How much sugar is too much?
We all know sugar is NOT a health food. It isn’t full of nutrition, and excess consumption is not associated with great health.
The problem is that sugar is everywhere. It’s naturally occurring. It’s also added to just about every processed food there is. Added sugar is a factor in many chronic diseases we see today. Sugar is inflammatory. Too much is associated with weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and cavities. Too much sugar is a huge health risk, no matter how you look at it.
So let’s talk about how much sugar is too much.
Added sugar vs. naturally occurring sugar. What’s the official word?
Before we talk about the “official” numbers (and why I don’t agree with them), you need to know the difference between added sugar and naturally occurring sugar.
Fruit and other healthy whole foods contain sugar. They also contain water, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other phytochemicals. They are good for you. Eating fruits and vegetables is a well-proven way to reduce your risks of many chronic diseases.
Added sugar, on the other hand, is concerning. In 2013, the American Heart Association calculated that about 25,000 deaths per year were due to sweetened beverages. Added sugar is also in baked goods, candies, soups, sauces and other processed foods. You can find sugar on the ingredient list as many names, often ending in “-ose.” These include glucose, fructose, sucrose, etc.
So, total sugars = naturally occurring sugar + added sugar.
The official change is the new Nutrition Facts tables. You may remember that in Canada and the USA, they declare the amount of sugar, but don't give it a %DV (% daily value); this means, they've never had a benchmark maximum daily value to use. They haven't declared how much is too much. Now, both countries are implementing a % DV for sugar.
In 2008, the average daily total sugar intake in the USA was 76.7 grams per day; this is less than these two benchmarks. Yet, it doesn't seem that people are getting healthier. I'd argue that 100 g per day total sugar is still too high.
In the USA, the labels are changing too. They are not declaring total sugars but will differentiate between naturally occurring and added sugars. They have decided on a maximum of 50g of added sugars each day. Unfortunately, this is still more than the American Heart Association’s recommended maximum of 24 g/day added sugar for women, and 36 g/day added sugar for men.
What is a better daily sugar goal?
While these official numbers are a step in the right direction, they’re not what I would follow.
For one thing, I’d ditch as many processed food as possible, regardless of their sugar content. There are a ton of studies that show that processed foods are bad for your health. Period. I wouldn’t recommend eating your daily value of sugar from sweetened processed foods. I don’t recommend even 50g of added sugar per day. Get your sugar from whole, unprocessed fruits first.
Second, you don’t even need to max out your daily sugar intake. I promise! Try to reduce your sugar intake below these official amounts for an even better goal.
Tips to reduce your sugar intake:
Here are some of my most popular recommendations to reduce your sugar intake, so you don't get too much:
● Reduce (or eliminate) sugar-sweetened beverages; this includes soda pop, sweetened coffee/tea, sports drinks, etc. Instead, have fruit-infused water. Or try drinking your coffee/tea black or with a touch of cinnamon or vanilla instead.
● Reduce (or eliminate) your desserts and baked goods and bake your own instead. You can easily reduce the sugar in a recipe by half. Or try my delicious (no added sugar) dessert recipe here!
● Instead of a granola bar, or other sugary snack, try fruit, a handful of nuts, or veggies with hummus. These are easy grab-and-go snacks if you prepare them in a to-go container the night before.
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Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor or Registered Dietitian. The information presented is purely to share my experience and for entertainment purposes. As always, check with a doctor before making any fitness or nutrition changes. The author and blog disclaim liability for any damage, mishap, or injury that may occur from engaging in any activities or ideas from this site.