I realized this past week that I have been so busy with my business and life that I have not posted a blog entry since the beginning of the year. I guess time flies when you are having fun. I enjoy working with people 1:1 to help them reach their diet-related nutrition goals and improve their overall health.
Thinking of topics for blog posts can be challenging. In talking with my clients, I have realized their questions are a great source of inspiration for my blog. After attending health fairs the past few months and seeing clients, one common theme has emerged. How much sugar is too much to consume? That is an excellent question!
Let's start with the basics about sugar. Sugar is found naturally in foods. These include fruits, vegetables, grain, and dairy products. One question frequently asked is, "Should I exclude fruit from my diet because fruits contain sugar?" My answer is definitely "No." Fruits contain essential vitamins and minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. Other plant sources like vegetables and grains contain these nutrients too. Dairy products contain calcium and protein, which are essential for healthy bones, teeth, and offer many other health benefits to your body. These foods are an important part of our diet for optimal health.
Studies have shown that including a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in the diet can decrease the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers. While a diet high in these foods is proven to be beneficial to one's health, a diet high in added sugars can have the opposite effect of contributing to these chronic diseases.
Examples of foods with added sugars are processed foods, candy, cookies, cakes, and sodas. The average American consumes 17 teaspoons of added sugar a day (which is a little over 1/3 cup of sugar). A helpful tip to keep in mind is is 4 grams of sugar is equivalent to 1 teaspoon of sugar. For instance, a 12-ounce can of soda can have up to 44 grams of sugar, and a large flavored coffee or energy drink up to 60 grams. That is anywhere from 11 to 15 teaspoons of sugar (approximately 1/4-1/3 cup) in one drink. Wow!
So how much-added sugar should one have in a day? The Dietary Guidelines for America (2020-2025) recommend limiting added sugars to less than 10% of total calories consumed daily. Based on a 2,000-calorie daily diet, that would be around 50 grams of sugar= 12 teaspoons of sugar. The American Heart Association recommends restricting further to combat heart disease and obesity. Their current recommendation is for women to consume no more than six teaspoons of added sugar daily, while men no more than nine teaspoons.
At the health fairs I have attended, I have a display of test tubes filled with grams of added sugar from different food items for people to see. It has been a great visual and eye-opener for some. You don't realize how much added sugar you are consuming. How do you know how much-added sugar is in a food? The answer is to read food labels and look for the "added sugar" section, a whole new topic for another blog post in the future.
1. Harvard Health Medical School. The sweet danger of sugar. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/the-sweet-danger-of-sugar
2. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The nutrition source: added sugar. Retrieved from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/carbohydrates/added-sugar-in-the-diet/#:~:text=4%20grams%20of%20sugar%20%3D%201%20teaspoon&text=The%20average%20American%20adult%2C%20teenager,from%20processed%20and%20prepared%20foods.