The nutrition science has pointed to added sugar in the diet as a problem for a long time (linking it to high cholesterol, high triglycerides, high blood pressure, and obesity), but until yesterday, there was no set amount that was recommended. How much is too much? 2 cookies or 5 cookies a day? 2 can of soda a day? a single poptart? (I’ve eaten 3 pieces of chocolate since I started typing this article….too much?)
The American Heart Association is the first to release specific guidelines for added sugar intake. Added sugars supply “empty calories” and tend to replace nutrient-rich foods. New AHA guidance recommends added sugars account for 100 calories a day for women or 150 calories for men. For the average adult, that’s roughly 5 to 9 teaspoons of sugar per day, or about 20-40 grams of added sugars.
Added sweeteners are sugars that aren’t naturally part of the food we eat. Added sugar not only includes the white table sugar you might spoon into a cup of coffee or a bowl of cereal, but also sugar added to food and drinks before you even purchase them. Some foods high in added sugar are not surprising – soft drinks, candy, cakes, and cookies, but would you have considered some yogurts and granola? In fact, figuring out how many added sugars are in a food can be quite a challenge! Added sugars are not listed separately on the food label. The term “Sugars” or “Carbohydrates” will not tell you the amount of added sugar in the food.
Instead, look at the ingredients listing. Some of the most common added sugars are corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, glucose, high fructose corn syrup, honey, maltose, malt syrup, molasses, sucrose, and syrup. How many are listed? Is the sugar a main ingredient (one of the first ones on the list)?
The most common naturally occurring sugars are fructose and lactose, found in fruit and dairy products. Fruit and dairy foods with naturally occurring sugars deliver nutrients while still satisfying our craving for sweetness. For example, fruits have essential vitamins and minerals as well as protective agents known as phytonutrients (e.g., carotenoids and lycopene); dairy products contain calcium, protein, and vitamin D.
Any easy way to cut back on added sugars: replace soft drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages with water, milk, and a small amount of 100% fruit juice. Or exchange your signature coffee drink for a cappuccino or regular coffee.
For more information, check out this article from CNN.