Sugar is delicious, obviously.
But you probably know that it's smart to limit the amount of sugar you eat.
The average American eats about 82 grams of added sugar a day, according to the Centers for Disease Control. That's more than three times the amount that experts suggest for women and children, and more than twice what they recommend for men. We're talking roughly 19.5 teaspoons of sugar, when you shouldn't be eating more than about six to nine teaspoons.
Because while sugar tastes great, it can also make you feel pretty crummy.
So if you're trying to limit your sugar intake, here are 14 tips that might help:
1. Know how much is too much.
2. Mentally prepare yourself.
3. Keep a food diary for a few days before you start.
4. Learn the difference between naturally occurring sugar and added sugar.
Got that? Natural sugar = basically OK in moderation. Added sugar = the bigger problem.
5. Read nutrition labels and ingredient lists so that you can identify how much added sugar a product has.
A quick note about the problem with nutrition labels:
For now, they don't distinguish between naturally occurring sugar and added sugar, Stanhope says.
Take a Dannon low-fat Greek yogurt with strawberries, for instance. The nutrition label says it has 19 grams of sugar, but there's no way to tell how much of that comes from the naturally occurring sugars in the milk and the strawberries, and how much comes from added sugar meant to make it taste sweeter.
One way to tell if a product has added sugar is to look at the ingredients list. Naturally occurring sugars aren't listed at all, but anything added will be. So if you see any words that indicate sugar, you know the product has added sugars in it and you might want to find an alternative, or limit the amount of it you're eating.
In the case of the Dannon, sugar and fructose are both listed as ingredients — so you can safely guess that a good portion of those 19 grams of sugar are added.
6. There are 56 different names for added sugar you might see on a list of ingredients. Get to know them:
7. Watch what you drink.
8. Limit your juice intake, also.
9. Snack on foods with fat and protein throughout the day.
10. Don't go grocery shopping when you're hungry.
11. Stick to the outside edges of the grocery store when you're shopping.
12. Beware of low-fat products.
13. Get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep a night.
14. Eat fruit to satisfy your sugar cravings.
If you're craving sugar, fruit is a totally healthy way to satisfy that craving, Giovinazzo says. (See above for why the sugar in fruit isn't something to worry about). One way to make your snack even healthier is to combine it with a healthy fat, she says — so try some apple slices with almond butter, or nuts. This will help the snack take longer to digest and keep you feeling more satisfied for longer.
Want to learn more? A team of health scientists (including Stanhope) from several universities in California collaborated to create the website SugarScience.org, where they have amassed information from over 8,000 scientific papers about the health effects of sugar. They go into great detail about all the ways sugar can make you sick, and it's definitely worth a read.