Added Sugar vs. Natural Sugar
As more and more people start to take control of their diets, they start to worry about the numbers. As a dietitian, I know a lot of numbers – how many calories a typical 5’5” female should be eating, how many carbs are in an 8 oz glass of milk, how many miles it takes to run off a candy bar, etc. The list of how many numbers I crunch in a day is astounding.
I don’t realize how often I think of numbers, and even though I tell people to stop counting calories and just eat, it’s good to have a reference point, a baseline, if you will. Number loving people (like me) appreciate having a number in their head to go back to, perhaps with a statistical + or – at the end.
A popular question these days is in regards to added sugars. I have been asked several times over the past couple of weeks, how much is too much? Sugar is still taking over headlines when nutrition is involved. Gone are the days of worrying about fat and cholesterol, sugar has taken center stage as the evil tempter.
We need to distinguish between natural sugar and added sugar. For everyone who believes that sugar is sugar (and it is), there is a difference when we are referring to how much sugar one should be eating. Natural sugars, such as those in fruits and milk, are not the ones we should be watching.
The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans stresses the need to limit sugar in the diet. It is a clear contributor to obesity, inflammation and poor diet quality. The upcoming revised food label is set to have added sugars on the label, so we can, once and for all, know how much sugar was added to a food.
So, how much is too much?
The American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 teaspoons of sugar per day for women and no more than 9 teaspoons for men. There are 4 grams of sugar in each teaspoon and 16 calories, so if you do the math: for women, no more than 6 teaspoons = 24 grams of sugar and 96 calories from added sugar.
For men, 9 teaspoons of sugar = 36g of added sugar and 144 calories from added sugar
The recommendation for young kids is no more than 3-4 teaspoons and 5-8 teaspoons for teens and pre-teens.
The new Dietary Guidelines suggest no more than 10% of daily calorie needs. What does that mean? That means, if you eat 2000 calories everyday, you should be consuming no more than 12 teaspoons of sugar or almost 200 calories from sugar.
Does this mean that you should start reading labels? Yes.
Does it mean that you should make yourself crazy with calorie counting? No
Educate yourself on the foods that contain large amounts of added sugar and limit those foods. Continue to enjoy your meals and make smarter choices everyday.