I was at the coffee machine yesterday when my co-worker Carolyn asked me about the new sugar recommendation from the American Heart Association. Co-authored by EatingWell nutrition advisor Rachel K. Johnson, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.D., the recommendation says to reduce our intake of added sugars to help your heart and waistline. (Learn more about the difference between added sugar and natural sugar here.)
As we talked, I doctored my coffee: first some milk, then sugar….wait, should I even add sugar to my coffee?
Carolyn was thinking the same thing—she adds sugar to her coffee, and there’s already so much sugar in soda and many packaged foods. We aren’t the only ones eating too much sugar—a recent survey suggests that Americans consume 355 calories, or 22 teaspoons, of added sugar a day! And although there isn’t a direct scientific link, it’s likely that the weight gain in our population is related, in part, to our increased intake of added sugars. (Is high-fructose corn syrup the main culprit in the obesity epidemic?)
“How much sugar can I eat and how can I try to eat less?” she asked.
I returned to my desk (with a little less sugar than usual) and went straight to the source to find out just how much sugar I could eat.
EatingWell nutrition advisor Rachel K. Johnson, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.D.
Here’s what the AHA statement says about how much sugar to eat (rest assured, a little bit of sugar in your coffee is OK):
- Most women should eat, or drink, no more than 100 calories per day from added sugar, about 6 teaspoons. For men the cutoff is 150 calories from added sugars, or about 9 teaspoons. As a point of reference, a 12-ounce can of cola contains approximately 130 calories or about 8 teaspoons of added sugar.
- The AHA recommendations only apply to added sugars—those that are added to food by consumers (um, my coffee!) or added during manufacturing (that means the sugar added to your crackers, cereal and other packaged foods counts). The naturally occurring sugar in fruit, vegetables, grains and dairy doesn’t count.
3 easy ways to eat less added sugar:
1. Have fruit for dessert. Skip the cookies and ice cream and make fruit into your after-dinner treat. You’ll avoid added sugar and get some cancer-fighting antioxidants and fiber from the fruit. These Cocoa-Nut Bananas topped with unsweetened cocoa powder and coconut have enough natural sweetness that you’ll satisfy your sweet tooth without any added sugar.
2. Drink smarter. Ditch soda and instead treat yourself to a low-calorie fizzy fruit-flavored seltzer drink. Try this Sparkling Cran Razzy, using no-sugar-added 100 percent fruit juice.
3. Make your own yogurt parfait. Flavored yogurt (even vanilla) contains added sugars. Instead, make your own custom concoction by topping low-fat plain yogurt with fresh fruit, as in this Breakfast Parfait with fresh pineapple or papaya chunks.
So, it looks like I can continue to add a little bit of sugar to my coffee. That said, I’ll be taking a closer look at just how much added sugar I eat every day and use these tips to help me reduce the amount. It’s probably time to tame my gummy-candy-eating sweet tooth.
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