5 Sweet Tips To Avoid Processed Sugar And Improve Your Immunity

Written by Deborah Onoja on Fri, 01 December 2023


Everyone knows that sugar can cause health problems like diabetes and obesity. But did you know that it can also have negative consequences on your immune system? Most of us consume too much sugar regularly, often exceeding 10% of our total daily calories.

Use this article to understand how avoiding processed sugar-rich foods can help improve your immunity.Also, get to know about the best tips on how to avoid processed sugar. 

How sugar impacts your immune system

While not all sugar is bad for your health, a diet rich in refined sugar and processed foods can severely affect your quality of life. The impact is often immediate.

Refined sugar works as an immunosuppressant that impacts the functioning of phagocytes, the scavenger white blood cells responsible for eliminating harmful pathogens from your body. Studies even reveal that people who are obese have fewer white blood cells and a reduced ability to fight infections.

Man-made sweeteners, like aspartame and HFCS can also have adverse effects on the immune system. This is because, industrial sweeteners contain higher levels of fructose, which when consumed in high quantities, overloads the liver. The liver then converts this fructose into fat. This results in further complications such as obesity, diabetes mellitus, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Consumption of sugar involves a complex interaction between your metabolic, hormonal, and immunological processes. These are all reasons why it is best to avoid it when it comes to keeping your immune system strong.

How to Avoid Processed Sugar

1. Keep your eyes on the aisles

When shopping at the grocery store, take special note of what you're buying. Prioritize whole foods over packaged foods. Also, generally avoid passively strolling through the middle aisles as this is where most of the sugar lies: cold drinks, juices, biscuits, snacks, and more.

2. Know your sugars

There are roughly 56 different names for refined sugar, but they mostly go with the suffix '-ose'. It is important to also watch out for High Fructose Corn Syrup, maltose and maltodextrin, fruit or juice concentrate, etc. as these are cheaper industrial substitutes for refined sugar. You'd be surprised to know how many of your packaged goods contain sugar.

3. Read nutrition labels

Most packaged foods come with bold marketing claims like '10X more iron and fiber'. While the foods may contain added nutrition, the food may still contain high doses of problematic ingredients like refined sugar. Check the nutrition intake of these products to know how much sugar and fiber is consumed with each serving.

4. Home is where the heart is safest

Prepare home-cooked meals to reduce any excess strain that could be caused by bad cholesterol or too much sugar. Making your own foods instead of relying on packaged foods allows you to be sure of how much sugar has been added. Home-cooked food can not only be more delicious but also more nutritious as compared to factory-made food.

5. Be sugar-smart

Not all sugar is bad. Naturally derived sugar like jaggery, coconut sugar, dates, stevia, etc. are healthier options when consumed in limited amounts. Although artificial sweeteners may not contain sugar, their level of sweetness tends to be much higher than that of fruits and vegetables. Consuming artificial sweeteners, in the long run, may disrupt your palate, making naturally sweet fruits and vegetables seem less sweet.

The WHO recommends that a person with normal BMI should consume not more than 6 teaspoons of sugar per day. To put this into perspective a coke contains roughly 9 teaspoons of sugar in a 330ml can. A single can of coke by itself exceeds your daily sugar requirement.


Cutting sugar from your diet has multiple health benefits, that includes improving your immunity. However, the process should be gradual. Keeping tabs on how much sugar you have consumed directly or through processed foods can help you make the necessary amends to lead a much sweeter life.


Deborah Onoja

Deborah Onoja is a passionate Registered Nutritionist-Dietitian with a Bachelors of Science degree in Nutrition & Dietetics obtained from Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta. She qualified as a Registered Dietitian after completing her Dietetic Internship training at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Enugu where she was exposed to clinical dietetics. She also holds a Masters degree in Clinical Nutrition and Diet Therapy from the University of Ibadan.

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Current Version

Dec, 01 2023

Written By

Deborah Onoja