How much sugar per day should you consume to keep your waistline in check and does sugar play a larger role in your overall wellness and disease prevention? The role sugar plays in our everyday lives and the broader health implications should be taken very seriously.
As far as just how much added sugar per day is healthy, the USDA recommends that we limit our daily consumption of added sugar to 10 teaspoons, that’s about 150 calories. Americans who are eating on average 22 teaspoons (330 calories) of sugar are adding nearly a half a pound of unnecessary weight every week. That’s 25 pounds a year! The link between sugar and obesity is not that sugar, in and of itself, contains fats or cholesterol, but by consuming far more sugar than our bodies require, we put ourselves at risk for obesity as the bodies store our additional caloric intake as fat.
While our daily carbohydrate requirement is between 45% and 65% of our caloric intake, the vast majority of that should be comprised of complex carbohydrates – such as starchy vegetables – as opposed to simple sugars. In addition to avoiding too many simple sugars relative to complex carbohydrates, we need to be mindful of the amount of unnecessary added sugar we consume on a daily basis.
Americans, in particular, are at risk of consuming far more additional sugar than is healthy. According to the USDA, the average American consumes 156 pounds of added sugar yearly. The vast majority of that added comes not from table sugar but from the sugar added to foods, especially processed foods. We all expect to find added sugar in items like candy, sweet drinks and sweetened cereals but by carefully examine food labels, you will find that there is added sugar in surprising places. Condiments and nut butters are examples of foods that we regularly consume that also contain unnecessary added sugar. In order to cut down on the added sugars in your diet, carefully read food labels and choose the low sugar or sugar-free options. So, what exactly are the risks associated with a high sugar diet?
A UCSF obesity expert, Dr. Robert Lustig, has gone so far as to call sugar a poison. While Dr. Lustig’s position may sound extreme, the fact is that eating too much added sugar decreases our overall health and increases our risk of obesity-related disease. Diseases linked to obesity include coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, Cancer, stroke, hypertension and liver and gallbladder disease.
Recent studies indicate that diets high in sugar increase your risk of developing heart disease. People who consume too much added sugar in their diets are less likely to have high levels of HDL cholesterol (“good cholesterol”) in their blood. HDL cholesterol is responsible for flushing LDL cholesterol (“bad cholesterol”) from the body. In addition, those who consume high amounts of added sugar are more likely to have triglycerides in their blood. High levels of triglycerides have been linked to atherosclerosis, heart disease and strokes.
When it comes to how much sugar per day is acceptable in children’s diets, a tough love approach is essential in order to ensure that they develop good eating habits that will stay with them throughout their lives. Getting rid of the sugary drinks and sticking to water, milk and the occasional 100% fruit juice (preferably fresh-squeezed) along with topping cereals with fresh fruit instead of table sugar will go a long way towards improving their health and preventing the long term risks associated with childhood obesity.