Sugar Guidelines

By Debbie Jeffery, RDN

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans were released in January 2016.  The guidelines from the US Department of Health and Human Services and the USDA were first released in 1980, and every 5 years a new version is release.  Although nutrition, health and wellness experts have been encouraging people to reduce sugar intake for years, this is the first time the guidelines have made recommendations on sugar intake.  An excessive sugar intake can not only contribute to weight gain but can also negatively affect overall health.  A diet high in sugar can increase your risk for type 2 diabetes, compromise the immune system, and also result in elevated insulin levels which raise the possibility of developing certain cancers and heart disease.

Added sugars are sugars that are added during the processing or preparation of foods and beverages.  This includes anything from the defamed high fructose corn syrup to the healthier sounding versions of honey and agave.  Added sugars provide calories without providing any nutritional value.  Fructose, the sugar naturally found in fruit, and lactose, the sugar in milk and dairy products, doesn’t count.  With these sugars from whole foods, you receive vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

The 2015 Guidelines recommendation is that added sugars be limited to less than 10% of a person’s total daily intake.   In practical terms, the guidelines limit added sugar intake to about 10-12 teaspoons or about 25-35 grams of added sugar.  A 12 ounce can of soda or 1 cup of ice cream would meet the entire day’s limit of added sugar.  Candy, baked goods and sweetened beverages are obvious sources but many processed products like cereal, BBQ sauce and salad dressings contain significant amounts of added sugar.  You’ll need to refer to the Nutrition Facts panel on products to find the sugar content.

Spend time to calculate your daily added sugar intake.  The USDA’s most recent figures find that Americans consume on average about 32 teaspoons of added sugar a day.  How do you compare?