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What is sugar?

A sweet substance formed from monosaccharide or disaccharide carbohydrates that is typically extracted from plants such as sugar cane or sugar beets and used as a sweetener or preservative in food and beverages. 

How many grams of sugar per day is healthy?

There are many different types of sugar found in our food. Lots of food sources have natural sugar (simple or complex carbohydrates), which can usually be identified because they end with ‘-ose’. Lactose (milk sugar) and fructose (fruit sugar) are two great examples of these natural sugars.

Most of the time when a doctor or dietician talks about sugar intake, they’re referring to added sugar, which is primarily found in processed or prepared foods. It’s typically listed on nutrition labels as simply ‘sugar’. It’s best to avoid consuming too many servings of foods that have sugar listed as the first or second ingredient. In general, it’s recommended that we keep added sugar intake to 24-36 grams per day or less.  

What is refined sugar?

Refined sugar is sugar that’s extracted from a natural source (usually a sugar beet or sugar cane) and added into foods to provide added sweetness and to improve the taste. Most of us are so used to the taste of refined sugar that we don’t notice that it’s present in many of our favorite foods. It can be referred to as refined sugar, added sugar, or sucrose.

Refined sugar adds calories to our diet without adding any meaningful nutrients or fiber. Our excessive consumption of refined sugar has many negative health effects and has been linked to increased risks for obesity, diabetes, liver disease, heart disease, and cancer.

How can I stop sugar cravings?

It can be challenging to stop sugar cravings for a few different reasons. Eating simple carbohydrates like sugar simply makes us feel good, stimulating the release of serotonin in our brain along with calming endorphins that offer a naturally pleasant feeling. 

If you want to stop eating sugar, there are several techniques that have worked for different people. First, you could try quitting cold turkey. After the first few days, it gets a lot easier to manage.

If you can’t stomach that, try to reduce your sugar intake by combining sweet snacks with healthy ones (like a handful of chocolate chips along with berries or nuts), or by limiting yourself to a small taste of the sugar you crave. You can also try reaching for fruit, or going for a walk when a craving strikes. Soon, you won’t feel the cravings as intensely, making it easier to limit your sugar consumption to a healthier level.

Related Terms

Learn more about Sugar:

Photo of Kristin Ricklefs-Johnson

Medically reviewed by:

Kristin Ricklefs-Johnson, Ph.D., RD

Kristin is an RDN who also earned her Ph.D. in Nutrition from Arizona State University with an emphasis on insulin resistance, lipid metabolism disorders, and obesity. She completed her post-doctoral fellowship at Mayo Clinic where she focused on nutrition-related proteomic and metabolic research. Her interests include understanding the exact mechanism of action of various genetic variations underlying individual predispositions to nutrition-related health outcomes. Her goal is to help all individuals prevent chronic diseases and achieve long, healthy lives through eating well.

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