Even if you don’t have a sweet tooth, chances are that you still consume a great deal of sugar. Most people today consume much more sugar than their ancestors did just a few generations ago. And over-consumption of sugar has been linked to serious cardiovascular issues, including hardening of the arteries, heart disease, and heart failure.
How Sugar Affects Your Heart
One study found that a small molecule of sugar from food can cause stress on the heart, decreasing heart function. The findings were especially important for people who already have stressed hearts due to high cholesterol and high blood pressure. The study showed a direct connection between a high sugar diet and damage to the heart muscle. This result is on top of the fact that eating too much sugar and unhealthy starches leads to other health risks, including diabetes and obesity.
In yet another study, researchers found a direct connection between how much sugar you consume and longevity. Basically, the greater amount of sugar in your diet, the higher your mortality risk due to cardiovascular causes. While a high sugar diet can lead to excess weight gain – a known contributor to heart disease, sugar may adversely affect your heart health in other ways. Sugar can increase fat levels in the blood, clogging arteries, and has also been linked to low HDL (good cholesterol levels) and high blood pressure, both factors in heart disease.
How Much Sugar is Safe
Current guidelines for how much sugar is safe to consume each day is a U.S. standard set by the Institute of Medicine and states that up to 25 percent of daily calories may include sugar. However, most other experts say that number is much too high. The American Heart Association says that women shouldn’t get more than 100 of their calories each day from sugar. The World Health Organization has lowered its sugar recommendation from 10 percent of daily calorie intake to 5 percent. This equates to about 25 grams, or 6 teaspoons, of sugar a day. As a reference, you should consume less sugar than is contained in a single can of soda. If you’re overweight, obese, or already at risk of heart disease, then you should consider cutting back your sugar intake even further.
How to Cut Back on Sugar Intake
With today’s ready-to-eat foods, convenience items, and processed foods rampant, it can seem impossible to avoid eating sugar. One of the best things you can do is to avoid packaged foods and enjoy fresh foods whenever possible. Avoid obvious sources of sugar like cookies, soda, ice cream, and other sweets. Much of the secret to avoiding hidden sugars comes down to reading labels. Anything with ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup, molasses, honey, fruit-juice concentrate, and cane juice are hidden sugars in disguise and can be found in things like tomato sauce, barbecue sauce, and ketchup.