How Many Grams Of Sugar Per Day Is OK For Me?
How many grams of sugar per day is good for you? I have to admit, I am a huge sugar lover! I am a total chocoholic (if there is chocolate in house, it MUST be eaten!!) and I always prefer sweet over savoury. So I tend to eat a lot of sugar…and after watching some documentaries such as That Sugar Film (which is pretty good by the way!), it made me start thinking about how many grams of sugar per day I actually take in. And once I started taking note of how many grams of sugar per day I take in, I realized I eat A LOT of sugar. Sugar is delicious, but too much of it is bad for you….real bad! After seeing what affect sugar has had on some people, it gave me a bit of a wake-up call to start being proactive and diligent about the amount of sugar that I eat and drink. But I still love sugar…and it is so ubiquitous in everyday life that you will have a hard time to go truly cold turkey and not ever eat or drink any sugar at all. So for now, I am concentrating on at least reducing the amount of sugar that I eat and drink every day. But to be able to be effective, I need to know how many grams of sugar per day is recommended to be able to set myself some targets and goals.
What is Sugar Exactly?
Before we jump into how many grams of sugar per day is good for you or recommended, let’s just first make sure we actually know what sugar is!
Sugar is the white stuff you put in your coffee, right? Sugar is actually slightly more complicated than that! There are two forms of sugar, namely natural and added sugar. Natural sugars are derived from natural sources (see where the name comes from?) such as fruits, vegetables and other plants such as sugar cane. The most common natural forms of sugar include fructose, glucose and sucrose. However, once sugars are extracted from natural food sources, they can no longer be labelled natural. Added sources of sugar are ubiquitous and hard to avoid. Common sources include regular soft drinks, juices, refined sugars (powdered sugar), candies and cakes, pies and other baked goods (so basically all the yummy stuff!). Many processed dairy products also contain added sugars. Yogurt, sweetened milk and ice cream all contain added sources of sugar.
So to put it in simple terms, you get sugar that occurs naturally in food and drinks (natural sugar), then you get sugar that we add to food and drinks (added sugar). Sometimes when you look on food labels it will say total sugar. Total sugar is all sugar that is in the food or drink, regardless of whether it is natural or added.
If you want to really dig more into what sugar is and the different types of sugars there are, check out this wikipedia page dedicated to sugar here. You can also check out the American Heart Association’s page on sugar here.
So How Many Grams of Sugar Per Day Is Too Much?
Now that we know the difference between natural sugars and added sugars, we can start looking at how many grams of sugar per day is right for you vs how many grams of sugar per day is too much.
There are a few recommendations out there for how many grams of sugar per day you should limit yourself too. According to Health.gov, we should be limiting ourselves to consume less than 10% of our daily calories from added sugar. But the American Heart Association goes even more granular (see what I did there? 😉 ) and suggests women consume no more than 100 calories (24 grams) of added sugar per day; men, no more than 150 calories (36 grams). To put that in ever more easy to understand terms, for woman that means 6 teaspoons a day and or for men 9 teaspoons a day.
How Do I Know How Much Sugar Do I actually Eat a Day?
24 grams (6 teaspoons) if you are a woman and 36 grams (9 teaspoons) if you are a man. That sounds pretty easy, right? I thought so initially, but if you look at how much sugar is in stuff you will see that to limit yourself to only 24 – 36 grams of sugar a day is actually really hard!
When I found out how many grams of sugar per day is recommended, I started looking at how much sugar I was actually eating and drinking each day. It was A LOT!
The problem is that sugar is in most things we eat and drink. Just one 12 oz can of soda alone is already 39 grams of sugar! And if you do the calculations, you will see that a can of soda is almost 10 teaspoons of sugar! You can see for yourself by checking out Coca-Cola’s nutritional information here.
To figure out how much sugar is in something, have a look at the nutritional label. It should always state the amount of sugar that is in it.
Names for added sugar on labels include:
- Brown sugar
- Corn sweetener
- Corn syrup
- Fruit juice concentrates
- High-fructose corn syrup
- Invert sugar
- Malt sugar
- Raw sugar
- Sugar molecules ending in “ose” (dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, sucrose)
Tips for reducing your sugar intake
Like I said at the beginning, I want to start being proactive about reducing my daily sugar intake. But how do I actually go about doing that? Here are some of the things that I intend on doing to try and reduce the amount of sugar that I consume.
- Break the routine – I tend to have certain routines in the day. That includes eating routines. I love having some coffee in the afternoon, and of course when you have coffee you must have something to go with it…usually a cookie or something. So break that routine! Rather have a banana than a coffee or cookie. It might suck at first, but after a while you will be used to it and it will become your new routine.
- Have a glass of water – Some people say that cravings can be caused by dehydration. Often some water in your belly also gives you a feeling of being fuller. I know, drinking water is not nearly as great as having some chocolate, but we are going to have to dig deep here and make sacrifices!
- Swap candies/ice cream/chocolate etc for fruit – Having a piece of fruit may help satisfy sugar cravings for some people. Bananas, apples, oranges work great. Remember that fruit still have sugar (natural sugar), so be careful to not go over-board with eating fruit either! But if you HAVE to have something sweat, a fruit is a better option than something like a big piece of chocolate!
- Avoid excess stress – Same as with sleep, avoiding stress can help prevent cravings.
- Avoid the obvious stuff – There are certain foods and drinks that are just filled with sugar, which you really should just try to avoid. Like I mentioned before, one can of soda is already more than the recommended daily allowance. So avoid soft drinks, fruit juices (fruit juice actually has a similar amount of sugar to soft drinks!!), candies, chocolate, baked goods and even dried fruit.
- Use alternatives to sugar – There are of course alternatives to sugar. Things like cinnamon, nutmeg, almond extract, vanilla, ginger or lemon can often be used to substitute sugar.
The American Heart Association has put together a nice infographic that illustrates some of the points above related to how many grams of sugar per day is recommended and how to reduce your sugar consumption.
Wrapping it up on how many grams of sugar per day is OK
Sugar is everywhere…more so than I realized! We consume a lot of sugar each day and we probably do not even realize it. If you are women, you should only be taking in approximately 24 grams (6 teaspoons) of sugar, and if you are a man only 36 grams of sugar (9 teaspoons). Personally I struggle to limit myself to that, but am trying to be more proactive in reducing my daily sugar in-take.
What do you think? How many grams of sugar per day do you eat? Please share your tips and tricks that you have found works for you in reducing the amount of sugar that you consume on a daily basis, by posting in the comments section below.