How Much Sugar Should We Eat?

What the Experts Say

Various Types of Sugars
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Recently we heard about removing the cap on cholesterol from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Now we are hearing about new advice about added sugar in our diets, both from the Dietary Guidelines committee and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Until recently, organizations did not address added sugars in our diet (WHO calls these "free sugars", apparently meaning that they are not related to the original food they were added to).

However, as evidence has mounted that sugar is probably contributing to the development of obesity and other health problems, more attention is being paid.

As we know, sugars are added to most processed foods, and more and more have been added as the years have gone by. Not only has this made people get used to lots of foods being sweet, it has made it more and more difficult for people to avoid eating foods with added sugars.

Here are what some major health organizations are currently saying about added sugars.

World Health Organization

WHO's most recent advice (March 2015) states that people should try to consume less than 10% of their calories in added sugars, and that reducing the percentage to 5% would be even better. 10% amounts of about 12 teaspoons of sugar per day, whereas 5% is about 6 teaspoons.

A tablespoon of ketchup has about a teaspoon of sugar.

A 12 oz can of sugar-sweetened soda has about 10 teaspoons of sugar.

2015 United States Dietary Guidelines

The 2015 guidelines advise limiting sugar consumption to 10% of calories (12 teaspoons per day). Although members of the panel admitted that lower would be better, it was thought that, basically, it's just too difficult to avoid sugar. The 10% figure is considered to be "within reach for most people".

A tablespoon of regular jam has almost a tablespoon sugar, the vast majority of which is added.

A tablespoon of BBQ sauce has about 2 teaspoons of sugar, depending on the brand. And who eats just a tablespoon of BBQ sauce?

American Heart Association

The American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar for women, and 9 teaspoons for men (this is based on average calories consumed).

Most small cupcakes with frosting (less than 3 inches across) have between 6 and 10 teaspoons of sugar.

A quarter cup of margarita mixer has 6 teaspoons of sugar.

Summing Up - And What Should be the Next Steps

Finally, finally, we are getting some authoritative advice about sugar consumption. But what about refined starches, which have at least as strong an impact on blood sugar, with very little contribution to our nutritional needs? As Dr. David Ludwig says, "Corn flakes with no added sugar are exactly the same as sugar with no added corn flakes."

I hope hitting harder on refined carbs is the next step that the Dietary Guidelines take.

A bottle of a popular brand of lemon tea has 9 teaspoons of sugar.

A serving of JELL-O (not sugar-free) has about 4 teaspoons of sugar.

Help for Cutting Down on Sugar:

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