In today’s modern diet, added sugar is one of the worst ingredients. It provides calories, no added nutrients, and can even damage your metabolism in the long run.
And that’s just one side of the story…
Consuming too much sugar can increase a person’s risk of having many health problems, such as weight gain, obesity, heart disease, liver disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and tooth decay.
But how many grams of sugar is too much? Can you eat a little each day without harm, or should you avoid it as much as possible?
Read on to find out how much sugar you can eat per day as part of a healthy diet.
Natural Sugar vs Added Sugar
When appropriately used, sugar can be very beneficial to our health, athletic performance, and even weight loss, which is why the form and quantity of sugar we consume is critical.
While most people already know about the harmful effects of excessive sugar, many people are still confused about the difference between natural sugar and added sugar.
Look at any food label, and you will see the word “sugar”. However, whether that sugar is natural or added makes a massive difference in how harmful or beneficial it might be.
So, for amateurs, let’s define natural vs added sugar.
Let’s start with the topic that many of us have questions about. What exactly is added sugar?
Whether it is high fructose corn syrup or straight-up white sugar, added sugars do not occur in their natural form. They are “free sugars” extracted from an original source and added to foods as a sweetener.
You will be shocked after knowing how many packaged foods contain added sugar, increasing our daily sugar intake. These sugars typically do not have any fibre, minerals, or vitamins – therefore, they take more than they give to the body.
Primary sources of added sugars in our diets include:
- Candies, cookies, cakes, and pies
- Soft drinks, energy drinks, and sport drinks
- Pastries, sweet rolls, and doughnuts
- Ice cream, popsicles, and frozen yoghurt
Products that are not usually considered sweet, such as bread, ketchup, barbecue sauce, soup, and some alcoholic beverages also affect how many grams of sugar we consume each day.
Many people also add additional sweeteners to the foods they prepare at home, such as stirring sugar into coffee, pouring maple syrup on pancakes, and whipping up frosting with powdered sugar. All of this additional sweetness increases the amount of sugar in our diet, increasing calories without nutrition.
Types of Added Sugars
As no nutritional need or benefit comes from eating added sugar, it is good to observe how many grams of sugar a day you consume.
There are at least 61 different names for sugar listed on food labels. Sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup are the most common sugars used by food manufacturers. However, if you are concerned about added sugar in processed foods, here are some sweeteners to watch for on food labels:
- Corn sweetener
- Syrup (many different kinds)
- Brown sugar
- Fruit juice concentrates
Make sure to look out for these labels if you are tracking how much sugar per day you are consuming.
According to several nutritionists, consuming natural sugar is completely healthy; it’s added sugar you need to worry about.
As natural sugars occur in nature, they are consumed in a minimally processed form. For instance, fruit contains fructose, and dairy products (milk, cheese, cream, yoghurt etc.) have lactose. These sugars still have vital nutrients that can maintain your overall health.
Peas, grapes, watermelon, and zucchini are examples of high-fructose foods. Even though these foods add to our daily sugar intake, they can be part of a healthy diet because they contain vitamin A & C, calcium, potassium, and protein.
How Many Grams Of Sugar Can You Eat Per Day?
To keep all of this in perspective, it’s helpful to remember the American Heart Association’s sugar intake recommendations.
- Men should not eat more than nine teaspoons (36 grams or 150 calories) of added sugar per day.
- For women, the number is six teaspoons (25 grams or 100 calories) per day. Consider that one 12-ounce can of soda contains eight teaspoons (32 grams) of added sugar! There goes your whole day’s portion in one slurp.
If you have diabetes, your health care provider can prescribe the amount of sugar you can consume per day as a proportion of your total calories.
Tips For Cutting Down On Sugar
The empty calories from added sugars can provoke weight gain and spikes in blood glucose levels. However, the good news is that cutting down on sugar is easier than you think.
If you are struggling to stay within the recommended daily sugar limits, start cutting down on sugar with these tips:
- Choose naturally sweet fruits for snacks or desserts. For instance, add fruit to cereal instead of sugar, and make a peanut butter sandwich with berries or bananas instead of jam.
- Shop for foods with little or no added sugar. For example, choose plain yoghurt instead of flavoured and add your favourite fruit.
- Rather than heavy syrup, try unsweetened applesauce and fruit canned in water or natural juices.
- Swap your usual sweetened soda, punch, or energy drink for water, milk, and unsweetened beverages.
- Eat smaller portions of sweets like cake and ice cream.
Risks Of Exceeding Recommended Sugar Intake
Sugary foods add empty calories to our diet without the benefit of minerals, vitamins, and other vital nutrients. As if that’s not enough, eating too much sugar can also increase a person’s risk of many health problems, including:
- Weight gain
- Increased risk of heart disease
- Tooth decay
- High blood pressure
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Acne and skin problems
P.S: The amount of sugar we consume per day affects our health, and too much can lead to an increased risk of significant health issues. Maintaining a healthy diet by eating nutritious whole foods and consuming less added sugar is essential for your health. And knowing how much sugar is too much can help you achieve this.