I recently saw someone rocking a T-shirt that said “Sugar over Everything.” That’s a catchy slogan—you may catch some health problems if you run with it (or if you don’t run with it). The health concerns associated with sugar are well established. Diabetes, weight gain, cavities, heart disease, et cetera—the list goes on like the beat does.
Solely knowing the health risks associated with sugar isn’t enough to make us eat less of it. Most people know what uncontrolled diabetes can do, so writing an exhaustive list of all the bad things sugar can cause won’t scare people straight.
The pen may be mightier than a sword, but a pound cake will destroy my pen every time—no contest. Ultimately when we see sweets, the parts of the brain that correspond to fear aren’t activated; sugar perks up the brain’s pleasure centers. When we see a donut, we don’t think about a stroke 20 years from now; we think happy thoughts about rainbows, unicorns, sprinkles, and how delicious our donut will be. Ok, I may have exaggerated about the rainbows and unicorns, but as a card-carrying grown a** man, sprinkles are amazing.
Sugar is also addictive. So what do we do?
Do we abstain from sugar and avoid it altogether? Do we eat it in moderation? Moderation is typically the most realistic answer, but that begs the question, “What’s moderation?” Let me tackle that question by highlighting some guidelines regarding sugar and illustrating a few visual tools for identifying how much sugar you might be eating.
I am a physician and trained chef. I specialize in gastroenterology and nutrition. Currently I work as the Associate Director of Adult Nutrition at the University of Chicago.