Why is Added Sugar So Bad? The Dangers of Added Sugar & 3 Tips to Cut Back

dangers of added sugar in coffee latte espresso hidden sugars

When you hear talk about cutting back on sugar, do you feel like you don’t really consume THAT much?

That protein bar is HEALTHY, right? Eating dark chocolate every single day is GOOD for you, right? Depriving yourself of sweets will just BACKFIRE, right?

Well, it all depends on what you’re going for. And if you’re going for living a clean, energetic, productive, positive life on the regular, it may help to shine some light on the dangers of added sugar and 3 simple tips to cut back.

added sugar causes both digestive problems and mood disorders gut second brain sugar detox
What’s so bad about added sugar? Bad bacteria in your gut LOVE sugar. Having more bad bacteria in your gut than good leads to gas, bloating, cramps, diarrhea, constipation and inflammation, leaving you fatigued and frustrated.

Let’s start by defining ADDED sugar:

  • Added sugar is not fruit.
    • Fruit contains natural sugars. But natural sugars still spike your body’s blood sugar levels (more on the impact of this below).
    • It’s been recommended to limit your fruit intake to 1-3 servings a day, and to pair that apple with some almond butter, or those blueberries with a handful of nuts, to reduce the spike.
  • Added sugar is sugar added to foods that don’t naturally contain sugar.
    • Salad Dressing. Soup. Yogurt. Tomato Sauce. The list goes ON for where food brands are adding sugar to normal foods to make us crave them more.
    • And it’s not just granulated sugar. It’s honey, maple syrup, agave, molasses. These are SUGARS.

Hear Me Now: There’s Science Stating that Overconsumption of Added Sugar can Actually Decrease Your Lifespan

If you’re wondering, “What’s so bad about added sugar? Just a little bit of added sugar at each meal & snack isn’t a big deal, right?”

Wrong. A little goes a long way and it all adds up, leading to silent, systemic inflammation, which can make you more prone to sickness & disease.

To spare you a lengthy, scientific explanation, below are some quick digestible (no pun intended) bullets on what happens if you continue to fall victim to your sugar cravings.

added sugars in packaged foods honey agave maple syrup sugar everywhere inflammation
Added sugars are hiding everywhere. It’s been recommended to consume only 20 grams of sugar per day. A peanut butter Perfect Bar has 18 grams of sugar! It doesn’t matter if it’s all honey. It’s still SUGAR.

You’ll Burn Sugar Instead of Stubborn Fat:

  • Eating or drinking sugar spikes our body’s blood sugar. Blood sugar is a gangsta party of glucose (read: sugar) in our blood that is carried to ALL cells in our body to supply energy.
  • If your body continues to rely on sugar for energy, it will not burn fat for fuel, leading to an accumulation of body fat. So while that froyo or handful of Skittles may be “fat free” your body will work in overdrive to burn the sugar, but not the fat you’ve been trying to burn off.
  • The peak & valley cycle continues as you’ll crash after a blood sugar peak, then will crave sugar all over again while you’re in the valley (of the shadow of…sugar. Gangsta’s Paradise, anyone?)
  • You already know that sugar is the mere definition of “empty calories.” Sugar provides absolutely no nutritional value. So you’re essentially choosing to add calories & burn sugar instead of fat when you succumb to a sugar craving.

You’ll Continue to Get Sick:

  • Did you know that our gut is literally a second brain?! There’s an entire ecosystem of bacteria and a vast neural network operating in our GUT! And while our gut doesn’t perform deductive reasoning or write poetry, our gut strongly influences our MOOD. So gut health is hella importante.
  • We have both good & bad bacteria living in our gut, and the bad bacteria LOVE refined sugar. They THRIVE off of it, multiplying the bad guy army and killing off the good guys.
  • Having more bad bacteria than good leads to: gas, bloating, cramps, diarrhea, constipation and inflammation. Symptoms of inflammation include fatigue, body aches, head aches and joint pain.
dangers of added sugar in coffee latte espresso hidden sugars
Think that almond milk latte is sugar free? Think again. Starbucks coconut milk, almond milk and soy milk ALL contain added sugar. And that sugar free syrup? It’s actually making you crave MORE SUGAR!

Time to Overcome Your Excuses

Added Sugar = Added Sugar = Added Sugar

There’s nothing special or “better” about honey, maple syrup, agave or blackstrap molasses. If it didn’t occur naturally, as in a piece of fruit, it’s added, it’s unnecessary, and it’s making you less healthy.

But how do I cut back on sugar?

Here are 3 simple tips to get you started on your sugar reduction journey:

  1. READ YOUR LABLES: It’s as easy as that. Before putting that salad dressing in your cart, take a moment to look at the nutrition label. Beyond looking at grams of sugar (some packaged foods are even included grams of ADDED sugar now) look at the INGREDIENTS! There are super sneaky terms companies use for sugar (here’s a mindbodygreen.com list of 41). If you don’t recognize it, give it a “thank you, next” (and now we reference Ariana Grande).
  2. NATURAL SUBSTITUTES: If you’re hankering for a sweet treat as a midday snack or after a meal, choose berries & nuts! Dried fruit may be a good choice, but read the label for added sugar and make sure it’s not “sweetened.” Also, keep your serving size LOW for dried fruit, as it’s much more condensed than fresh fruit.
  3. MORE WATER: Oftentimes, when we’re craving something sugary & sweet, we’re actually just THIRSTY. If you’ve had enough plain water for the day, try adding mint, cucumber or lemon to a pitcher of water and keeping it in your fridge. There are also naturally flavored sparkling water options to try if your digestive system can handle the carbonation (mine unfortunately does no fair so well with the bubbles).

Time to Take Action!

What will be your first step in cutting back on sugar?

Being more mindful of labels? Questioning whether you really need a treat or if flavored water will quench your craving? Considering your gut health? Reminding yourself of the dangers of added sugar?

Either way, I hope this article helped you understand why added sugars are getting a bad wrap, how disruptive they are to our bodies, and simple tips to cut back on sugar.

You’re sweet enough just the way you are,


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Katie Hardy is an Integrative Health Coach for moms, trained by Duke Health. Owner of WholeHardy Health, an Integrative Health Coaching Practice, Katie guides moms in defining their core motivation to become their healthiest & happiest selves. Areas of focus span across: Nutrition & Fitness, Mindfulness & Mind-Body Connection, Sleep & Stress, Spirituality, Relationships & Communication, and Personal & Professional Development. For more information on WholeHardy Health Integrative Coaching, click here.

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