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Ask Sharon: How much Sugar Can I Eat in a Day?

Sharon Palmer

As part of my new program “Ask Sharon”, I am answering the top question of the month submitted through my blog, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to answer here. You can even win a prize! Don’t forget to submit your burning nutrition question this month via my blog, or other social media. Here is my favorite question this month. 


How much sugar can I eat daily without affecting my health. I have A-fib, but I am not in too bad a shape for being 75 years old. I thought perhaps you could answer that question for me. —Jim 


So, that’s a great question, Jim, and congratulations on being so healthy! It sounds like you are really trying to make a difference by eating and living well. That question was actually recently answered by the brand new set of Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which recommend that Americans consume no more than 10% of total calories in sugar, which is 200 calories for the average person, or about 50 grams or 12.5 teaspoons of sugar per day.

Actually, the American Heart Association has been warning us about consuming too much sugar for some time, as too much in the diet increases the risk for cardiovascular events. And more research in the past few years has seemed to confirm that too much sugar is linked with obesity and the incidence of cardiovascular disease. It may sound like a lot of sugar (12.5 teaspoons) but you can almost reach your daily limit with just one can of soda (about 39 g of sugar, almost 10 teaspoons), and on top of that sugar is added to so many things that aren’t obvious, such as pasta sauce, yogurt, granola bars, and beyond.

Keep in mind that you don’t have to worry about the natural sugars found in foods, such as vegetables and fruits—it’s the added sugars we are worried about. The grams of sugar on a food label include both natural and added sugars, so it’s tough to tell how much of the sugar is added. The FDA plans on revising food labels to include “added sugars”, so it will be easier to determine how much is in a food product in the future. Until now, keep your eyes out for forms of added sugar on the ingredients list, such as cane sugar, corn syrup, brown rice syrup, honey, glucose, and agave.


Image: vegan ice cream, Sharon Palmer, RDN


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