The Recommended consumption of added sugar per day:
- 6 tsp. (25 g) for women
- 9 tsp. (37.5 g) for men
- Average actual consumption: 22.2 tsp. (88.8 g)
The average American consumes about 3 to 4 times the recommended amount added sugar per day! Over the course of the year that comes out to be about 84 lbs. of sugar per person.
THAT’S A LOT OF SUGAR! But since we’re not just sitting around eating spoonfuls of sugar, where is it all coming from? You may be surprised to learn that sugar can be very sneaky and finds many ways to be added to the foods and beverages that we consume daily.
Naturally Occurring Sugar vs. Added Sugar
Appropriately, natural sugars are sugars that are found naturally in foods like fresh fruits, veggies and dairy products. While added sugars include any sugars or caloric sweeteners that are added to foods or beverages during processing or preparation (such as putting sugar in your coffee or adding sugar to your cereal). Added sugars can include natural sugars such as white sugar, brown sugar and honey as well as other caloric sweeteners that are chemically manufactured (such as high fructose corn syrup).
For natural sugars there are no specific guidelines or recommendations for amount to consume each day, but USDA does make recommendations for the amounts of fruits, vegetables, and dairy that we should consume each day. If you follow those guidelines you will not have to worry about consuming too much natural sugar.
The Not So Sweet News about Sugar
Most of us, if not all of us, love a little sugar now and then. A little sugar here and there is okay but when we get too much it starts to become a problem. Sugar is very high in calories but has little nutritional value. Eating to0 many foods that contain a lot of added sugars can set the stage for potential health problems, such as:
- Poor nutrition- filling up on nutrient lacking sweets can cause you to miss out on important vitamins and minerals.
- Weight gain- Sugar sweetened foods are often calorie dense from sugars and fats, making them very appealing and easy to eat more of.
- Increase triglycerides- Triglycerides are a type of fat in the bloodstream and fat tissue. Eating an excessive amount of added sugar can increase triglyceride levels, which may increase your risk of heart disease.
- Tooth decay- All forms of sugar promote tooth decay by allowing bacteria to proliferate and grow
How to Identify Added Sugars
Unfortunately there is no easy way to tell how much of the sugar listed in the nutrition label of your food is added and how much is natural sugar found in certain ingredients, such as grain, fruit and dairy. The only reliable way to identify added sugar is to look at the ingredient list. Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight. If you see sugar listed among the first few ingredients, the product is likely to be high in added sugar. Here are some of the ways that added sugars will be listed in the ingredients:
- Evaporated cane sugar
- Malt syrup
- Juice Concentrate and nectars