We've all been there. It's a stressful night, maybe you have a bunch of exams, projects, and meetings. Before you know it, you've guzzled two cans of soda with a king size chocolate bar on its way. It's alright to increase your sugar intake every now and then, but when does it become too much? And how much is too much? 

Jocelyn Hsu

Before we begin, it's important to note that there are two types of sugars: added sugars and naturally occurring sugars. It seems obvious, but added sugars are added to foods or beverages when they are processed or prepared. Naturally occurring sugar is sugar found in whole, unprocessed foods. Examples of natural sugars are those found in milk, fruit, vegetables, and some grains.

Now that you know the difference, let's see how much of this stuff we should really have. 

The Recommendation

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends limiting the amount of added sugars you consume to no more than half of your daily discretionary calories allowance. For most American women, that's no more than 100 calories per day or about 6 teaspoons of sugar. For men, it's 150 calories per day or about 9 teaspoons.

candy, beer
Aurelie Corinthios

Another way to look at it is men should have 36 grams of added sugars, and women should have 25 grams. 

Next question, how much is 36 grams of sugar? Well, one can of Coca-Cola has 39 grams of added sugars. That's right, one can of soda has over your daily recommended value of sugar. 

Why is this important?

It's easy for us to think, "well it was one time, and besides, I never really drink soda or eat candy." But what happens when we keep eating too much sugar? According to a journal article in Nature, studies show that consuming too much sugar (both in the form of natural or added sugars) not only puts on the pounds, but it can also cause liver dysfunction, alter our metabolism, impair brain function, and may leave us susceptible to heart disease, diabetes, and maybe even cancer.

That's right, excess sugar intake, regardless of the type, can cause us to gain weight, disrupt many vital organ functions, and all the while increase our chances of developing heart diseases, diabetes, and even cancer. 

What can we do?

Now that we know what's happening, what can we do to stop sugar's detrimental effect on our bodies?

The first is by making conscious healthy diet changes. It's definitely easier said than done. But, if you're someone who drinks soda maybe once a week, changing your routine to drinking soda once a month, to once every few months, to once a year and before you know it,  can eliminate added sugars from soda completely. By just eliminating one soda a week, you can save 2,028 grams of sugar a year.

Another simple way to decrease our sugar intake is by replacing processed foods with whole foods. For instance, instead of eating a packet of Skittles, try a fruit salad or a dark green leafy salad. The natural sugars found in these whole foods are favorable to the added sugar found in processed candy.

candy, apple, salad, berry, strawberry, fruit salad, sweet
Kristine Mahan

Another way is by exercising. Gross, right? According to the American Heart Association, they recommend at leat 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity 5 days a week or 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity at least 3 days a week. We should also combine this with high-intensity muscle-strengthening activity at least 2 days a week for additional health benefits. By increasing our physical activity, we burn up our body's glycogen and fat stores which are the result of our sugar intake. Not only will we reduce the excess sugar in our bodies we will also improve our physical and emotional health. 

Here's a recap if you need a quick refresher. Excess amounts of sugar in our body can not only cause us to gain weight, cause liver dysfunction, altered metabolism, impaired brain function, and make us more susceptible to heart diseases, diabetes, and even cancer.

In order to stop any detrimental effects, we need to focus our diet on whole foods and reduce our intake of processed sugary foods. Increasing our physical activity can also help. While these changes are tough, they will make an incredible impact on our wellness and your future self will definitely thank you for making these changes. I urge each one of you to join me with making these two simple changes to ensure a happy and healthy future.