The sugar debate has been going on for a while now: how much sugar is too much? The Food and Drug Administration has issued their opinion: Americans should not consume more than 50 grams of sugar per day, assuming the average diet is around 2,000 calories. That means that up to 10 percent of calories can come from sugar in a healthy diet.
Currently, Americans consume around 14 percent of calories from sugar, so the change may not be excessive. Fifty grams, or the recommended maximum, is equal to around 12.5 teaspoons, or the amount of sugar in one 12 ounce can of Coca Cola.
Consuming excessive amounts of sugar has been shown to increase chances of certain illnesses, like Type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular disease. It can also lead to obesity, and it can affect things like energy levels and attention spans, especially when children are taught that eating a lot of sugar is okay early in life.
What Is Added Sugar?
The difference between naturally occurring sugar and added sugar can be stated simply; naturally occurring sugar is found in whole, unprocessed foods like milk, fruits, vegetables, and grains, and added sugar is put into processed foods when they are made, or processed.
The FDA has placed a limit on the amount of added sugar recommended for Americans, but currently, food labels don’t differentiate between naturally occurring sugar and added sugar. The FDA says that it would like to change labeling requirements so that the kinds of sugar can be easily differentiated, but the changes haven’t been instituted yet.
Hidden Sources of Sugar
Do you know how much sugar you’re consuming daily? A lot of sugar that Americans consume is hidden, sometimes in foods that are thought of as ‘healthy’, like fruit flavored yogurt.
Some of the most common sources of hidden sugars in the United States include the following.
- Sweetened beverages, including soft drinks
- Condiments, like ketchup, pasta sauce, and salad dressing
- Snack foods
- Fat-free and low-fat foods
Some of the most common places that added sugars hide are in artificial sweeteners, like sugar, honey, and high fructose corn syrup. Sugars can be listed in nutrition facts as one of around 30 different things, so changes to labeling requirements may help consumers to make better decisions.
Overall, it’s up to consumers to make healthy and informed decisions regarding their own diets. The best way to avoid added sugars is to eat more whole, unprocessed foods.