Exactly How Much Sugar You Should Be Eating Per Day

Exactly How Much Sugar You Should Be Eating Per Day

Exactly How Much Sugar You Should Be Eating Per Day

Sugar is everywhere ... and it's surprisingly sneaky. The added sweeteners found in processed foods have become such an issue that the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services updated the official Dietary Guidelines for 2015-2020 to cap how much we should consume every day. Here's everything you need to know about your daily sugar intake.

How much sugar should you eat in a day?

Your goal should be to limit added sugar to 10% of your total daily calories to prevent major health problems, including heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. Calorie needs vary from one person to the next, but on a 2,000-calorie diet, that's 50 grams (or 12 teaspoons) per day. However, the American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than 25 grams of added sugar per day, and men stay under 36 grams added sugar per day.

The difference between dded sugars vs. natural sugars:

Keep in mind that the limits mentioned above do not include the naturally occurring sugars found in fruit, vegetables, and dairy products — which groups like the World Health Organization (WHO) say are less of a health issue. But figuring out the difference between added and natural sugars can be tricky. Luckily, newly designed nutrition labels will be a huge help. By the end of this year, added sugars and total sugar will be listed on all labels, making it much easier to spot foods packed with the sweet stuff. Until then, check ingredients lists for sugar and its 61 aliases, including these:

  • agave
  • nectar
  • barley malt
  • cane sugar
  • caramel
  • corn syrup
  • dextrose
  • fruit juice
  • honey
  • maltose
  • molasses
  • sucrose
  • syrup

"Ultimately, you can 100% eat dessert every day if you cut out the sneaky sources of added sugar in your diet," says Jaclyn London, M.S., R.D., C.D.N. "Check labels religiously, but sauces, condiments, dairy products, breads, crackers and beverages are some places you might not expect to find sugar."

How to reduce sugar intake:

Look at what you’re drinking.

Beverages like soda, juice, and sports drinks make up the largest percentage of the added sugar we consume. This means that cutting back on the number or size of sweetened beverages that you drink can dramatically lower your intake of added sugar. To do that, follow these tips from Christina Liew-Newville, M.S., R.D., L.D., F.A.N.D., dietetic technician program director and coordinator/assistant professor of dietetics at Tarrant County College in Arlington, Texas:

  • Drink plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated and curb sugar cravings. When you need a flavor kick, add lemon, lime, or ginger.
  • Opt for milk, vegetable juice, or unsweetened tea when you have the option.
  • Eat balanced meals, exercise regularly, and prioritize sleep to reduce your need for sugar-laden energy drinks.
  • If none of the above works and you want to treat yourself, buy a smaller bottle than you normally would and dilute it with ice or seltzer.

Look at what you’re nibbling.

“Life is meant to be enjoyed, not a cage of restriction,” says Lauren O’Connor, M.S., R.D.N., R.Y.T., owner of Nutri Savvy Health. “But it is important to note that added sugars can easily add up throughout the day, so keeping a watchful eye on portion sizes and nutritional labels is key.” The trick is to enjoy treats in moderation and use whole foods to replace refined sugars whenever possible. Not sure where to start? Use these tips from O’Connor:

  • Rather than top your oatmeal with brown sugar, mix in sliced dates, ripe banana slices, or stewed apples.
  • Instead of eating super sugary cereal, add fresh fruit to low-sugar, multi-grain cereal.
  • Buy plain low-fat or nonfat yogurt and blend in frozen mixed berries to avoid added sugars typically present in flavored and fruit-on-the-bottom yogurts.
  • For a healthier PB&J sandwich, use multi-grain bread and swap out jelly or jam for sliced fresh strawberries.
  • Cut sugar in half when baking homemade treats like blueberry muffins or a fresh peach cobbler. They’ll still be plenty sweet, and you may not notice much of a difference.
  • Use spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, fennel, and allspice to add sweetness to food instead of honey or refined white sugar.

If you're not careful, you can easily consume your entire day's worth in just a few bites.

From Good Housekeeping