It is no secret that most American kids have too much sugar in their diets. Many parents may have questions about just how much sugar they should allow their kids to have, why sugar needs to be limited and what the consequences are. By monitoring your child’s sugar intake, you can keep them healthy and help prevent many serious diseases.
The Basic Numbers
According to the American Heart Association, children shouldn’t have more than 25 grams of added sugar per day. This is about 6 teaspoons. The average American child consumes about three times this amount. Most of it comes from candies or soda, although it can also come from a surprising number of different sources.
It is worth pointing out that the AHA is very specific in saying “added sugar” must be limited. Many healthy foods, such as fruit and fruit juice, contain relatively high amounts of naturally occurring fruit sugars. While these sugars still provide just as many calories, the body seems to be able to handle naturally occurring sugar with fewer ill effects than added processed sugars. There is no hard number for natural sugar intake, but given the many health benefits of fruit and pure fruit juice, it is unlikely you will need to limit these foods much. Just be sure that fruits are being balanced with vegetables that contain fewer sugars.
Why Too Much Sugar is Bad
From a health standpoint, there isn’t a lot of good to say about processed added sugars. They provide a rapid boost of energy, but this can actually be a problem for the body's metabolism. Processed sugar is converted to energy rapidly, resulting in a spike in blood sugar. The energy runs out just as rapidly, resulting in a crash or period of extreme low energy. This rapid up and down is not healthy. If it goes on for a long period of time, especially in a developing child, it can lead to many problems like insulin resistance or diabetes.
While many people think that fat is what makes a person gain weight, sugar is usually the real culprit. This is directly linked to how the body metabolizes sugar. Since it is metabolized so quickly, the body often has an abundance of calories it can't use. It then stores these calories as fat. Since the body will always metabolize sugar and carbs before fat, a person who regularly eats a carb rich diet will never burn the fat they store. It continues to accumulate until the person is overweight. This is why sugar is the culprit behind most cases of childhood obesity.
Sugar also plays havoc on a person's dental health—which is why children should be seeing a dentist, like one from Schererville Family Dentistry, on a regular basis. This is because the mouth bacteria responsible for plaque and gingivitis thrive on sugar. This is one reason that tooth decay is so prevalent in people who eat a sugar-rich diet. Processed sugary foods are also devoid of nutrients that help keep teeth strong and may be higher in acids and chemicals that harm teeth.
Limiting Sugar Intake
Following a healthy diet that stays away from processed foods and is rich in whole fruits and vegetables will naturally result in a diet that is healthy and free of added sugars. Always provide kids with healthy eating options and take the time to prepare real food. Snacks are usually where processed foods are likely to be found, so ensure that any snacks in the house are healthy and whole foods. Instead of filling kids up with sugar and carbs, offer foods rich in protein and healthy fats. They will get full faster and stay full much longer.
It can be hard providing real and healthy food options for kids, but it is vital to their health and development. The modern food industry has made it extremely easy to cheat kids out of a healthy diet, and many unhealthy sugar-rich foods are masked as being healthy. It is simply a matter of looking past the advertising and focusing on whole and nutrient-dense foods grounded in plenty of fruits and vegetables.