Now that you know what added sugars are and where you can find them, it's time to talk about the impact of added sugars on your health.
There’s a world-wide debate about the optimum amount of added sugar in foods to promote good health. We know added sugar increases the risk of overweight and obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some types of cancer; but how much is too much?
The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans Advisory Committee recommended decreasing the guideline for no more than 10% of total daily calories from added sugar to no more than 6%, noting that foods that contain added sugars typically aren’t good sources of the essential nutrients needed to promote good health. Instead, they contain extra, unwanted calories. Decreasing added sugar to no more than 6% of total calories and instead consuming more vegetables, fruits, and whole grains can have a significant positive impact on diet quality and health.
Why Should I Be Concerned About Added Sugar?
Adding sugar to foods increases the calories in that food without providing any additional nutrients needed for good health. Filling up on cookies, candy, sweetened beverages, and pastries makes it difficult -- if not impossible -- to consume enough important vitamins and minerals without consuming too many calories.
How Can I Reduce My Added Sugar Consumption to Just 6% of My Calories?
If you’re consuming 2000 calories, that means limiting added sugar to no more than 7-8 teaspoons of added sugar per day.
To calculate added sugar limits for different calorie levels, multiply the total daily calories by .06 and then divide that number by 4 to get the grams of added sugar per day. Divide the daily grams of added sugar by 4 to get the teaspoons of added sugar.
Tips to Cut Down on Added Sugar:
- Keep track of the amount of added sugars you’re currently consuming and note which foods and beverages contain added sugar. Identify the biggest culprits so you know where to make changes.
- Use less added sugar in coffee, tea, or sprinkled in your bowl of oatmeal. Use an actual measuring spoon teaspoon and not a cereal spoon to accurately measure the amount of sweetener you use.
- Choose a smaller size of sweetened coffee, tea, soda, or flavored milk. A medium Dunkin Donuts Coolatta contains 113 grams added sugar and a small contains 83 grams of added sugar. That’s still almost 21 teaspoons or ¼ cup sugar but it’s less than the medium or large size.
- Choose beverages and foods with less added sugar:
- Drink herbal tea with no added sugar for a flavorful beverage.
- Replace cookies, cakes, and pies for dessert with fresh fruit.
- Instead of sweetened breakfast cereal, choose cereal with no added sugar and add fresh or frozen fruit for natural sweetness.
- Replace sweetened soda with unsweetened sparkling water.
- Drink plain unflavored milk or milk replacements such as oat, soy, almond, and hemp milks.
By Lynn Grieger, RDN, CDCES, CPT, CHWC
- Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. 2020. Scientific Report of the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee: Advisory Report to the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of Health and Human Services. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Washington, DC. https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/2020-advisory-committee-report
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Get the Facts: Added Sugars. https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/data-statistics/added-sugars.html last reviewed 5-6-21; accessed 6-26-21
- Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020. Cut Down on Added Sugars. https://health.gov/sites/default/files/2019-10/DGA_Cut-Down-On-Added-Sugars.pdf published March 2016. Accessed 6-26-21.
- Yoplait. Original Single Serve Blueberry Smoothies. https://www.yoplait.com/products/original-single-serve-blueberry-smoothie/ accessed 6-27-21
- Dunkin. Frozen Drinks. https://www.dunkindonuts.com/en/menu/frozen-drinks accessed 6-29-21
Stephanie Ronco has been editing for Food and Health Communications since 2011. She graduated from Colorado College magna cum laude with distinction in Comparative Literature. She was elected a member of Phi Beta Kappa in 2008.