We all know American’s consume too much sugar, but the real numbers and dangers they pose may surprise you.
The New Hampshire Department of Health shares that we consume almost 152 pounds of sugar each year. In the 1800’s we were only eating 2 pounds of sugar each year, by 1970 that number had jumped to 123 pounds per year and has continued to rise.
Why is sugar so hard to avoid?
The addictive qualities of sugar aside, it is hard to avoid eating it when you consider just how many foods contain some amount of sugar. Food manufacturers add sugar as a way to preserve foods as well as add flavor that many consumers are seeking.
Some foods naturally contain sugar (fruit for example) but most food, particularly processed foods, have added sugar. This can turn up on the ingredients list in the form of something like corn syrup but will be listed on the nutrition facts label with its quantity as well (in grams).
Most of the added sugar we consume comes from beverages. By replacing sugary beverages with water, we can quickly cut down on our sugar intake.
How much sugar should you consume each day?
For girls and women over the age of 9, the recommendation is 25.2 grams while the equivalent male recommendation is 37.8 grams daily. This means a single 12oz can of most any soda already pushes you over the daily recommendation.
Soda aside, unless you pay special attention to your sugar intake on the foods you most commonly eat, it is likely you are already at or above the recommendation.
What are the most common sources of sugar in your diet?
The following is Harvard’s ranking of common sugary foods by the percentage of how much they contribute to the average American’s sugar intake:
Soda/energy/sports drinks ~ 42.2%
Grain-based desserts ~ 11.9%
Fruit drinks ~ 8.5%
Dairy desserts ~ 5.5%
Candy ~ 5.0%
Sugars/honey ~ 4.1%
Tea ~ 3.8%
Ready-to-eat cereals ~ 2.9%
Yeast bread ~ 2.3%
Syrups/toppings ~ 1.4%
Pay attention to the number of servings
Processed food manufacturers like to emphasize that their food “only has X sugar” or “only X calories.” These eye-catching low numbers that are advertised on the packaging are all based on the servings the manufacturer has chosen to define.
The problem is we do not always pay attention to the number of servings or the servings size, and by simply reading the “sugar” line on the nutrition facts label, we may not be getting a real idea of what we are eating. If the amount of food you regularly consume is twice the actual serving size, you have to double all the quantities and percentages on the nutrition facts. All of a sudden the advertised low calories or sugar does not seem as appealing.
Why is liquid sugar more harmful than solid sugar?
When compared to solid sugar, like that found in candy, it is actually a better option than liquid sugar. This is not to say candy is healthy, but when compared to soda, it is a better treat.
Sugar in any liquid form is able to absorb more quickly into our bloodstream than solid sugar. This liquid sugar, often in the form of high fructose corn syrup is something that our liver struggles to keep up with because of how quickly this type of sugar can break down.
This results in a quicker spike in blood sugar and makes it easier to be stored as body fat.
The dangers of sugar
- Obesity from weight gain caused by sugar consumption
- Increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes
- Heart disease caused by increased blood pressure associated with high sugar consumption
- Increased risk of cancer as it is believed cancer cells thrive on sugar.
Get serious about watching your sugar intake and you will be able to better control your weight. Keep the recommendations of 25g and 37g in mind (for women and men respectively) when looking at the labels of foods you commonly eat each day. You may be surprised how quickly those grams of sugar can add up. You might even find you reach your daily limit by the time you are done eating lunch.