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Limit Sugar for Good Health

Sugar lurks everywhere, even in that innocent orange.Welcome back Certified Nutrition Consultant, and Autism Diet Specialist, Julie Matthews! Today Julie is here to share her thoughts on sugar. 

Julie Matthews | Guest Post 4
Limit Sugar for Good Health 

Most nutritionists recommend avoiding sugar in the diet—and applying this basic notion to autism makes sense. Not only is excessive sugar a problem in conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity, sugar affects many of the systems frequently weak in autism, therefore negatively affecting symptoms and biochemistry for people with autism.

Sugar—Especially Problematic for Children with Autism

Sugar depresses the immune system and contributes to inflammation—two areas where those with autism are often deficient and in need of support. Sugar also feeds Candida, a type of yeast, common in autism. For children with autism, this combination can be particularly problematic. In this case, sugar depresses the immune system, contributes to further inflammation in the gut, and feeds Candida. Those with autism also benefit from a diet low in sugar as it supports balanced blood sugar. All of these imbalances affect the health and behavior of children with autism.

A Good Rule of Thumb

A good rule of thumb is to keep servings of sugary foods to a minimum or to avoid them all together. One teaspoon of granulated sugar has 4 grams of sugar. One tablespoon of ketchup has a teaspoon of sugar—that means it’s 1/3 sugar! When sugar is concentrated, such as in fruit juice, you are getting a lot more sugar than you’d get from eating fruit (about 4 pieces of fruit in one bottle) with no fiber to balance it out.

I suggest limiting sugar to one teaspoon of sugar per serving or about 4 grams, and minimizing sweet treats all together. Here are some surprising sources of and amounts of sugar:

  • Fruit juice (12 oz), 35 grams of sugar
  • Gluten-free muffin, 20-40 grams of sugar
  • 1 cup gluten-free cereal with non-dairy milk, 18 grams of sugar
  • 1 cup rice milk, 14 grams of sugar
  • GF Cookie, 15 grams of sugar
  • Fruit leather, 8 grams of sugar
  • Yogurt, 19 grams of sugar
  • ¼ cup raisins, 29 grams of sugar
  • ½ cup non-dairy ice cream, 15-20 grams of sugar

Being aware of the sources of sugar will help you choose wisely. Focus on feeding your child a well-balanced diet with minimal sugar. It’s well worth the effort, as it will support your child’s health for a lifetime.


Julie has written one of the most comprehensive books on autism and diet. Nourishing Hope for Autism is an indispensible handbook and one that I refer to often. You may purchase a copy here and/or enter to win one!

To Enter: Leave a comment at the end of this post by 5:00 p.m. (CST) Sunday, April 15.

Julie's Other Guest Posts

Julie Matthews | Guest Post 1: Nourshing Hope for Autism
Julie Matthews | Guest Post 2: Food Matters for Autism
Julie Matthews | Guest Post 3: Food Allergies, Sensitivities and Autism


Julie Matthews is a Certified Nutrition Consultant specializing in autism spectrum disorder for ten years. Her award winning book, Nourishing Hope for Autism, is based in scientific research and an understanding of the biochemistry of ASDs and the role of food, nutrition, and diet to aid digestive health, systemic healing, and relieve symptoms of autism. Julie presents at the leading biomedical autism conferences in the US and abroad, writes for autism publications, and has a private nutrition practice in San Francisco, California. Julie is available for long-distance consults via Skype. Learn more, visit NourishingHope.com

Julie can also be found on YouTube!

Reader Comments (10)

Hi Lexie! I would love to win the book from Julie! We are already gluten and dairy free for my son but I struggle with sugar. I usually use coconut palm sugar, but even though it's unrefined it's still sugar. Thanks for the information!

I was already mostly refined sugar-free then watched Sunday's 60 minutes, "Is Sugar Toxic?," and reconfirmed that decision. I find that my blood sugar stays stable with fruit but not with other sugars.

April 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterShannon Brown

My autistic daughter (and our family) would benefit!

April 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDebi

I would love to win Julie's book. My son has been on a gluten and casein free diet since he was diagnosed with autism in February of 2009. It wasn't until last year that we realized that sugar was feeding a high level of yeast in him. Since then, we have been trying to reduce/limit sugar. I would love to have a copy of your book and learn more about it and other nutritional diet tips that would help our son.

April 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHeather Collea

i am a pediatric physical therapist who works with many children with autism, PDD etc and fully believe that diet has a large affect on children's symptoms. i treat children using a multi-disciplinary approach, working side by side speech and occupational therapists and also believe in incorporating multiple types of treatments including diet.

April 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLauren

Thanks for sharing this great post. I have been speaking with a good friend who has an autistic child about their diet. Will certainly be forwarding this post. We also changed over to gluten-free & sugar-free to battle cancer with my husband and it's working. Taking out the sugar has made a HUGE difference for our entire family. Keep up the great work!

It truely is amazing how much diet affect our health and how little our medical practitioners seem to know about it. Thanks for writting up posts like this.

April 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBec

What a great book and resource! Should be helpful for spectrum of developmental disorders and other psychological problems as well. I'm a mental health therapist in my day job and while I don't believe autism should necessarily be classified as only a psychological disorder (as it is currently seen by most in my field), I see a lot of children or parents of autistic children. Would love to be able to offer this as a resource!

April 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEryn @ Pumpkin's Pantry

This is very interesting. I believe my son may have aspergers and am wondering how much limiting sugar will help him.

April 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLori R.

Great post! I know from my own experience sugar is an enemy to great health. Thx 4 sharing this info and for the giveaway :)

April 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMoriah

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