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Tis the Season for Sugar: 

How Much Sugar is Too Much?

sweet sugary delicious pastires

The holiday season is a time for family, friends, travel — and sugar! Seasonal cookies, cakes, and candies dominate gatherings and are presented as gifts. Many of us enjoy the annual indulgence, but just how much sugar is too much?

Recently, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommended that consumers limit their added sugar intake to just six to nine teaspoons a day, depending on overall calorie needs.


Why did the AHA recommend limiting added sugars?

Because a growing body of evidence suggests that excessive added sugar consumption may increase the risk of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes, and even high blood pressure.

And as you may know, when sugary treats dominate our food choices, our waistlines tend to expand.

People commonly ask what added sugar is. It’s all in the name: an added sugar is any sugar you add to your recipes, coffee, or tea.

Manufacturers also add sugars to their foods: to enhance texture, shelf life, and let’s face it, to entice our preference for sweet things. In fact, the amount added to processed foods has been steadily increasing over the past few decades.

A Sugar by Any Other Name Would Taste as Sweet

Corn syrup, cane sugar, honey, invert sugar, malt sugar, glucose, molasses, high-fructose corn syrup, turbinado, and fruit juice concentrates.

What isn’t added sugar?

Added sugar does not include the naturally occurring sugars found in fruits, vegetables, and daily products. For most people there is no need to cut back on these naturally sweet foods.

Enjoy two to three servings of fruit a day, three to five servings of vegetables, and reap the benefits from their vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber.

Just how much is a teaspoon of sugar?

One teaspoon = 4 g

Six teaspoons = 24 g

Nine teaspoons = 36 g

Just how much added sugar is enough?

One teaspoon is four grams, six to nine teaspoons equal 24 to 36 grams.

Considering that one 12 oz can of soda averages 39 grams of sugar, a cookie 20 grams, and pre-packaged spaghetti sauce 10 grams per serving, you can see how quickly added sugar can “add up.”

Always check the nutrition label; take a careful look at the ingredients list. If it contains any of the names listed in the above box, it has added sugar.

Remember to consider your consumption in the context of your larger diet.

If you are avoiding processed foods, sodas and energy drinks, if you consume a variety of fruits, vegetables, and fiber rich foods, you are leaving room for the occasional sweet treat.

Do you avoid desserts and sodas but love sweet coffee?

Go ahead and indulge in a sugar packet: it’s only four grams!

How do I know how much added sugar I am consuming?

47% of the added sugars consumed by Americans come from beverages!

Looking for more guidance on balancing your diet? Give me a call!

Penelope Nutrition Intern for Sweet Life WellnessBlog Author:

Penelope Taylor, Sweet Life Wellness Intern