The average American takes in a little over 22 teaspoons (about 355 calories) per day of added sugars. How much should you actually be consuming for better health? No more than 6 teaspoons (approximately 100 calories) per day for women and no more than 9 teaspoons (about 150 calories) per day for men, according to a scientific statement published last year by the American Heart Association (AHA). Note, these values refer to sugars that have been added to your foods above and beyond what is present naturally in them. Additional sugars are put into foods during the preparation and processing of manufactured foods and/or at the table during mealtime.
Added sugars fall into the “discretionary calories” category. That is, the amount of calories “left over” after you have met your nutritional needs from foods such as fruit, vegetables, low-fat or nonfat dairy, whole grains, and lean meat, fish, and poultry. The discretionary calories category includes solid fats (saturated and trans fat), added sugars, and alcoholic beverages.
The American Heart Association recommends that you consume no more than half of your discretionary calories from added sugars. Why? According to their statement, excessive consumption of added sugars is associated with the development of obesity and heart disease and it increases your risk for high blood pressure, inflammation (a marker for heart disease), and elevated triglyceride levels. Furthermore, consuming foods high in added sugars, which also tend to be devoid of essential nutrients, can lead to nutritional deficiencies and their associated health conditions.
What is the main source of added sugars in the American diet? Soft drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages. How can you limit the amount of added sugars you consume? Consider these tips from the AHA:
- Read the nutrition label. If you see words that end in “ose”, such as fructose and maltose, or terms such as corn syrup/sweetener, molasses, barley malt, invert sugar, malt sugar, honey, raw sugar, cane sugar, and agave, then sugar has been added . If these words are listed either first or second, than you can be certain the product contains a lot of added sugar. Try to avoid these products.
- Buy fresh fruits and vegetables. Avoid canned varieties that have been packed in heavy syrup. Instead, choose those that have been canned in natural juice or water.
- Sweeten your food, such as whole grain cereal, with fresh or dried fruit instead of sugars and syrups.
- Avoid soft drinks and sugar-sweetened beverages. Instead, squeeze a little lemon juice into a glass of water.
- When baking, reduce the amount of sugar called for in the recipe by half and use other ingredients such as spices and extracts or unsweetened apple sauce to enhance flavor.
Do you have a great tip on how to sweeten and/or enhance the flavor of food without adding calories from nutrient devoid sugars and syrups? Share your ideas, we want to know!