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How Much Sugar is Too Much?

It’s official! Organizations and governments are finally declaring a maximum amount of daily sugar intake.


While this is a step forward, there are still a few problems. One – they don’t all agree with each other. And, two, I don’t necessarily agree with them either.


We all know sugar is NOT a health food. It has no nutrient value, and excess consumption is associated with health risks.


The problem is that sugar is everywhere. It’s naturally occurring. It’s also added to just about every processed food there is. The “added sugar” is a factor in many chronic diseases we see today. Sugar is inflammatory. Too much is associated with weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and cavities. Too much sugar is a huge health risk, no matter how you look at it.


So let’s talk about how much sugar is “too much.”


Added Sugar vs. Naturally Occurring Sugar. What do some of the officials say?


Before we talk about the “official” numbers (and why I don’t agree with them), you need to know the difference between “added” sugar and “naturally occurring” sugar.


Fruit and other healthy whole foods contain sugar. They also contain water, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other phytochemicals. They are good for you. Eating fruits and vegetables is a well-proven way to reduce your risks of many chronic diseases.


“Added sugars,” on the other hand, are concerning. In 2013, the American Heart Association calculated that about 25,000 deaths per year were due to sweetened beverages. That’s crazy! “Added sugars” are in baked goods, candies, soups, sauces and other processed foods. You can find sugar on the ingredient list as many names, often ending in “-ose.” These include glucose, fructose, sucrose, etc.


So, “Total sugars” = “Naturally occurring sugars” + “Added sugars.”


The “official” change is the new Nutrition Facts tables. In Canada and the USA, they declare the amount of sugar, but didn’t give it a %DV (% daily value).  This means, they’ve never had a benchmark maximum daily value to use. They haven’t declared how much is too much. Now, both countries are implementing a %DV for sugar.


In Canada, the %DV is based on 100 g/day of total sugar. Unfortunately, this number is large because it includes both naturally occurring and added sugars. The %DV is in-line with the Canadian Heart & Stroke Foundation’s recommendations of no more than 90 g of total sugars per day. Still way too high in my opinion.


In 2008, the average daily total sugar intake in the USA was 76.7 grams per day; this is less than these two benchmarks. Yet, it doesn’t seem that people are getting healthier.  I’d argue that 100 g per day total sugar is still way too high.


In the USA, the labels are changing too. They are not declaring “total” sugars but will differentiate between naturally occurring and added sugars. They have decided on a maximum of 50 g of “added” sugars each day. Unfortunately, this is still more than the American Heart Association’s recommended maximum of 24 g/day added sugar for women, and 36 g/day added sugar for men. This,  I believe, is adequate recommendations for your maximum total sugar daily intake. 24g for women(equlivant to 6 teaspoons)  and 36g (equilivant to 9 teaspoons) for men of total sugar.  That includes natural sugars as well as added.

To put it into perspective, 1 can of pop contains 39g of sugar.  That exceeds the daily intake.  A sports drink is comparable with 36 g.  13g in a cup of milk. 12g in a banana, 10 g in an apple, and 5g in a sweet potato. 2g in a cup of oatmeal.  Remember, it is total sugar that we want to focus on. Because here is the reality of it.  Sugar is sugar.  From that perspective, your body doesn’t know the difference from a Mars bar and an apple.  If it has sugar in it, its all processed the same way.  However, it is clear that there is far less sugar in natural foods vs processed. So if you are getting your intake all from natural foods, fruits vegetables, grains, you are in a good position.  You can consume more food without taking in a excessive amount of sugar and you are also getting vitamins and minerals that your body needs.  Vs if you drink a can of pop, you have already gone over the maximum amount you should be taking in, as well as not providing your body with nutrients.

Can I go on a little vent here? A pet peeve I have is when people think that fruit is going to make them fat.  Really people? It’s fruit.  Please do not fall victim to this BS.  Repeat after me, “Fruit will not make you Fat” Yes, there is sugar in fruit.  But it is way less then what you are getting from that ice-cream cone or even the sauces you are dipping your chicken in. There is also fiber and nutrients in fruit. Its typical very low in calories and it comes from a natural source.  Now I don’t want for you t go down a dozen bananas and eat a whole watermelon, but don’t be afraid of fruit.  I had one client tell me that she had a bag of M&M’s at the movies.  Then in the very same day she said how she had a cup of blueberries for a snack and was convinced the blueberries were preventing her from losing weight because of the sugar.  Lets just use logic and some common sense on this one please.  Natural good, processed bad.  And repeat it one more time, “Fruit will not make you Fat”.


What is a Better Daily Sugar Goal?


While these official numbers are a step in the right direction, they’re not what I would recommend.


For one thing, I’d ditch as many processed food as possible, regardless of their sugar content. There are a ton of studies that show that processed foods are bad for your health. Period. I wouldn’t recommend eating your “daily value” of sugar from sweetened processed foods. I don’t recommend even 50 g of “added” sugar per day. Get your sugar from whole, unprocessed fruits first.


Second, you don’t need to max out your daily sugar intake. I promise! Try to reduce your sugar intake below these “official” amounts for an even better goal.


Tips to Reduce Your Sugar Intake


Here are some of my most popular recommendations to reduce your sugar intake, so you don’t get too much:

  • Reduce (or eliminate) sugar-sweetened beverages; this includes soda pop, sweetened coffee/tea, sports drinks, etc. Instead, have fruit-infused water. Or try drinking your coffee/tea “black” or with a touch of cinnamon or vanilla instead.
  • Reduce (or eliminate) your desserts and baked goods and bake your own instead. You can easily reduce the sugar in a recipe by half. Or try my delicious (no added sugar) dessert recipe below.
  • Instead of a granola bar (or other sugary snack), try fruit, a handful of nuts, or veggies with hummus. These are easy grab-and-go snacks if you prepare them in a “to-go” container the night before.

Interested to take it a little further? CLICK HERE for my Free 5 Day Sugar free challenge.  Complete with meal plan and recipes.  Reduce sugar for 5 days and it will help to eliminate cravings.  Or better yet, CLICK HERE to book a free discovery call and let me help you build a personalized plan specific to your needs.

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