Sugar: The Real Culprit? {The Healthy Eating Made Simple Series}

If I’ve been able to convince you that fat can be a good thing in your diet, so long is it is a healthy, stable fat, you may be wondering what is causing all of the disease and health troubles often blamed on excess fat. My personal research has made it clear to me that sugar, not fat, is the cause for much of the health problems plaguing industrialized people today. 

Sugar, The Real Culprit?, part of the Healthy Eating Made Simple series

Sugar comes in so many forms in the typical American diet, and you might just be shocked to learn how much sugar an average American eats! Research continues to expose the risks associated with diets high in sugar, some being short-term and others potentially showing up down the road. With a little know-how, though, you can start to reduce the sugar in your diet and lessen your chances for various diseases in the future.

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Sugar in the Standard American Diet

Sugar comes in all sorts of forms in our diets and it manages to sneak into places where we may not be looking for it. Sugar, in various forms, naturally occurs in fruits, vegetables, and dairy products. Grains are used by our bodies in the same ways that sugars are.

Sugar gets more problematic, however, when it is added to foods that otherwise are much lower in sugar. The majority of sugar in the American diet doesn’t come from natural sources like fruits, but from sweetened drinks, baked goods, candy, and desserts. Bottled sweet tea, fruit juice, flavored yogurts, low-fat packaged foods, and breakfast cereals can be surprising sources of excess sugar.

You can get a fascinating look at sugar consumption in America by taking a look at this infographic and this one, too. My jaw dropped!

How Much Sugar Is Too Much?

Depending on which organization you go by, the suggested limits for sugar consumption can vary. The American Heart Association has a specific suggestion to keep added sugar limited to 6 teaspoons daily for women and 9 teaspoons daily for men.

Sadly, adult Americans average a whopping 22 teaspoons of added dietary sugar daily, adding up to about 130 pounds of sugar per year, and 3,550 pounds in an entire lifetime! Children average out 32 teaspoons of sugar per day, much of that from sugary drinks like juice.

To give sugar consumption a historical reference, consider this. Almost 200 years ago, Americans consumed the amount of sugar in one 12 oz. can of soda every five days. Today? Try every seven hours. That’s about 17 times the amount of sugar daily. Ouch.

Sugar: The Real Culprit?, part of The Healthy Eating Made Simple Series at

Health Risks of Too Much Sugar

The risks of excess sugar to our health are many and serious. The American sugar habit puts us at risk for all sorts of immediate and long-term health problems:

  • Dental cavities
  • Obesity
  • Heart Disease
  • Cancer
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Acne
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Headaches
  • Bodily Inflammation
  • Fatigue
  • Candida Overgrowth
  • Behavioral Problems, especially in children

I want to do what I can now to be healthy for the Lord, my family, and others now and in the future. Reducing sugar intake is a huge part of that!

Easy Steps to Reduce Sugar

While sugar is abundant in a processed-foods diet, there are many baby steps that can be taken to start to reduce the amount of sugar in the diet. Try some of these:

  • Read labels! Food labels list ingredients by weight, so if sugar is one of the top ingredients, pass on that item.
  • Exchange soft drinks, sports drinks, fruit juice for plain water, iced or hot herbal teas, and water with organic fruit or vegetable slices.
  • Trade fancy sweetened coffee drinks for black coffee or coffee lightly sweetened with stevia, unrefined sugar, honey, or maple syrup.
  • Instead of buying flavored yogurt, buy plain whole yogurt and sweeten lightly at home with honey, fruit, or a natural jam.
  • Opt for dark chocolate over typical candy options.
  • Skip boxed cereals and go for cooked oatmeal or rice sweetened with honey and real fruit.
  • Enjoy a homemade treat now and then (make it full fat!) and leave the packaged Twinkies on the store shelves.

There are many more ways to reduce sugar in the diet. Do you have more ideas to share? What do you think about the amount of sugar you eat?

Please remember that the only kind of doctor I am is Dr. Mom in my own home. This post isn’t medical advice and can’t replace the counsel of a caring and well-trained medical professional.

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    1. Wow! I just followed the link to this article from another post. Can you tell me a healthy way to make jams and jellies? I tried making a batch with raw organic cane juice and it did not set up.

      1. Hi Julie! Jams and jellies will always be on the sweet side, but there are a couple of options to make them a bit less sugary. One is to use a special pectin called Pomona’s Pectin which requires much less sugar to set. The other would be to try a chia seed jam. The seeds turn liquid into gel naturally! It’s pretty neat. I don’t have a recipe for chia seed jam, but if you Google it, you’ll find lots of options out there.