Do you know the recommendations for sugar intake? Do you know how many teaspoons on average that an American consumes? Do you think sugar contributes to weight gain? You might be surprised, yet confused, by these answers.
The average American intake of “added” sugar is over 20 teaspoons per day or 320 calories. That is equivalent to 80 grams of sugar if you are reading food labels (4 grams equals 1 teaspoon). If reading the food label, however, it is imperative that you distinguish between natural and added sugars. Dairy products and fruit are very nutritious, but high in natural sugar, which is not differentiated on the food label. If you are uncertain, then read the ingredient list to determine if sugar has been added. Buyer beware, sugar goes by many different names.
The recommendations for “added” sugar per day can vary depending on the source.
The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that 5% to 15% of your total caloric intake come from “added” sugars and solid fats (SoFAS, an acronym for solid fats and added sugars) for healthy individuals over the age of two (2) years. Theoretically, your added sugar intake should be 5% to 10% of total caloric intake since less than 10% should come from saturated fats. Confusing, right?
In 2009, the American Heart Association released its upper limit recommendations for adults. The recommendation differs depending on your gender, age, and activity level. To simplify, the overriding recommendation is that men should not consume more than 9 teaspoons (36 grams) per day and women should not consume more than 6 teaspoons (24 grams) per day.
So why should you care? Recent research is supporting the contribution of “added” sugar intake in our nation’s growing obesity epidemic. Did you know that one 12-ounce Coke® provides 140 non-nutritious calories and 39 grams of sugar? The added sugar content is equivalent to TEN teaspoons for the day, which is OVER the current recommendations for most individuals. Bottom line, the next time you pick up that sugary drink, you might want to determine if the added sugar and extra calories are worth it.
-Larissa Brophy, MS, RD, LD