Q: How much sugar can I have in a day?
A: According to the latest recommendations from “A Scientific Statement from the American Heart Association” released in August 2009, the majority of women should consume no more than 100 calories of added sugars (table sugar, honey, syrups, etc.) per day. This amounts to a little more than six teaspoons or 24 grams — less than the sugar in a can of soda, which often has eight teaspoons or more of added sugar!
The maximum recommendation for most men is approximately 150 calories of added sugar per day, or approximately nine teaspoons or 36 grams. The average American consumes about 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day, or 352 calories. The key word is “added” sugar. This advice does not include sugars that are naturally part of many foods, particularly fruits.
Q: What prompted these recommendations?
A: Karen Hudson, Kansas State University, shares that there is growing evidence of the association between excess sugar consumption and a number of health conditions: obesity, hypertension, elevated triglycerides and other markers for heart disease. American diets high in added sugar are often low in essential nutrients.
USDA’s MyPyramid provides a chart for estimating suggested amounts of “discretionary” calories at www.mypyramid.gov/pyramid/discretionary_calories_amount_table.html. These are calories above what is needed to keep the body functioning, and they provide energy for physical activity depending on age, sex and activity level. For women consuming 2,000 calories, discretionary calories are estimated at 265 calories. It is recommended that we consume no more than half of our discretionary calories from added sugar. The lead author of the Scientific Statement from the AHA, Rachael K. Johnson, recommends individuals use added sugars as flavor enhancers (such as flavored yogurt or sweetened whole-grain cereals rather than nutrient-empty candy and sodas).
Q: How can I tell if a food has “added” sugar versus “natural” sugar?
A: Let’s first clarify the difference between the two — “added” sugar refers to sugars and syrups added to foods during processing or preparation and includes sugars and syrups added to food at the table. “Natural” sugar refers to sugars that are present in whole foods as they are found in nature.
Here are a few comparisons:
Added sugar / Natural sugar
Fruit punch, drinks, cocktails / 100 percent fruit juice
Sweetened, dried fruit / Whole fresh fruit
Chocolate or strawberry milk / Plain white milk
Flavored yogurt / Plain yogurt
Flavored oatmeal / Plain oatmeal
Now, to get back to your question — sometimes It’s difficult to figure out how much “added” sugar is in the food product. Unfortunately, the USDA does not require food manufacturers to separate “natural” from “added” sugars on food labels. To see if there is “added” sugar we need to go one step further and examine the “ingredients” list. Some of the names for added sugars are listed below:
• Brown sugar
• Corn sweetener
• Corn syrup
• Evaporated cane juice
• Fruit juice concentrates
• High-fructose corn syrup
• Invert Sugar
• Malt syrup
• Raw sugar
Even then, the amount of added sugar is still not evident. Look for food items that specify “no added sugar.”
— Susan Krumm is an Extension agent in family and consumer sciences with K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County, 2110 Harper St. She can be reached at 843-7058.