A teaspoon of sugar may help your medicine go down, but high intakes often lead to obesity, tooth decay, inflammation, heart disease and unhealthy eating habits. The average American eats about 30 teaspoons of sugar per day which is over half a cup of sugar. This consumption rate adds up to individuals eating 96 pounds of sugar per year. Americans are consuming about 480 calories worth of sugar per day putting sugar consumption at an all-time high. Picture it: 19, 5-pound bags of sugar may match your annual sugar consumption.
Obviously, this is way more sugar than our bodies need. The American Heart Association (AHA )recommends limiting your added sugars to 6 teaspoons (100 calories) per day for women and 9 teaspoons (150 calories) per day for men. Added sugars is a form that our bodies don’t need to function properly. Naturally occurring sugars are those found in fruit (fructose) and milk (lactose) that provide several healthy nutrients, like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, in addition to the sweetness. Added sugars offer loads of empty calories and zero nutrients. Most added sugars come from sugary soft drinks, candy, cakes, cookies, pie, fruit drinks, ice-cream and non-nutritious grains.
- 6 ounces of non-fat yogurt – 2.5 teaspoons of sugar
- 1 slice of whole wheat bread – 1 teaspoon of sugar
- 1 cup of Honey Nut Cheerios – 3 teaspoons of sugar
- 1 chocolate chip cookie – 4-5 teaspoons of sugar
- 1/2 cup of vanilla ice cream – 3.5 teaspoons of sugar
- 10 ounces of soda – 8 teaspoons of sugar
- 4 chocolate Hershey Kisses – 2.5 teaspoons of sugar
- 1 slice of cake – 8 teaspoons of sugar
- 1 glazed donut – 3 teaspoon of sugar
- 8 ounces of orange juice – 5.5 teaspoons of sugar
To calculate the teaspoons of sugar in a product look at the nutrition facts label and identify the grams of sugar per serving. Divide the grams of sugar by four (4) for your answer. One teaspoon of sugar equals 4 grams and 16 calories. The label will include natural as well as added sugars. Look at the ingredient list to find added sugars, including high fructose corn syrup, agave syrup, brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, sucrose, fruit juice concentrate, honey, invert sugar, malt sugar, molasses, raw sugar, and sugar syrup.
Sugar makes taste buds happy and often leaves us craving more sugary goodness. It’s important to keep our sugar intake in check to keep our waistline from expanding and our health from deteriorating. Studies have shown that diets high in sugar are often low in important nutrients like calcium, vitamin A, iron, zinc and fiber. Choose to consume sugar wisely, in moderation and in combination with otherwise nutrient-rich foods.
Jordyn Forsyth is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She specializes in weight management, chronic disease prevention and health promotion. Jordyn strives to educate, empower and encourage others to make sustainable lifestyle changes. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Nutrition Sciences from Baylor University and a Master’s Degree in Nutrition from Texas Woman’s University.