Even if you’ve sworn off soda and almost always skip dessert, there’s a good chance you’re still downing more sugar than you think.
Research shows that 74 percent of packaged foods sold in grocery stores contain added sugars, but food manufacturers often hide it behind more than 60 different aliases on ingredient labels—from the more obvious “sucrose” or “high-fructose corn syrup” to healthier sounding things like “agave nectar” or “fruit juice.”
Whatever they call it, it’s all added sugar. And it all comes with negative health consequences, especially if you’re eating too much. (FYI: You don’t have to worry about sugars naturally present in fresh fruits, vegetables, and milk.)
How much is too much? The World Health Organization recently recommended a sharp drop in sugar intake: Just 5 percent of total daily calories should come from added sugars, down from 10 percent. This translates to about six teaspoons (or 25 grams) of added sugar per day.
Watch for these signs you might be eating too much of the sweet stuff. Slashing sugar can be tricky since it’s so ubiquitous—you’ll even find it in healthy-sounding foods like cereal and yogurt. But if you want to cut back, a good rule of thumb is to eat primarily foods that have been packaged by nature, not by the food industry.
(We let nature add the sweetness to all our organic teas. Our unique blend of premium green tea, flower blossoms, herbs, and spices create a delicate harmony of flavors and fragrance.)
Sign #1: You Constantly Crave Sweets
The more sugar you eat, the more you’ll crave it. That’s because sugar can affect the brain much like cocaine and alcohol, according to one brain-scan study from the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Those brain changes can lead to a vicious cycle of highs, lows, and cravings.
But here’s good news: The inverse is true too—the less you eat, the less you crave it.
Sign #2: You Feel Sluggish or Moody
Speaking of highs and lows … When your blood sugar levels come down, so will you. “Sugar is a fast-acting source of energy,” says Julie Upton R.D., co-founder of Appetite for Health. That means that your body quickly digests and uses sugar. And once that sugar is all used up, you’ll feel sluggish, foggy, and probably pretty testy, she says.
If you’re feeling less productive or tired at work, take a look at your breakfast and mid-morning snack for sources of added sugars, suggests Wesley Delbridge, R.D., a spokesman for the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics.
Sign #3: Your Skin Won’t Stop Breaking Out
Some people are sensitive to sugar and insulin spikes, leading to hormonal responses that contribute to acne, Delbridge explains. That means what you eat one night could show up on your face a few nights later.
If you’ve tried treating your skin but nothing seems to be working, take a look at the added sugar in your diet. It could be at the bottom of what’s really going on with your skin, Upton suggests.
Sign #4: You’ve Had a Few Yeast Infections Recently
Is your gyno’s number a staple in your recent calls list? Your diet could be to blame. Yeasts thrive in high-sugar environments and can make your body a perfect host for infections, Delbridge says. While more than 75 percent of women will get yeast infections in their lifetime, research shows that experiencing more than four per year could be a sign of sugar-related issues in your body.
Sign #5: You’re Putting On Weight
Because added sugar is filled with empty calories—and lacks the protein, fat, or fiber to fill you up—it’s easy for diets that are rich in added sugar to lead to overeating and weight gain, Upton says.
Plus, it’s important to remember that sugar consumption triggers a release of insulin, a hormone that sends sugar into your body’s cells to either use or store as fat, Delbridge explains. And over time, too-high blood sugar and insulin levels can contribute to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
Sign #6: You Constantly Have to Pee
When blood sugar levels are too high, the kidneys go into overdrive and try to rid the body of the excess, urination style, Delbridge says. Frequent urination is also a sign of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, so if cutting back on added sugar isn’t cutting down on bathroom trips, it’s time to see your doctor.
Sign #7: Nothing Tastes as Sweet as It Used to
Does your morning coffee suddenly need a lot more sugar to taste good? If so, it could be a sign that you’re eating too much sugar, Delbridge says. As your taste buds adapt to high levels of sweetness, what used to taste sweet can start to taste stale.
If you cut back and suffer through it in the beginning, you’ll eventually lower your tolerance again and be content with minimal sugar. You might even start to feel like things are too sweet for you and be happier consuming sugar in moderation.
One approach to try: Take small steps every week. If you usually put three sugar packets in your coffee or tea, cut back to two and a half for a few days, and then two, and so on. Soon enough, you’ll cut it out entirely. And, trust us, you won’t miss it.