I know all about having a sweet tooth. I enjoy my chocolate, ice cream, and other sweet treats. But there’s a limit to how much sugar per day you should have, and the amount for weight loss and health is less than you may think.
How Much Sugar Per Day Is Acceptable?
A quick review of the USDA’s literature on recommendations for healthy food consumption shows there are no suggestions for daily sugar consumption. However, the American Heart Association has taken a fairly strong stance on the subject.
According to the AHA’s data, the average American consumes just over 22 teaspoons of sugar in a day. Predictably, kids between the ages of 14-18 eat the most at just over 34 teaspoons each day. These are sugars that are added to foods during manufacturing or processing, rather than naturally occurring (as in fruits and vegetables), and for those kids, it translates to nearly 550 calories each day from sugar!
The USDA’s current recommendations for daily calorie consumption includes the concept of discretionary calories, which are essentially those calories from alcohol and refined foods. On average, these amount to 10-15% of total daily calories. The following table shows how many teaspoons of sugar a person should eat, based on their daily calorie consumption.
These numbers are smaller than one might expect. To put it in perspective, examine the following table, which lists the number of teaspoons of added sugar in some common foods.
And, even though we’re dealing with “added sugars,” which are considered discretionary calories, there’s still the case of inherent sugar content, which still contribute calories. Although fruits are healthy, and far better than “sugar added” alternatives, fruits are sweet because they do contain sugars in the form of fructose. Check out the fructose content of many common fruits, again listed in teaspoons.
We can see from this exercise that, although the focus of AHA dietary recommendations about sugar content is on added sugars and discretionary calories, even the sugar content in fruits can present a weight management problem if they’re consumed in excess quantities. A friend of the family who was recently diagnosed as a diabetic discovered this when he gave up refined sugar in favor of fruits.
The consumption of refined and added sugars is almost impossible to avoid in our society, particularly if you travel or dine out frequently. Busy lifestyles and the convenience of prepared foods make grab and go foods an easy choice. But a little planning ahead and having a general awareness of the sugar content of many classes of foods can make weight control less of a burden.