The average American consumes 94 grams of added sugar per day, says Turner. The recommendation for women is no more than 25 grams—or 6 teaspoons—of added sugar per day. Men should have no more than 36 grams of added sugar per day, and for children, just 12 grams—about one can of soda’s worth of sugar—is more than enough, she says.
Eating a diet that’s high in added sugar is bad news for your heart, according to a major 2014 study. The researchers found that eating more than the recommended amount of added sugar may increase your risk of dying from heart disease. Even if you go to the gym and eat your greens regularly, you aren’t immune from the effects of sugar on your health. Eating a high-sugar diet can set you up for disease, even if you’re otherwise healthy, according to a new study. Researchers found unhealthy levels of fat in the blood and livers of men who ate a high-sugar diet, which may increase the risk of heart disease, they report.
And while many people eat sugar as a pick-me-up, it could be having the opposite effect. One recent study found that men who ate a high-sugar diet were more likely to develop depression or anxiety than those who ate a diet lower in sugar.
Sugar is everywhere
Unfortunately, giving up your sugar habit isn’t as easy as deciding to stop adding it to your coffee or saying “no thanks” to the dessert menu. Sugar is hiding out where you least expect it—in everything from dressings and sauces to whole grain bread.
Someday you won’t have to guess whether the sugar you’re eating is naturally occurring or added. The Food and Drug Administration’s redesigned Nutrition Facts label will require food manufacturers to specifically call out added sugars on their packaging.
The mandate was originally scheduled for July 2018, but the FDA released a proposal on September 29 that will extend compliance dates. Manufacturers with more than $10 million or more in annual food sales would have until January 1, 2020 to comply, while those with less than $10 million in food sales would have until January 1, 2021.
In the meantime, you can still spot added sugars by doing a deeper dive into ingredient lists, says Turner. Added sugar can masquerade as many other things, including brown rice syrup, evaporated cane juice, honey, maple syrup, molasses, or anything that ends in ose, including high fructose corn syrup.
Some of these sugars, including honey, maple syrup and molasses, aren’t as refined. Some people believe that this means they’re healthier, but at the end of the day, it’s all added sugar, says Turner.
“There’s a thought process that if there’s more nutrition to the sugar then it’s going to behave in the body differently, but it’s still added sugar,” she says. “Some are better metabolized in the body than others, but we’re really trying to reduce the overall added sugars brought into the body.”
In other words, if you’re forced to choose between white table sugar and honey, go for the honey. But if it’s a choice between honey or no sugar at all, going sugar-free is your best bet.
Why quitting sugar is so darn hard