Eating sugar – News flash: We’re all dipped in honey and rolled in sprinkles. The average person shovels in 300 calories from added sugar every day, according to a recent report from the University of North Carolina. Roughly 20% of Americans exceed 700 calories of added sugar on a daily basis. That’s an entire cup of sugar. Whoa.
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“Not only are we getting added sugar from obvious places like cakes, candy, and soda, but it’s also coming from healthier-sounding packaged products like salad dressing, pasta sauce, and yogurt,” says Elyse Powell, one of the report’s coauthors and a doctoral researcher at UNC. (To be clear, by “added sugar” we’re talking about the super-processed sweet stuff you’d add to a batch of cookies, not the natural sugars found in whole fruit, veggies, and plain milk.)
The big takeaway from that UNC report: Most of us could stand to cut back on sugar. The American Heart Association suggests women stick to 6 teaspoons or less of added sugar daily. That’s roughly 25 grams, or 100 calories’ worth, if you’re checking food labels.
Exactly what you’ll experience when you ditch the sweet stuff will depend on the size of your sugar habit; people on the high end of the sugar-consumption spectrum show addict-like withdrawal symptoms, including anxiety, restlessness, and even depression, research has shown.
But assuming you’re like the average American, you can expect to a few things to happen once you wrestle your sugar habit back into its cage.
1. Your heart will do a happy dance.
Your risk of dying from ticker-related trouble will plummet threefold, according to research from James J. DiNicolantonio, PharmD, a cardiovascular research scientist at St. Luke’s Mid-Atlantic Heart Institute in Kansas City, MO. Why? “Added sugar chronically raises insulin levels, which activates the sympathetic nervous system, increasing blood pressure and heart rate,” DiNicolantonio explains. “Within a few weeks’ time, you might expect to see a 10% decrease in LDL cholesterol and a 20 to 30% decrease in triglycerides.” Your BP would head in the right direction, too, he says.