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Sugar is in fruits and vegetables and other foods that are part of a healthy diet, like dairy and grains. But there are also added sugars in many foods, including some you wouldn’t expect. And it’s that added sugar that can cause problems.
Added sugar can lead to serious health issues, including a greater risk for heart attack and stroke. Other health problems fueled by added sugar include:
Added sugars contribute calories to your diet, but they don’t give you vital nutrients. Filling up on foods and drinks with too many added sugars makes it hard to keep up a healthy eating plan. You’ll take in too many calories without getting the nutrients you need.
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, people over 2 years old should keep sugars to less than 10 percent of their total daily calories. Children under 2 should not have added sugar at all.
So how much sugar is 10 percent? If you eat 2,000 calories per day, that means you should have no more than 200 calories from sugar. That’s about 12 teaspoons or 50 grams. One 12 ounce can of soda has around 40 grams. A 5 ounce serving of flavored yogurt has 15 grams.
Keep in mind that many people need to eat less than 2,000 calories per day to maintain a healthy weight. That means less sugar, too. Use this calorie calculator to estimate your daily calorie needs.
Most Americans are having too much added sugar. All that sugar is adding up to higher levels of obesity, diabetes and other serious health issues.
Many people may not even know they’re getting too much. That’s because added sugars are sneaky.
How can you find out how much sugar you’re consuming? The first step is to take a look at your diet.
Be sure to think about what you drink. For most people, drinks are a main source of added sugar. Some culprits are presweetened drinks like sodas, energy drinks and fruit juices. But more sugar than you realize may also be sneaking in when you sweeten your coffee and tea.
While a lot of added sugars come from foods we think of as sweets, like desserts and candy, there are added sugars in many foods that may not seem sweet. Pasta sauce, gravy, condiments, flavored yogurts and even “healthy” cereals all have added sugar.
Check the Label — and the Serving Size
To find out if a packaged food has added sugars, look at the Nutrition Facts panel. You will see “added sugars” under the line for “total sugars.”
If there is no Nutrition Facts panel, look at the list of ingredients. Ingredients will be listed in the order of how much of an item is in the product. Ingredients that make up more of the food or drink will be listed first.
Also keep in mind that sugar has many names. There are names that end in “ose,” like maltose and sucrose and high fructose corn syrup. But you may also see molasses, cane sugar, corn sweetener, raw sugar, syrup, honey or fruit juice concentrates. All of those count as added sugars.
Be sure to check the serving size, and pay attention to how much you’re actually eating or drinking. How much you’re having may be more than the serving size on the label.
Taking a closer look at what you eat and making sure you’re not filling up on added sugars can help you feel better and lower your risk for disease. Once you add up all the sugar in your diet, you’ll likely find that you need to cut back.
Here are some easy ways to cut back on added sugars:
Need more tips on nutrition? Check out the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025.
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