Perhaps, the No. 1 question we get asked is, “How much sugar can (or should) I eat?” To make it easy for everyone, we are outlining what you should consume based on your health goals.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty, here’s some stats for you. The typical American adult consumes about 60 pounds of added sugar each year, or 77 grams of supplemental sugar (nearly ½ cup!) each day, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). That’s not doing our tickers—or our waistlines or noggins—any favors.
So how much sugar is safe to eat—and how do we spot it? Read on for the scoop.
How Much Sugar Should We Eat?
Remember, our brains need glucose (aka sugar) for fuel. The best way to get this fuel is through whole foods such as whole grains, vegetables and fruit. On the other hand, our brains do not require any added sugar at all. It’s this added sugar that is linked to the harmful effects discussed above.
The AHA recommends:
- Women consume no more than 25 grams of added sugar per day (100 calories or 6 teaspoons).
- Men stick to less than 36 grams (150 calories or 9 teaspoons) of added sugar per day.
- Children (ages 2 to 18) should consume no more than 25 grams, or 6 teaspoons, of added sugar daily.
Wondering what that all looks like? Here’s some perspective:
- 1 cup of Fruit Loops has 13 grams of sugar
- one fun-size 3 Musketeers bar has 19 grams of sugar
- one (12-ounce) can of Pepsi has 41 grams of sugar
- a 5.3-ounce, fruit-on-the-bottom blueberry yogurt will have 20 grams of total sugar, 14 of which are added.
Lesson here: Read those labels!
The Department of Health and Human Services Dietary Guidelines gives a limit to how much sugar we should eat. To prevent chronic diseases and obesity, they suggest limiting added sugars to 10% of your total daily calories (that’s 200 calories, 50 grams/12 teaspoons of sugar, as part of a 2,000-calorie diet). Again, the less the better—because we don’t need any added sugar.
RELATED: How to Become Totally Sugar Savvy
Check the Ingredient List
The first step in to becoming aware of the refined or added sugars in the foods you eat is to check the ingredient list.
When refined or added sugars are listed among the first few ingredients, you know the product is likely to be high in sugar.
Natural sugars, such as those found in fruit and dairy products, get the green light in nearly any situation, since they come paired with beneficial components like fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals.
Sneaky Synonyms For Sugar
Sure, it’s simple to spot “sugar” on the nutrition facts panel and the new requirement that added sugars be listed separately is very helpful.. But, it’s still important to study up on the 61 synonyms for sugar you might spot in the ingredient list, so you can be a savvy sweetener consumer.
- Agave nectar
- Corn syrup
- Fruit juice concentrate
- Sorghum syrup
Sugar Health Goals: The Best Ways to Reduce Sugar Consumption
The simplest way to cut back on added sugars in your diet is to eat whole foods (in other words, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, etc.) that often don’t even have nutrition labels that you need to scan. Chances are, they have zero added sugars.
If you do choose to snack or sip on convenience or processed foods, steer clear of these biggest added-sugar sources in the American diet as much as possible.
- Soft drinks
- Fruit juices
- Sports or energy drinks
- Sweetened coffees and teas
- Baked goods
As a general rule, try to limit or avoid a food if:
- The ingredient list includes “sugar” or any of those alternate monikers for a sweetener in the first three ingredients.
- The product contains more than one type of added sweetener.
With reporting and expertise provided by Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN