How Much Sugar Should You Really Have A Day?

Key points

  • Research has shown that consuming too much sugar is bad for your health.
  • A new study has provided more evidence that a recommendation to limit your intake of added sugar to no more than 6 teaspoons a day can help you reduce your risk of adverse health effects.
  • It’s important for everyone, of all ages, to have a healthy relationship with food, but especially for children.

Research has shown that eating too much sugar can have negative health effects, such as increasing the risk of diabetes, depression, obesity, heart disease, some cancers and gout.

While it’s clear you want to avoid too much sugar, it’s less clear how much sugar you can enjoy and still support your health.

How much sugar do we eat every day?

American adults consume an average of 77 grams of sugar per day. Data show that sugary drinks (eg, sodas, fruit juices, and sports/energy drinks) are the major source of added sugars in the diet of Americans.

According to a new study, there’s a research-backed limit you can follow for your daily intake of added sugars: 25 grams, or about 6 teaspoons. Here’s what the experts say about limiting your sugar intake.

How Much Sugar Should You Consume Every Day?

To understand how much sugar people can enjoy in a day without having a serious negative effect on their health, the researchers did a meta-analysis review of the available studies.

The researchers examined the results of 73 previous meta-analyses, which showed harmful links between sugar consumption and hormonal and metabolic diseases, heart disease, cancer, asthma, tooth decay, depression and premature death.

The results of the review showed that:

  • Each serving/week of increased intake of sugary drinks was associated with a 4% higher risk of gout
  • Each 250 milliliter/day increase in sugary beverage intake was associated with a 17% higher risk of coronary heart disease
  • Each 25-gram-per-day increase in fructose intake was associated with a 22% higher risk of pancreatic cancer

6 teaspoons a day

Six teaspoons a day is about 24 grams/100 calories of added sugar per day. However, not all sugar in your diet is created equal.

Remember that added or “free” the sugars are not the same as the natural sugar found in fruit or dairy products—those naturally occurring sugars do not count towards your daily limit.

Based on the findings, the researchers recommended that people limit their intake of sugary drinks to no more than one per week (about a 12-ounce can) and keep their daily intake of added sugar to less than 25 grams ( about 6 teaspoons). .

What do the dietary guidelines say about sugar?

While the findings are based on observational data, they are in line with guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research, all of which support the limit of 6 teaspoons a day.

“Limiting added sugars to 6 teaspoons a day isn’t all that surprising because this has been the American Heart Association (AHA) standard for years,” Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, founder of Nutrition Starring YOU, told Verywell. . “Consuming excess sugar means that we are either consuming too many calories beyond our needs leading to further weight gain, or we are missing out on key nutrients because the foods we choose are higher in sugar and calories which replace the foods we need to eat.” prevent lifestyle diseases as we age.”

Hidden added sugars

You probably already know that desserts like cakes, cookies, candies, snack foods, and ice cream are sources of added sugar, but products like jarred pasta sauces, dressings, peanut butter, yogurt, granola, protein bars, cereals, coffee drinks , and fruit snacks can also have sugar added, and it may not be obvious.

Sugar can have many other names on a food’s nutrition label or ingredients list, so it’s important that you know what to look for. Here are just a few examples:

  • Sucrose
  • Dextrose
  • Maltose
  • Glucose
  • Fructose
  • Cane juice
  • Corn Syrup/High Fructose Corn Syrup

How to develop healthy sugar habits

Experts have tried to focus their education and support efforts to limit added sugar intake on children, as this group is particularly vulnerable not only to the temptation of sweets but also to the advertising and marketing of the product that sells them.

In 2017-2018, the average daily intake of added sugars was 17 teaspoons for children and young adults ages 2 to 19.

Healthcare professionals have an important role to play in not only keeping a close eye on children’s sugar intake, but also making sure they think and feel positive about all the foods they eat.

Melissa Mitri, MS, RD

When developing a healthy relationship with food, it’s important not to label foods as “good” or “bad,” and that goes for sugar, too.

—Melissa Mitri, MS, RD

“It is essential for families to nurture a healthy relationship with food while setting limits on sugar consumption for young children,” Melissa Mitri, MS, RD, nutrition writer and owner of Melissa Mitri Nutrition, told Verywell.

“When developing a healthy relationship with food, it’s important not to label foods ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ and that goes for sugar, too,” Mitri said. “It’s best to prioritize naturally sweet foods like fruit and encourage sugary foods in moderation as an occasional treat.”

While it’s important to start young to create lifelong habits, learning about nutrition and taking steps to foster a positive relationship with food should truly run in the family.

“The most harmful approach is to identify a child as overweight or obese and limit sugar intake, but not for other family members,” Harris-Pincus said.

Some specific ways Mitri recommends reducing your sugar intake include:

  • Swap foods and beverages that are high in sugar for those that are “low sugar” or “no sugar added.”
  • Cook more meals at home, as packaged and processed foods tend to be higher in sugar than homemade versions as you have more control over ingredients and quantities. If you have children, make them part of the food shopping and preparation process.
  • Educate yourself and your family about nutritious food choices. There are many books, eating patterns, songs, and games that can teach children to make informed decisions about what they eat and why it’s good for them to be empowered to do so.
  • Instead of talking about food and weight, focus the conversation on how eating certain foods makes you feel.

What does it mean to you

Eating too much added sugar is bad for your health. Experts recommend limiting your intake of added or free sugars to six teaspoons a day. You can take steps to eat less added sugar by checking nutrition labels and ingredient lists and choosing “low sugar” or “no sugar added” items, as well as cooking more meals at home.

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