There’s no denying it, sugar is delicious. When you eat it your body actually has a reaction – it releases dopamine, a chemical in your brain that affects your emotions and lets you feel pleasure and pain. Although you may be feeling joy when the sugar hits your lips, the toll it takes on your body is a different story.

Your teeth
You’ve probably been warned by your parents or your dentist that too much sugar will rot your teeth. They weren’t kidding! Consuming too much sugar makes your blood very thick, making blood flow to your gums and teeth limited. This can lead to gum disease and tooth decay.

Your body
Weight gain is probably the most obvious side effect of consuming too much sugar. Sugar is a simple carb and is high in calories – making it easy to go overboard on treats without realizing. The more sugar you eat the more insulin is released into your bloodstream. Insulin promotes fat storage, leading to weight gain.

Your brain
It was mentioned above that when you eat sugar your brain actually has a chemical reaction. To go into more detail, when you consume excess sugar the bacteria in your intestines begin to die. These bacteria make vitamin B, so as the bacteria decrease, the vitamin B decreases and you aren’t digesting properly. This can lead to drowsiness and an overall ‘foggy’ state of mind.

You may have heard sugar being compared to narcotics. Similar to some drugs, when consuming sugar you can experience an increase in energy known as a ‘sugar high.’ This high is typically followed by a ‘crash’ which can make you feel worse than before you consumed the sugar. Also, when removing sugar from your diet the first couple weeks you may have withdrawal and experience symptoms like headaches, irritability and mood swings.

How much is OK?
Health Canada estimates that Canadians consume approximately 26 teaspoons of added sugars per day (that equals 104 grams of sugar per day!). We instinctively know that this number is too high, but what should we be striving for? The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a maximum of no more than 5% of daily calories coming from sugar (of course this needs to be a healthy amount of overall calories) and The American Heart Association (AHA) suggests no more than 9 teaspoons per day for men and 6 teaspoons for women.

Keep in mind, sugar is often hidden in unlikely foods, from salad dressing to juices, which can push you past the recommended amount. Make sure to read nutrition labels and look out for these aliases: high-fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, agave nectar, and fructose.

Top 10 foods where sugar hides:

    • Instant oatmeal
    • Jarred sauces (like pasta sauce/cooking sauce)
    • Ready-made smoothies (in grocery store or restaurant)
    • Yogurt (only plain should be eaten)
    • Canned soup
    • Granola/energy bars
    • Peanut butter/flavoured nut butters
    • Salad dressing
    • Flavoured water/coffee/drinks
    • And of course, the obvious desserts, pastries, etc.