugar do to your body?

“Sugar is a type of carbohydrate and the body uses carbohydrates as its main fuel source for energy,” said Jessica. “Sugar is a simple carbohydrate (these are ingredients naturally found in foods). It is absorbed more quickly in your body than a complex carbohydrate, such as whole grains and beans. 

Jessica adds, “The short-term affect sugar has on the body is that it uses it for energy right after it is consumed, or it stores that energy for later. Added sugar can have a negative impact on the body in the long-term if it’s eaten in excess amounts since the body ends up storing most of it.”

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting added sugars to no more than 10% of your daily calorie intake; however, the average American consumes more than 13% of their daily calories from added sugar.

Ultimate Guide to a Healthy Lifestyle

How to cut down on sugar during the holidays

“Some ways you could cut down on sugar during the holidays is to swap out sugar for a better substitute when baking desserts,” said Jessica. “Try using honey instead of white sugar. Honey is a natural sweetener that can add great flavor to any recipe.” 

The baking conversion is ¾ cup of honey for 1 cup of sugar. Other great options are unsweetened applesauce (1 cup of applesauce for 1 cup of sugar) or Stevia (2 Tbsp. Stevia for 1 cup of sugar).

Additionally, try to avoid overeating sugar during the holidays by filling up on nutritious foods first. 

“Fill up on fresh vegetables or a small plate of meats and cheeses as an appetizer. The protein and dietary fiber from these foods will help keep you full and you will be less tempted to fill your plate with extra stuffing, bread rolls and desserts later,” said Jessica.

Instead of focusing on a low-sugar diet, try putting the focus on consuming an overall healthful eating pattern. During the holidays, be mindful of what and how much you are eating but also allow yourself to enjoy the day. Your usual diet pattern is what has the most impact on your health. Increase your intake of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, seafood and nuts. Decrease your intake of processed or fried foods, desserts, sugary drinks and red meats.

Need to lose weight for surgery?

It’s recommended that some people lose weight prior to surgery to reduce surgical risks and improve recovery. If you need to lose weight prior to surgery, discuss a plan with your physician on how to lose weight or download our guide below.  

Learn more healthy tips for living an active and nutritious lifestyle

Schedule an appointment 

Your well-being is important to us. Click the button below or call us to schedule an appointment with one of our orthopedic specialists. If your injury or condition is recent, you can walk right into one of our OrthoIndy Urgent Care locations for immediate care. For rehabilitation and physical therapy, no referral is needed to see one of our physical therapists. 

Schedule an Appointment Call OrthoIndy 317.802.2000

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