According to the American Heart Association (AHA), the average American consumes far more sugar than needed – over 22 teaspoons (or about 355 calories) per day. That's a lot for a substance with no nutritional value. Studies show that excess sugar consumption leads to all kinds of health problems, from diabetes to obesity, and can even interfere with essential nutrient intake.
Whether you're on a sugar-restricted diet or not, it's a good idea to watch how much sugar you're eating – or drinking – each day. The AHA recommends limiting sugars to 100 calories (about 6 teaspoons) per day for women and 150 calories (or about 9 teaspoons) for men. Check packages carefully, and aim for foods with no more than 5 grams of sugar per serving.
If you're avoiding sugar, you know to forego the obvious: refined sugars (both brown and white) and anything with high-fructose corn syrup. You also know to limit the more natural, unrefined sources of sugar, such as honey, agave, molasses and maple syrup. Even too much fruit can be problematic for some diets. (Your doctor will be able to advise you.)
But what about the hidden sources of sugar? Many packaged, processed foods that you might not readily associate with sweets have tons of natural and added sugars, like salad dressing and tomato and barbecue sauces.
Main Sources of Sugar
- Sugar, including granulated, invert, beet, date, raw, cane, white, brown and turbinado
- Syrups, including agave, brown-rice, cane, maple and sorghum
- Dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose and sucrose
- High-fructose corn syrup, including corn sweetener and corn sugar
- Fruit juice and fruit-juice concentrate
- Sugar alcohols, including erythritol, mannitol, sorbitol and xylitol
This is not an exhaustive list, so be sure to check with your doctor or nutritionist for advice and always research ingredients.