Sugar and The Heart: How Much is Too Much?

sugar and the heart — how much sugar is too much sugar

Sugar affects the heart in several ways and can increase the risk of heart disease.  

“Sugar may cause inflammatory responses in the body and put more strain on the heart,” said Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Allyson Carroll. “Sugar intake has shown to increase LDL cholesterol (commonly referred to as “bad cholesterol”) and triglycerides when overconsumed, increasing risk of heart disease.” 

What are good sugar substitutes? 

  • Stevia is a great option for a calorie free natural sweetener. Using stevia in place of sugar can aid in preventing negative health risks associated with high sugar consumption.  
  • Local/raw honey can provide many benefits when consumed in moderation. However, honey is still considered an added sugar to your diet, so it is best to limit the amount consumed. 

What should I eat if I am craving sweets? 

  • Fruit, greek yogurt, unsweetened dried/freeze-dried fruits, and dark chocolate (70%+ cocoa) are other sweet options with lower sugar.  
  • Pairing fruit with protein or healthy fats like nuts/nut butter, lean meats, low-fat cheeses, and protein powders can also aid in slowing down digestion and preventing blood sugar spikes. 
  • Instead of buying pre-packaged baked goods, bake at home. Try using whole wheat or almond flour, stevia/sugar alcohols and avocado oil for baking to increase health benefits. 

Once you cut down sugar intake, the cravings should diminish in a few weeks.  

How much is too much? 

The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends consuming: 

  • <10% total calories per day from added sugar. 
  • General recommendations for women: <6 tsp. (24 grams) per day 
  • General recommendations for men: <9 tsp. (36 grams) per day 

To put these numbers in perspective, a standard 12 oz. can of soda has about 39 grams of added sugars – that one serving is more than the daily recommendation, without considering all the other foods you consumed that day that contain added sugars (dessert, bread, snacks, sauces and dressings, juice, etc).  


In summary, start replacing your sweet treats that are full of sugar to more nutritious sweets with natural sweeteners and you should see and feel improvement in your heart health and overall health.  

Remember to always consult your physician before making significant changes to your routine. If you need a cardiologist, our world-class doctors are ready to see you at Arkansas Heart! 

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