It’s no surprise that nutrition and health experts recommend cutting back on sugar as a key to healthy eating. Sugars added to foods and beverages are “empty” calories, and diets higher in added sugars are associated with negative health effects, including an increased risk of heart disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes.
And there’s a good chance that you’re eating more sugar than you should. Take this quick quiz to test your sugar smarts in observance of National Nutrition Month!
The main source of added sugars in our diets is table sugar.
False. The two main sources of added sugars in our diets are sugar-sweetened beverages (soft drinks; sports, energy and fruit drinks) and snacks and sweets (cakes, cookies, ice cream, candy and other desserts). These sources account for about 70 percent of the added sugars in U.S. diets.
All sugars are added sugars.
False. Naturally occurring sugars, such as those in fruit or milk, are not added sugars. There are many foods that we eat every day that are naturally sweet, which means they contain carbohydrates (sugars) as part of their chemical design. You can find a variety of added sugar ingredients listed on food labels including cane sugar, brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, evaporated cane juice, dextrose, fructose, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, invert sugar, malt syrup, maple syrup, molasses, raw sugar, sucrose, agave syrup, trehalose, and turbinado sugar (“sugar in the raw”), to name a few.
Most of us eat too much added sugar.
True. In fact, most Americans exceed the recommendations for added sugars, consuming about 270 calories—nearly 17 teaspoons—of added sugars daily.
There is room to include limited amounts of added sugars in your diet.
True. Healthy eating patterns limit added sugars, not eliminate them. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 recommend consuming less than 10 percent of total calories per day from added sugars—a limit of no more than about 12 teaspoons (50 grams) of sugar for a 2,000 calorie diet. And the American Heart Association recommends women limit added sugars to no more than 100 calories per day (about 6 teaspoons of sugar) and men, no more than 150 calories per day (about 9 teaspoons of sugar). While you may be thinking, “I never eat that much sugar”, keep in mind that the average 12 ounce soda contains about 10 teaspoons of added sugar.
Ready to turn your awareness into action? Here are a few tips.
- Take inventory. Do you know how much sugar you’re eating? As a first step, identify any obvious sources of added sugars in your diet—like soda, candy, cookies, flavored coffee drinks, “sports drinks and bars” and dessert—and swap them for healthier, sugar-free or lower-sugar options. Choose diet beverages, water/zero-calorie flavored water, and fruit as a naturally sweet treat.
- Cut back. Read labels to compare the amounts of added sugars in foods, and choose less sweetened, lower-sugar versions. Try to find labels on foods that say “no added sugars”. For instance you will see this health notice on canned fruits, juice and many breakfast cereals. Limit sweet treats and reduce portion sizes; try cutting the amount of sugar in recipes by half.
- Create a sugar budget. Decide how you want to “spend” your daily added sugar allowance. Making smart food and beverage choices that help you manage your sugar intake today is a good long-term investment for a healthier future!
Share in the comments section below how you plan to reduce sugar in your daily diet.