Is Sugar the New Tobacco?Pretty bold headline and statement, yes?

This headline has been circulating lately after a British health expert stated, “Sugar is the new tobacco”.  He’s a part of Action on Sugar, which is an anti-sugar group who’s goal is to reduce the amount of sugar in processed and packaged foods and reinforce just how detrimental sugar is to our health.

I personally love the catchy headline and applaud the group’s efforts.

I will be writing about this topic in two parts. This is part 1 – the danger of too much sugar and how to be a sugar detective.

Almost everyone I know loves sweet treats…cupcakes, cookies, candy, ice cream, pretty much anything with sugar. The problem is, well there are numerous problems with too much of this crazy addictive substance. It is crucial to understand exactly what sugar does to our bodies and to understand the complete chaos it can create. And just to be clear, this post is on added sugars not naturally occurring sugar found in whole foods such as fruit. {Natural sugars have a completely different effect on our bodies since they are in good company – like fiber, vitamins & minerals.}

Let’s begin with a little quiz called “Guess the Amount of Sugar in…”

Guess the Amount of Sugar in…

  • a. 6 oz Yoplait original strawberry yogurt
  • b. 6 oz Yoplait light strawberry yogurt
  • c. 1 can Sprite
  • d. 32 fl oz Fruit Punch Gatorade
  • e. 16 oz Starbucks Cinnamon Dolce Latte

Answers: a) 26g b) 10g c) 38g d) 52.5g e) 40g

The amount of sugar added to these foods and drinks is SO unnecessary and seriously ridiculous. Also, one might think that going for the light yogurt is a healthier option {as I used to believe}; however, with the decreased sugar they have added Aspartame & Acesulfame {artificial sweeteners} + Red #40!  More on artificial sweeteners in a future post…but for now, please try to avoid.

Hidden sugars are everywhere. In addition to the foods in the above game, it’s hidden in ketchup, “healthy” cereals, so-called healthy protein bars, bread, peanut butter, pasta sauce, enhanced water, the list goes on…

The average American consumes 22.2 teaspoons per day which is equal to approx. 88.8g!!

The American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than 24g or 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day and 36g or 9 teaspoons for men. It is ideal to have the least amount of added sugar possible, however, this number provides a good gauge to aim not to go over.

I encourage you to become a sugar detective!  Most people, unfortunately, don’t realize just how much sugar they are ingesting.

And if you’re a Starbucks lover {as I used to be!}, I’m sorry to break the bad news to you:( but the amount in many of the drinks goes way over our goal of no more than 24g/day. As stated in the quiz above, a 16-ounce Starbucks Cinnamon Dolce Latte contains 40 grams of sugar, or 10 teaspoons – which is the equivalent of eating almost 2 ½ Chocolate Glazed Cake donuts from Dunkin Donuts which has 17g of sugar per donut. {And this doesn’t mean let’s go for a donut instead;) let’s not get started on the other “ingredients” in donuts.} A tall 12-ounce with nonfat milk and no whipped cream is still 30 grams of sugar! A 12-ounce Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha has 57g of sugar!  Craaaazy!!

It seems the majority of people focus mostly on calorie content, however, you MUST look at the sugar content. The good news is when you’re eating fresh whole foods, there is no nutrition facts panel you have to worry about reading. So, aim to add in more whole foods and decrease your processed foods.

Not only is it important to read the nutrition label, but also make sure to read the ingredients list. Currently, nutrition labels do not list the amount of added sugars alone in a product. The line for “sugars” you see on the nutrition label includes both added and natural sugars. So, the only way to tell if sugar has been added is to look at the ingredients list to see if sugar is listed in the ingredients.

As far as high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), stay far away from this toxic sugar. HFCS can lead to increased appetite, increased food consumption, and weight gain. HFCS is found in many drinks and food items so be on the lookout!

10 reasons why sugar is NOT your best friend

1. Weight gain – Sugar can lead to weight gain because our cells do not require large amounts at one time, and the extra sugar is stored as fat. Sugar also slows down our metabolism.

2. Nutritional deficiency – Refined sugar lacks vitamins, minerals and fiber, therefore, making our bodies work even harder to digest it. In order to absorb sugar properly, our bodies actually have to deplete our own store of minerals and enzymes.

3. Fatigue – Because sugar takes our blood sugar on a roller coaster ride, first being pushed up high and then brought back down really low, we experience what we all know as a “sugar crash”.

4. Weakened immune system – If you are getting frequent colds or infections, take a look at your sugar consumption. If your immune system is weak, you will have a much more difficult time fighting off illness.

5. Aging and wrinkles – Sugar can lead to premature aging by damaging collagen and elastin.

6. Headaches & migraines – Sugar consumption can play a role in headaches and migraines.

7. Depression – Excessive sugar can lead to depression. Additionally, we may feel comforted right before and right after eating a cupcake, and we may anticipate it lifting our moods, however, this typically will be very temporary. Eating this sweet treat really didn’t get to the root of our stress or depression, so then we are back to square one.

8. Yeast infections – Sugar can contribute to yeast infections and increase the growth of yeast.

9. Cancers – Sugar can contribute to or lead to several cancers including ovarian and breast cancer.

10. Worsen PMS symptoms – Sugar consumption can worsen our symptoms, so limiting your sugar before your period and while experiencing symptoms may be helpful.

Click here for 146 reasons why sugar is not your best friend! YES…146 reasons!

I encourage you over the next week to write down how much sugar you consume. Look at labels and if you order or pick up food, many places have their nutritional info on their website. Either write the sugar in grams or teaspoons; I find it easier to do so in grams.

In your journey of becoming a sugar detective, just remember to take it one step at a time and be patient with yourself and proud of any accomplishments in decreasing your sugar consumption.  And never feel guilty, that really doesn’t help much.

Just know as well that you may experience headaches within the first 7 days of decreasing/cutting out sugar, but this is a sign your body is detoxifying and adjusting to your healthier you.

Stay tuned for Part 2 on 10 steps to break up with your NOT so best friend…Sugar!

I’d love to hear from you. In the comment section below, tell me:

  1. What surprised you the most about sugar in this post?
  2. If you write down your sugar consumption over the next week, please come back and share with me below what you discovered.
  3. What is your favorite Starbucks drink & how much sugar does it have?

To new bffs + sugar detectives,


P.S. Please share with any loved ones who could benefit from this information!