Do you know how much sugar is in your diet? If you're like many people, you're probably eating and drinking more sugar than you realize because it's added to so many foods and beverages. Added sugars add calories without adding nutrients.
Some evidence suggests there's a relationship between added sugars and obesity, diabetes and heart disease, but this relationship isn't entirely clear.
All sugar, whether natural or processed, is a type of simple carbohydrate your body uses for energy. Fruits, vegetables and dairy foods naturally contain sugar.
"Added sugars" are the sugars and syrups added to foods during processing. Desserts, sodas, and energy and sports drinks are the top sources of added sugars for most Americans, but many other foods contain added sugars.
Sweetness has an almost universal appeal. So adding sugar to processed foods makes them more appetizing. But sugar is also added to foods because it:
Foods with a lot of added sugars contribute extra calories to your diet but provide little nutritional value. In addition, added sugars are often found in foods that also contain solid fats, such as butter or margarine, or shortening in baked goods.
Eating too many foods with added sugars sets the stage for potential health problems, such as:
The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that added sugars make up no more than 10 percent of your daily calories. For a 2,000-calorie diet, that means no more than 200 calories a day should come from added sugars. That's about 12 teaspoons or 48 grams of sugar.
The American Heart Association advises a stricter limit for added sugars — no added sugar for children younger than age 2, no more than 100 calories from added sugar a day for children older than age 2 and most women, and no more than 150 calories from added sugar a day for most men. That's about 6 teaspoons or 24 grams of sugar for children older than age 2 and women, and 9 teaspoons or 36 grams of sugar for men.
To put these numbers into perspective, 1 teaspoon of sugar (which equals about 4 grams) has about 16 calories. A 12-ounce can of regular soda has about 160 calories — about 10 teaspoons or 40 grams of sugar.
Unfortunately, U.S. adults get an average of 13 percent or more of their total daily calories from added sugars, which exceeds the recommendations.
Identifying added sugars can be confusing. The Nutrition Facts label on packaged foods and drinks currently displays the total amount (in grams) of all sugars found in a serving of the product. This number includes both natural and added sugars.
However, the Food and Drug Administration is updating the Nutrition Facts label to help you more easily identify how much sugar is added to foods. You can expect to see a new line for added sugars (reported in grams and percent daily value) on all Nutrition Facts labels in the future. In the meantime, the only reliable way to identify added sugars is to look at the ingredient list.
Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight. If you see sugar listed among the first few ingredients, the product is likely to be high in added sugars.
Sugar goes by many different names, depending on its source and how it was made. This can also make it hard to identify added sugars, even when you read ingredient lists and food labels.
Check for ingredients ending in "ose" — that's the chemical name for many types of sugar, such as fructose, glucose, maltose and dextrose. Here's a list of other common types of added sugars:
Despite what you may have heard, there's no nutritional advantage to honey, brown sugar or other types of sugar over white sugar.
To reduce the added sugars in your diet, try these tips:
By limiting the amount of added sugars in your diet, you can cut calories without compromising nutrition. In fact, cutting back on foods with added sugars may make it easier to get the nutrients you need without exceeding your calorie goal.
Take this easy first step: Next time you're tempted to reach for a soda or other sugary drink, grab a glass of ice-cold water instead.