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Cut the sugar! Your energy may rebound.

Ah, the legendary sugar rush, rumored to prompt young children to somersault down hallways and adults to power though the last few hours of work with a smile. You may question that narrative from your own experience, and new research shows that, far from giving you a “high,” sugary foods and drinks may lower your energy. In analyzing more than 30 studies, researchers found that people who consumed added sugar felt more tired and less alert afterward than those who hadn’t.

Things get even less sweet when you consider that sugar may also increase your risk for obesity, diabetes, and heart disease—and that the standard American diet includes far too much of it! Americans consume an average of 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day—that’s 350 calories’ worth, and far more the American Heart Association’s recommended daily limits (6 teaspoons for women, 9 teaspoons for men).

Limiting sweetened beverages and breakfast cereals is key, as is making baked goods and other sweets the exception in your diet, not the rule. But also remember that sugar lurks in unlikely places, like packaged salad dressings, sauces, and bread. Check ingredients lists for various forms of added sugar, including honey, malt syrup, agave nectar, evaporated cane juice, fructose, high-fructose corn syrup, maltose, and dextrose. It can be tricky to determine how much, because most nutrition-information labels don’t distinguish between sugar that’s been added and natural sugars from foods like milk and fruit (although new labels that list added sugars are coming—woo hoo!). Making most of your meals at home and eating mostly whole foods solves that problem—and many others. For an energy boost, try a nutritious snack like an apple and nuts or nut butter if you’re hungry, or a spin around the block (or up and down stairs) if you’re not.

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