If sitting is the new smoking, sugar may be the new sitting. Why should you be mindful of not eating too much sugar? Over the last few years, researchers have been building a case against sugar. A study has shown a connection in children between cutting back on sugar and heart health, and in September, JAMA Internal Medicine revealed that the sugar industry “sponsored a research program in the 1960s and 1970s that successfully cast doubt about the hazards of sucrose while promoting fat as the dietary culprit in coronary heart disease.”
Here are a few signals your body might be sending you to let you know you’ve been eating too much of the sweet stuff.
6 Signs You Might Be Eating Too Much Sugar
1. You feel like a zombie.
You wake up tired, so you grab a vanilla latte, but soon after, you’re exhausted again. What’s the catch? “Feeling tired all the time is a common sign of eating too much added sugar,” says Rachael Hartley, R.D., L.D., C.D.E., C.L.T.
Colleen Poling, R.D., agrees — and compares overdoing it on sweet treats like Halloween candy to The Walking Dead. “Sugary foods give us a boost in energy at first, but not long after — about 30 minutes — you will come crashing down, and turn into a zombie!” she says.
2. You’re often hungry.
When lunch rolls around, you’re often ravenous, despite the two snacks you ate after your morning coffee. Sure, the 12 grams of protein in that vanilla latte helped tide you over, but that’s not what’s affecting your appetite. It could be the sugar you consumed this morning, starting with those pumps of sweet vanilla (or hazelnut or caramel) goodness. “Excessive intake of sugar often displaces other, more nutrient-dense foods,” Hartley says. Sugar-rich foods or beverages are often empty-calorie/nutrient-void, so you can consume a lot and still feel “hungry” because your body still needs proper nutrition.
3. You can’t stop blowing your nose.
When a cold is going around, do you seem to catch it every time? Or do you seem to get every bug your kids bring home, despite being fairly healthy? “Sugar can suppress the immune system and cause you to get sick more often,” says Poling.
4. You’re moody.
Feeling grumpy or on edge for no reason? Surprisingly, sugar — which gives us pleasure when we eat it — can negatively impact our mood when we overdo it. “Both depression and anxiety are linked to added sugar intake,” says Hartley. “Added sugars cause inflammation throughout the body, including the brain, and cause spikes in blood sugar, which can also affect mood.”
5. You can’t seem to stop eating added sugar.
If you crave the sweet stuff and just can’t seem to get enough, it’s a sign you may eating too much sugar. Constant sugar cravings are the most common sign of overconsumption, Poling says. Do you crave sugary or “carbolicious” treats throughout the day? If so, chances are, you are addicted to sugar. Unfortunately, the more you eat, the more you’ll crave.
The American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than 100 calories (6 teaspoons) daily from added sugar, and men should limit that amount to 150 calories (9 teaspoons). “That’s about one soda’s worth,” says Kristen Arnold, R.D.N., L.D., M.S. “If you’re eating more than what’s in that, that’s too much.”
6. Your weight loss has stalled.
All calories are not created equal, and Poling says a diet that tips heavily toward sweets can cause weight loss to stall out. If you’re having a hard time shedding pounds, she suggests looking at macronutrient balance. “A diet high in refined carbs and sugar and low in fat can keep on excess weight,” she says.
If you’re starting to worry you’re eating too much sugar, Hartley offers this advice: “Moderate amounts of added sugar are not harmful to health and helps make eating a balanced, healthy diet more pleasurable — think honey drizzled over plain yogurt, maple syrup in your favorite homemade energy bar, or regular sugar in your famous recipe for chocolate chip cookies.” So start small and cut back slowly. Or, try this approach that helped Fitness Editor Hannah Rex cut sugar from her diet.