This is our second article focusing on the correlation between sugar and headaches. In our first post – Reduce the Sugar, Reduce the Headaches – we discussed ways to cut out the sugar from your diet and reduce the risk of migraine headaches. But how much sugar should you consuming as part of a balanced diet?
Determining how much sugar is safe in your daily diet is contingent upon understanding two things: what natural sugar is and what added sugar is. Also, if you’re diabetic, your daily sugar intake restriction is different than a non-diabetic. Either way, too much sugar is not is not a good thing, period, and you should make sure you are staying within the limits of a healthy daily sugar intake.
Natural sugar occurs in almost everything we eat because our bodies use sugar to fuel our brains, muscles and maintain healthy cell function. People without sugar-related health issues normally need not worry about natural sugar. It’s when we go overboard and overdose on foods with added sugar that sugar intake becomes unhealthy.
So, how much daily-added sugar should you actually eat? According to the American Heart Association, women should only eat 6 tsp. of added sugar and men should only eat 9 tsp. In grams, women should only eat 24 grams of added sugar (96 total calories from sugar), and men should only eat 36 grams (144 total calories from sugar).
If you are diabetic, the American Diabetes Association recommends monitoring your daily sugar and carbohydrate intake together, as the two go hand in hand. Your safe daily sugar intake might be different and must be determined by your doctor, as blood glucose levels need to be monitored and kept under control.
How Much is Too Much?
You might be thinking, “Okay, no big deal. I only throw some sugar on top of my morning cereal and add a teaspoon to my coffee.” Depending on what else you eat and drink during the day, added sugar might be a very big deal, as the grams add up faster than you think. That can of coke you have with your lunch contains 39 grams of sugar. Think you’re being healthy by drinking a sports drink instead? The University of Washington reports that there are 14 grams of sugar in one cup of Gatorade. Most bottles sold are 12 oz. to 32 oz., and if you’re drinking the whole bottle, you may be consuming anywhere from 21 grams to 56 grams of sugar, respectively. Oh, and that Snickers bar in the afternoon has 30 grams of sugar – you’ve pretty much blown your daily intake right there.
What Can I Do?
Avoid eating unsafe levels of sugar in your daily diet by avoiding the foods that contain them. Think natural, raw, whole and organic. Drink water instead of the soda, don’t add sugar to your coffee and tea, and eat almonds instead of a candy bar for your afternoon snack. In the long run, you’ll have more sustained energy, which is what you’re looking for, correct?
Become a label reader. Know what you are putting into your body. Food labels contain both natural and added sugar in the total calculated grams, so keep this in mind as you are doing the math. If the ingredients listed on the food label include any type of sugar, corn sweetener or syrup, anything ending in “ose” (i.e., fructose, glucose, lactose), high-fructose corn syrup, or honey or molasses, sugar has been added to this food product. If the label does not mention any type of sugar in the ingredients, the grams of sugar listed under the nutritional information are natural sugars and, unless you have sugar-related health concerns, you do not need to count them.
Finally, keep track of your daily sugar intake, even if it’s just for a couple of days. You might be surprised at how much added sugar you are actually eating and drinking. On the other hand, you might also be pleasantly surprised at how healthy this portion of your diet is. Either way, women shouldn’t add more than 24 grams of sugar to their diet and men, no more than 36 grams.