You might love fruity smoothies to start your day or a frosted donut for a sweet dessert or mid-day snack, but all that sugar can wreak havoc on your blood sugar levels and heart. Eating too much sugar increases your risk of disease, and it can lead to symptoms like fatigue and bloating. over time, it can also lead to weight gain.
"The American Heart Association recommends women limit their added sugar intake to 6 teaspoons (or 24 grams) per day, and men limit their intake to 9 teaspoons (or 36 grams). Most Americans, however, are eating three times that amount daily," says Victoria Seaver, M.S., R.D., the Digital Meal Plan Editor at EatingWell. "Having some added sugar is totally fine (what are pancakes without maple syrup?) but eating too much over time increases your risk for conditions like diabetes and heart disease," she explains.
One sign that you've had too much sugar is, of course, that tell-tale energy crash. Here's why you lose energy: "When you eat, say a big slice of cake, your body has to pump out more insulin to scoop up all that excess sugar floating in your blood stream. As a result, your blood sugar level drops lower than normal, bringing with it a sudden drop in energy," Seaver explains.
But not to worry! If you've had too much sugar, you can bounce back by taking the right steps towards balancing your blood sugar levels, re-starting a healthier way of eating, and bringing back the right set of nutrients and fluids to energize your mind and body. Here's what to do:
You may be tempted to go back for another slice of cake, hoping it'll give you a sudden boost in energy and make you feel better, but don't. "If you're eating more sugar to try and get your energy levels back up after a crash, you're bound to crash again. Instead, go for something that delivers a mix of protein and fiber, like apple slices and peanut butter (made without added sugar), to slowly bring your blood sugar levels back up to normal," Seaver says.
And don't make eating sugar and then detoxing too much of a habit. "Chronic overconsumption of added sugar can lead to weight gain, high blood pressure, insulin resistance (which can turn into diabetes) and more," she says.
You're likely going to find more sugar in processed foods, so ditch those and make a wholesome meal from fresh ingredients instead. "To keep your added sugar intake in check, fill your day with lots of healthy whole foods, keep an eye of packaged foods, like cereal and granola bars, which often have more sugar than you'd think," she says. And if you do have something sweet, stick to one serving. There's no need for special "detox" drinks or supplements or super restrictive diets to get back on track. With a balanced diet, your body will do the work for you.
Flush out all that sweet stuff from your system by hydrating ASAP with water or other low-sugar fluids, and foods high in water content. "Drink plenty of water and go for foods like watermelon, cucumbers, strawberries and yogurt," Seaver says. You can make salads, yogurt cup with berries, a green juice with cucumbers and leafy greens, or just nosh on some watermelon (perfect for summertime grilling!).
In addition, you also want electrolytes. Think: calcium, magnesium, potassium, and sodium, and they help keep the body balanced and ward off dehydration and muscle cramps. All of these hydrating foods above also have electrolytes, as well as leafy greens like spinch and kale, nuts and seeds, cottage cheese, and unsweetened coconut water.
Taking a walk, or better yet, exercising after having too much sugar will help get your blood sugar levels balanced again and will mitigate insulin spikes. Plus, regular activity is good for weight loss and management, so it's smart to aim for cardio and strength training in the week to stay fit and keep your heart healthy.
Recharge with meditation after a sugar binge. According to a 2014 study, people who practiced yoga regularly had a significant decrease in blood glucose levels, so if they're high after eating a donut or two, a few moments to sit still and do yoga and meditation can help bring them back down and ease anxiety.