Help! Am I eating too much sugar?

by: Dr. Tomeka Day, MD

The sweet taste of natural food such as berries, has not only been delightful from the beginning of time, but also useful for mankind to identify what food was safe to eat.  They would continue to eat the foods such as berries if they had a sweet taste to them, and tend to avoid those that were bitter tasting.   As the sugar cane crop became more prominent globally, the production of sugar in its refined form increased, thereby making refined sugar more available at affordable prices.  Now processed foods with added sugars are widely available. According to the Department of Health and Human Services,  the average American ate only 2 pounds of added sugar a year two hundred years ago. In 1970,  Americans ate 123 pounds of added sugar per year. Today, the average American consumes almost 152 pounds of added sugar in one year. This is equal to 3 pounds (or 6 cups) of added sugar consumed in one week!


Let’s briefly discuss the benefits of sugar or carbohydrates.  Carbohydrates are essential for human life.  They are sources of energy for the cells in our body to function normally, such as the brain, heart, and lungs. Cellulose is found in the cell walls of plants and give it structure.  Our bodies have the ability to store sugar for energy source during periods of fasting. Carbohydrates are necessary for the structure of genetic material in our bodies, as well as biochemical processes.

Now, carbohydrates are  biomolecules made up of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen that have different forms for sugar. There are various forms of carbohydrates, monosaccharides, disaccharides, and polysaccharidesMonosaccharides, have one molecule, such as glucose, fructose, or  galactoseDiscaccharides have two molecules, such as glucose + fructose, which is sucrose (table sugar), and lactosePolysaccharides have many molecules, such as, starch, glycogen, and cellulose in plants.  So if you see any of the above terms on labels of food products, know that this is a form of sugar.

Sugar can be found in so many different places naturally.  Fructose is found in fruits, honey, some vegetable roots, cane, and corn syrup. Galactose is found in milk.  Glucose is found in fruits, and plant juices.  Maltose is found in certain grains, such as barley. Starch is found in rice and potatoes. Sucrose is found in sugar cane and roots of sugar beets. Lactose is also found in milk.

Flourish pics- kitchen, veggies, and fruits

Additional sugars are added to pre-packaged and many processed foods that you may not think about. Here are some foods that have more sugar than you may think added to them.  Foods such as yogurt, condiments such as ketchup, honey mustard, bbq sauce and salad dressings, chocolate milk, energy drinks, cereals, cereal bars, crackers, breads, vitamin waters, pre-made soups, canned baked beans, canned fruits, and of course desserts, candies,  juices and sodas.

While Sugar or carbohydrates are important for human life, too much of it can be very problematic. Excess sugar consumption can cause conditions such as, Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus, Heart Disease, Obesity, Dementia, and Dental Decay.  According to the American Heart Association,  70% of American adults are obese or overweight, which increases the risk of  Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus, Heart Disease, Stroke, and High Blood pressure.  Furthermore,

  • Nearly one in three (31.8%) U.S. children (23.9 million) ages 2 to 19 are overweight or obese.
  • More than one-third (about 35%) of U.S. adults are obese (more than 78 million adults).

How do we know when we’ve had too much sugar?  The American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 teaspoons (25 grams) of added sugar for women, and 9 teaspoons (38 grams) for men.  They recommend 3 – 6 teaspoons (12 -25 grams)/day for children.  What does all this mean? The average candy bar has 6 teaspoons of added sugar in it, 1 cup of vanilla ice cream has 7 teaspoons of added sugar, and 1 (12oz) can of regular soda has 9 teaspoons of sugar in it.  Therefore, if you had 1 can of soda with each meal, three times a day, that is 27 teaspoons of added sugar in one day from just the soda alone!  That is 4.5 x more than the recommended daily amount of added sugar.

Now you may be saying to yourself, “how can I lower the amount of sugar in my diet?”  The American Heart Association recommendations are for added sugars to foods.  So, your sugar amount should be 45-65% of total calories consumed daily.  And your carbohydrates should come from foods that contain it naturally, such as fruits, vegetables, and grains.  The 6 or 9 teaspoons are added sugars to foods, such as what would be in processed or boxed foods, desserts, juices, sodas, or cereals. So this would mean that when you prepare your meals, you want to limit pre-packaged, and processed foods as much as possible.  You would want to prepare your meals with fresh or frozen fruits, vegetables and whole grains, meats and dry beans for your protein, but limit the amount of sugar that you add to your food.

Adjusting your diet to meet the recommended guidelines, can certainly be a lifestyle change which may take time, but the positive results are certainly worth it.  As I stated above, there are so many prevalent conditions in America that can be prevented by limiting the amount of excess sugar and maintaining a healthy weight.


Author: “Dr. Tomeka” Day, MD is the CEO and Founder of Flourish Health Coaching, LLC.  She is helping career women and busy moms, and their children through her health coaching by focusing on nutrition and lifestyle changes.  As a result of her health coaching, career women and busy moms are equipped with the knowledge and tools they need to provide nutritious and quick meals, become healthy or improve health conditions such as,  Type 2 Diabetes/ Adult Onset Diabetes, Hypertension, Hypercholesterolemia, Inflammatory diseases, and weight issues through nutrition and lifestyle changes, optimize self-care, discover their God-given talents, as well as, help their kids obtain and/or maintain healthy weight through healthy eating and habits.  If you want more information on health coaching services and a free health coaching consultation.  Contact Dr. Tomeka MD.


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